BACKSTAGE

BACKSTAGE AT STRATFORD

Is our Shakespeare Festival too British? There’s the rub . . •

July 19 1958
BACKSTAGE

BACKSTAGE AT STRATFORD

Is our Shakespeare Festival too British? There’s the rub . . •

July 19 1958

BACKSTAGE AT STRATFORD

BACKSTAGE

Is our Shakespeare Festival too British? There’s the rub . . •

"We nutst not try to annex the project and use it for our own private advancement. It should be a Canadian scheme carried thro’ by Canadians. If we British are as tactless, as stupid and as apathetic as we look like being, it’s just going to be George III and the Boston Tea Party all over again, with disastrous results all around.”— British director Tyrone Guthrie writing (1952) to British actor Alec Guinness, only a few months before the first Shakespearean Festival at Stratford, Ont.

Almost like a modern-day intonement for ‘"the Ides of March,” this brooding prediction by Shakespearean expert Guthrie, the Festival’s first artistic director, has come home to roost at Stratford. So far, the principal “disastrous results” have been: Equity of Canada, the actors’ union, has seriously discussed lack of opportunities

at Stratford for Canadians. One Montreal actor Michael Kane has sued the Festival for breach of contract, mentioning non-Canadian domination of roles. Major and minor feuds have boiled around British director Michael Langham and his mostly British company. The chief point of contention: Britons, in Guthrie’s prescient words, appear to have “annexed” Canada’s top drama festival.

Onstage: Montreal's Christopher

Plummer is a top star. Others are Broadway's Jason Robards, Glasgow’s Eileen Herlie, Glasgow’s and Stratford's Douglas Campbell. Of the entire cast of 40, more than half (23) are British-trained. In addition to Plummer, the most successful Canadians are Bruno Gerussi, now in his fifth season at Stratford, and Frances Hyland, Regina-born star in Broadway’s Look Homeward, Angel.

“/ don’t care where Natives are an actor is born.” outnumbered.

Backstage: Led by Langham, nine of the 14 top hands are Britons. His assistant is Tom Brown of London’s Old Vic. The Festival’s originator, Tom Patterson, of Stratford, has been reduced to planning consultant. Designers Tanya Moiseiwitsch and Desmond Heeley are British. So is their cutting staff. They even brought with them from London a girl to shop for their materials.

Are Canadians justified in feeling left out of things? Not according to Director Langham. Aware of mounting criticism, he told Maclean’s: “I care about theatre. I care about human beings. I don't care where a man is born. I care only if he’s an artist or not.” -CHRISTINA MCCALL

Backstage WITH THE SILENT CBC

The TV “scoop” you didn't see and why the CBC said “No!”

SHOULD THE government-financed CBC enlighten Canadians on subjects that might be embarrassing or distasteful to the government? Two recent bits of evidence hint that the answer by both the government and CBC could be “No.”

One instance that raised a storm in newspapers was Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s ringing “No. no, no!" to a CBC announcer who, running over questions for an interview with U. K. Prime Minister Macmillan, tried to ask about free trade. But the very same day— Friday, June 13—it passed almost unnoticed when the jittery CBC itself gave an equally resounding “No!” to an equally touchy subject: a U. S. senate subcommittee's report resurrecting Red-conspiracy charges against the late Herbert Norman and mentioning by name another government official, Robert Bryce.

How it happened: From the time of the report in May, planners of

the CBC Sunday TV program Close-Up had been trying to get a member of the U. S. subcommittee to submit to an interview. Finally, on the afternoon of Friday the 13th, they learned that Robert Morris, former subcommittee counsel who wrote the critical and much-criticized report, was willing.

Close-Up editor Ross McLean made arrangements with New York TV studios for a remotecontrol interview. He also notified Charles Jennings, the CBC’s controller of broadcasting. From there the thing gathered steam. While McLean was plugging his upcoming “scoop” on the Friday edition of CBC’s Tabloid, Jennings was closeted with Ernest Bushnell, CBC’s assistant general manager, and Davidson Dunton, CBC chairman. That night Jennings phoned McLean: “Cancel the interview.” Explanations: Dunton says, "It

was likely to provide an opportunity for one side to speak when the other cannot.” He did not inform

DUNTON

Two voices on an issue or none.

or consul; George Nowlan, the federal minister responsible for CBC. Jennings says, "The idea was an error in judgment. To bring up the Norman case again would have been muckraking.”

Reaction: Morris says the decision (he didn’t get it till Monday night and didn’t get paid) “astonished me. I said I’d answer all questions. I knew I'd be pressed.” Editor McLean’s footnote: “One important function of Close-Up is to anticipate and sometimes precipitate discussion on subjects important to Canadians.”

In place of Morris, Close-Up interviewed Edwin Grace, a New York doctor, on antibiotics.

-BARBARA MOON

Backstage

WITH THE COMMUNISTS

Even Reds spurning LPP;

Here are major losses

ONE RESULT of the recent Manitoba election was to unseat William Kardash, last voice of the Labor Progressive (Communist) party in any Canadian legislature.

But to the LPP this was a minor upset compared with the disintegration of the party everywhere in Canada.

Once-faithful Communists are tearing up their party cards. Many are becoming prosperous as part of the capitalist system they once condemned. Communist leader Tim Buck told Maclean s that his party still has 5,000 active members, hut J. B. Salsberg, who recently quit the LPP after 14 years in the elite National Executive Council, claims: “The LPP is a shell. There are less than 2,000 card carriers left.”

The exodus, which began with Premier Khrushchev's revelations about Stalin’s cruelty, has been hastened by the execution of former Hungarian Premier Nagy. “I call it murder,” says Salsberg.

Salsberg. who now runs a prosperous Toronto insurance agency, is the most successful of the exparty bigwigs. Kardash, still in the LPP, is manager of a large Winnipeg dairy. Like Salsberg. many others have bolted the LPP. Stewart Smith, formerly Ontario leader, now operates a Toronto appliance store. Harry Binder, once the party’s national treasurer, is a wholesale jewelry salesman. Arnold Issenman, Norman Nerenberg and Ken Perry — three of Quebec’s top Communists—have quit the party and now run a thriving Montreal realty firm. Sam Carr, the Canadian spy sentenced to six years in penitentiary after the Gouzenko disclosures, works for a Toronto jeweler. (Fred Rose, the renegade MP also involved in this spy ring, has stayed Red and works for a publishing house in Warsaw.)

The surviving diehards who now make up the LPP are organized into 55 "cells”—referred to as “clubs.” Toronto, with eighteen “clubs,” has the most Communists.

Buck now has the loyalty of only three “big name” Reds: Dr. James Endicott, Leslie Morris and William Kashtan. To reinforce his HQ on Toronto's Cecil Avenue, he has brought in Nelson Clarke, former leader of the Saskatchewan LPP, and Alf Dewhurst, one of the Yukon’s Communists. Clarke is now editor of the Canadian Tribune. Dewhurst national organizer.

The party’s big problem is finance. With dues drying up. and the thinning Canadian Tribune now running almost without ads. the party is near bankruptcy. When thieves broke into the Canadian Tribune’s Toronto office recently and blew open the safe, they found only a boxful of stamps and eight cents.

-PETER C. NEWMAN

Lands in “capitalist” job.