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Canadian Players

Company co-founded in Stratford, Ontario by Tom Patterson and Douglas Campbell to produce plays across the country with actors from the Stratford Festival company in the off season, including John Gardiner, Jack Hutt, Roland Hewgill and Norman Freeman.

The first tour opened in Ottawa in 1954, with a performance of Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, with Douglas Campbell, Ann Casson, William Needles, William Hutt, and Bruno Gerussi. The tour visited 23 centres in Ontario, Quebec and New York State. In 1955, the company toured the United States with Saint Joan in repertory with the Scottish play, with Douglas Campbell and Frances Hyland as the Macbeths.

In the 1956-57 season, two companies were touring productions of Shakespeare's Hamlet (with William Hutt), and Othello (with Tony Van Bridge), Ibsen's Peer Gynt (with Bruno Gerussi), and Shaw's Man and Superman (with Douglas Campbell) in the United States and Canada. In 1961, David Gardner directed King Lear in an Inuit setting with William Hutt as Lear, and in 1964 the first Canadian work was produced - an historical revue entitled All About Us.

When the Stratford Festival scheduled its own winter tour, the Canadian Players relocated to Toronto and redefined its mandate. In 1965-66 co-artistic directors, Marigold Charlesworth and Jean Roberts mounted a season in the Central Library Theatre with two companies alternating six months in Toronto and six months on tour. However, the lavish productions of Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral and Frish's The Firebugs in Toronto, and Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and William's The Glass Menagerie on tour resulted in a substantial deficit. In 1966, the boards of directors of the Canadian Players met with their cross-town rivals from the Crest Theatre to discuss a merger, but negotiations collapsed and the organizations disbanded.

Sources: Ross Stuart and Harry Lane. Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. Eds. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1989; Robert B. Scott. "Professional Performers and Companies," Later Stages: Essays in Ontario Theatre from the First World War to the 1970s. Eds. Ann Saddlemyer and Richard Plant. Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1997.

Last updated 2016-09-15