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Mason, Lawrence

Music and drama critic for the Toronto Globe and Globe and Mail from November 1924 to his death in 1939, Lawrence Mason was the first critic in English Canada whose overriding critical concern was to help to bring into existence a creative indigenous national theatre and drama.

Born in Chicago in 1882, Mason taught English and philosophy at Yale University (1907-24) and obtained his doctorate from Yale in 1916. As the Globe's critic, he travelled widely in Canada, helping to create a national awareness of music and theatre, and also placed the arts in Canada within an international context through extensive reviewing trips in Europe in 1926, 1929 and 1931.

Since an indigenous Canadian professional theatre was virtually non-existent in the 1920s and 1930s, Mason instead urged Little Theatre companies to experiment with the European modernist "new stagecraft" and to promote the writing and staging of Canadian plays. This led him to give particularly strong critical support to the non-realist multimedia "symphonic expressionist" productions and plays by Herman Voaden.

In his drama column, Mason frequently called for the creation of provincial and a national drama league to stimulate indigenous theatre and playwriting, thus helping to lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Dominion Drama Festival in 1932.

Readings: Anton Wagner. "Becoming Actively Creative: Dr. Lawrence Mason, the Globe's Critic, 1924-1939." Establishing Our Boundaries: English-Canadian Theatre Criticism. Ed. Anton Wagner, Toronto. U. of Toronto P., 1999.

Profile by Anton Wagner, York University

Last updated 2021-03-17