SHAKESPEARE GETS A NEW HOME TOWN
With one bold stroke that has left our big cities gasping, Stratford, Ont., famous mainly for producing Howie Morenz, will this summer claim its birthright with a Shakespearean festival starring Alec Guinness on the banks of the Avon
Even though the Indians lost out in Allan Cup final, worshipping fans threw big welcome-home.
THE NINETEEN thousand residents of Stratford in southern Ontario have for years Htaken a somewhat cavalier attitude toward tourists. Stratford is on a main tourist route from eastern Canada to Lake Huron. It has a park system unique in North America. But until last year not even a sign pointed this up. If the tourists wanted to stop, fine. If they didn’t, okay. It just wouldn’t be in character for the people of Stratford to coax strangers to stop and spend their money.
The tourists have repaid Stratford in kind. They have roared past the east-end cluster of factories, glided down an avenue of tree-shaded homes, slowed down for a wide drab main street, swung sharply right at the medieval-looking courthouse, swooped across an old stone bridge, and left Stratford behind without really seeing it.
This July, things are going to be different. Stratford and a large chunk of Canada’s tourist trade are finally going to meet face to face. The gentleman who will bring them together is Shakespeare.
From all over North America, theatre-goers by the thousand are expected to descend on this slightly Victorian community. Throwing reserve to the winds, Stratford’s cautious citizenry have embarked on the biggest dramatic gamble of the year. On the grassy banks of the slow-flowing Avon River, in a tent designed to seat fifteen hundred people, they hope to stage the finest Shakespearean drama in the world.
They have baited their one-hundred-and-fiftythousand-dollar theatrical mousetrap with three of the brightest names on the British stage: actor
Alec Guinness (The Man in the White Suit), producer Tyrone Guthrie, of Old Vic fame, and brilliant set designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch. Top Canadian talent selected by Guthrie will fill out the cast. The plays, performed on alternate nights, will be Richard III and All’s Well That Ends Well, chosen to show off Guinness’ talents.
When the news was announced last fall that Guinness had turned down a Hollywood contract to come to Stratford, a New York ticket broker immediately offered to buy up all the seats for a week. TCA talked of running flights direct from New York to Crumlin, the nearest airport. Stratford hotel owner Wes Litt says: “We’ve had people asking for reservations from all over. Had one woman ask me for a reservation for her sister and husband in England. Of course, she was a stranger to me, and I wasn’t going to take any reservation from a stranger who didn’t even know when she wanted it for, but it shows you.”
On a shoestring budget these four devoted people will transplant the Bard to the new Avon
Theatrical circles across Canada have commented excitedly. “You small-town people!” exclaimed Rupert Caplan, a veteran Montreal drama producer, talking to Stratford’s festival manager, Tom Patterson: “We know better than to try to pull off a thing like this in Montreal. But you—you don’t know the pitfalls, so you go right ahead.”
With only an occasional twinge of envy, the nation’s press has praised Stratford’s initiative. Privately, newspapermen were puzzled. How had this small, slow-moving, practical-minded community managed to lure these busy, sought-after, world-famous figures to Canada? As Stan Helleur pointed out in the Toronto Telegram: Stratford-
on-Avon, England, might be synonymous with Shakespeare, but Stratford, Ontario, is synonymous with hockey.
Boards, in Stratford, England, are what stage actors tread. In Stratford, Ontario, boards are what hockey players bounce off. And a long list of names familiar to fans across the continent learned their hockey bouncing off the boards of the Stratford rink: Bob Armstrong, Joe Klukay, Ray Gethffe,
AÍ Murray, Joffre Desilets, and going back farther: Dolly Dolson, Harold Hicks, George Hay, Toots Holway, Wally Hearn, and Howie Morenz, the incomparable “Stratford Streak.”
When the Stratford Indians (Senior OHA) play their weekly home-ice games, professional men refuse appointments, music teachers cancel classes and shops shut up early. By face-off, the big rink
is jammed and if Stratford doesn’t win, the children at Shakespeare Public School—where team captain Mickey Roth is assistant principal refuse to do their homework.
Stratford babies, they say, cut their teeth on hockey pucks. There are so many juvenile teams in the city that every Saturday they have to divide the rink in two and play cross-wise. In a league studded with ex-big league pros, all but two of the Indians’ 15-man squad have come up through junior ranks.
When the Indians came back from last year’s Allan Cup finals after losing out to Fort Frances they were welcomed home by every band in town —the CNR, Perth Regiment, Boy’s Bugle and Salvation Army. Only the King and Queen in 1939 had a bigger turnout. “If you don’t like hockey,
don’t mention it in this town,” warns the amiable police chief, Alf Day.
Nevertheless, the Stratford Beacon-Herald, in its editorials on the Shakespearean festival, refers to Stratford as “a centre of culture.” In its pages a frequent substitution for “Stratford” is “the Classic City.” And, of course, dedication to hockey doesn’t exclude an interest in culture. Except that this interest on t he surface is hard to find.
Stratford has won a measure of fame for its lawyers (three are on the Supreme Court of Ontario), its harness horses (hotel owner Litt’s Ann Elgin holds the three-year-old record for trotters), its fiuorine-rich drinking water (Stratford’s statistics on tooth decay are lower than any city in Canada), its snowfalls (Stratford railroaders derisively call nearby London “the banana belt”), and its Old September cheese (which grocer Charlie Dadswell ships as far as California). But its claim to culture is upheld by the annual music festival (third-oldest in Canada), a painting club (newly organized by the city’s recreation director), and a littletheatre group, which started out enthusiastically just two years ago and now has a tough time getting members to work on productions.
Stratford residents remember when big-time publisher Jack Kent Cooke did man-on-the-street interviews for local CJCS, and when Aimee Semple McPherson used to exhort wavering sinners in a hall beside the Brewers’ Warehouse. They recall that Edison learned his telegraphy on night shift at the Grand Trunk Station, invented a gadget that signed-in every hour while he slept, missed a message that almost caused a train wreck, and left town without waiting for his pay. But the only famous artists residents can recall are wartime RCAF bandleader Martin Boundy, Toronto commercial painter Bruce (Boney) Stapleton, and writer James Reaney, who as a modern poet is regarded with some suspicion.
There is evidence of interest in Shakespearean drama. Volume by volume over the past twenty years his Complete Works have been stolen from the public library. Miss Jennie Daly, the librarian, a slight woman with wispy greying hair and youthful eyes, who divides her enthusiasms between the library and the Indians, remembers that the missing books were well-worn, but admits “that’s the high-school students who have to read them.”
In calling Stratford a cultural centre, the Beacon-Herald today seems less realistic than in 1932 when it asked in a centennial edition: “Why was Stratford named the Classic City?” The editors answered themselves: “It must be assumed that the name came from the classically named institutions and not from any particular inclination to the classics on the part of the natives.”
This statement still fits the facts. Stratford has not had a Shakespearean scholar since John Davis Barnett, master mechanic of the Grand Trunk shops, died in 1926. Tall and erect, with a snow-white beard and loose-fitting clothes, he looked something like poet Walt Whitman. Every room in his home overflowed with books; people swore his walls were built from them. His particular pride was Shakespeare, and scholars came from America and Britain to browse in his fifteen - hundred - volume Shakespearean library, which he gave to London’s University of Western Ontario.
But if few people in Stratford today are acquainted with Shakespeare’s work all pay homage to his fame. Stratford’s wards and schools are named Romeo, Juliet, Hamlet, Falstaff, and so on. All the flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays bee balm and sneeze worse, bachelor’s button and monkshood —bloom in a formal English garden at the juncture of the highway and the river, beside the superb stone arch that prompted Lord Alexander to excjaim, “A real oldcountry bridge!” And English roses (a present of Lord Tweedsmuir) enshrine a bronze head of the Bard by Canadian sculptor Cleeve Horne.
On the other side of the bridge is a sundial of Cotswald stone, a gift from England’s Stratford. During the war Rotarians in Canada’s Stratford sent gifts of clothing, food and blankets to
Stratford, England. In return, the English city’s mayor, Sir Archibald Flowers, extended the keys of the city to lonesome soldiers from Stratford, Ontario. After the war, Sir Archibald spent a week in Stratford, Ontario, and the two towns have grown close together. They exchange visitors, correspondence, gifts and often cable or even telephone congratulations on special occasions.
But Shakespeare’s real New World monument is the Avon River. As spring comes, and the huge graceful riverside willows bud, the Avon begins to look like its Warwickshire original. With cricket games on its grassy banks and swans on its placid bosom, with rustic bridges, little islands, and landscaped lagoons, the river meanders in and out of the heart of the city—through thirteen hundred acres of man-made parkland. And from the old stone bridge at centretown, the nineteenth-century skyline completes the illusion.
The river suggests a love for English tradition. But the main street of Stratford, just a block up from the river, is as practical and Canadian as they come. The men who planned the park near the turn of the century had vision, hut no nostalgia and little sense of tradition. When the Duke of York (later George V) visited Stratford in 1*901, Mayor James Stamp greeted him with: “How’s your governor?”
They Couldn’t Crack Kroehler’s
Stratford poses other contradictions. About sixty industries turn out products from piston rings to butter and shirts; but mainly, the city depends on furniture, and the huge three-hundredthousand-dollar monthly payroll from the CNR locomotive repair shops. If the shops ever shut down, Stratford would cease to be a city. Yet last year, when General Electric wanted to build a plant to employ a thousand people, Stratford’s Industrial Commission turned it down.
Such conservative policies kept Stratford static while neighboring cities like Kitchener and Guelph were doubling their population. Between the 1931 census and the 1951 census Stratford gained exactly one thousand and fortythree people. And the lack of fresh blood kept the old conservative viewpoints strong.
After the war, for example, when union organizers tried to crack Kroehler’s, the city’s biggest factory, four hundred furniture workers voted “no union.” To many Stratford craftsmen the socialist-minded but ultra-respectable CCF party is an undercover movement like Communism (“What’s the difference—they’re all radicals”).
Yet many community attitudes are those commonly labeled “liberal.” Stratford’s half-dozen Negro families (an escaped slave, Ben Sleet, had the first ice business in Stratford) mix socially on equal terms with their white neighbors. Monsignor “Dan” Egan, an angular, affable, eighty-year-old but still active priest, is said to have as many friends among Protestants as among Roman Catholics. Harold Wyatt, vice-president and boss of the Kroehler plant, regularly waits his turn in the noon-hour line-up at the plant cafeteria.
The answer to some of these contradictions lies in Stratford’s beginnings. After the War of 1812 the British government granted a million acres of land along Lake Huron to the Canada Company, headed by the Scottish poet and businessman, John Galt. Hacking a road to the lake Galt’s surveyors crossed a marshy forested creek, called it the Little Thames, and noted “a good mill-site.” Galt’s replacement, Thomas Mercer Jones, called it Stratford, meaning, roughly, a narrow crossing.
But Jones didn’t forget where the name had first been coined. In 1832 he renamed the Little Thames the Avon, and gave an oil painting of Shakespeare to Stratford’s first settlers, Thomas and William Sargent. They hammered it up outside Stratford’s first building, the Shakespeare Inn. The fledgling community, following through, renamed itself Stratford-onAvon. But exasperated post-office officials said Stratford was quite enough and arbitrarily stroked off “on-Avon.”
Although Stratford has the highest elevation in Ontario (1,150 feet above sea level) it was too swampy to grow very fast. Then in 1871 "Muddy Stratford” was made a division point for the Grand Trunk Railway. By 1900, George McLagan, a big matter-of-fact mechanic, so religious he wouldn’t even play crokinole, had given Stratford its second big industry—furniture. But the Avon’s boggy tributaries snaked through the city like open sewers.
The stump-choked Avon itself was the worst eyesore. Bordering its weedy banks was a junk yard, a livery stable, a bottle-bestrewn ashery, and, dead centre, the city dump. People held their nose as they ran across the nearby bridge.
In 1904 the city appointed a Park Board and, sparked by a farseeing, tenacious young insurance broker named Tom Orr, decided to clean up the mess. Using the city’s credit they bought most of the land along the river, paid for a dam by selling power rights, dredged out centre-town Lake Victoria, sold its ice in winter, salvaged stone from old buildings, scrounged tons of dirt for fill, planted trees, grass, flowers, and fought off the suddenly interested factory owners.
Then, in 1913, a more formidable adversary threatened to wipe out their work. The CPR decided to run a second railway along the river bank. It meant cattle pens, freight sheds and boxcars instead of parkland. But it also meant cheaper freight rates, more industry—and revenue for the city.
The council, the Park Board and the entire community, argued these points in the Beacon-Herald, on street corners, in homes—in hopeless and vehement disagreement. The CPR sent Commissioner Harry Timmerman to regale the city fathers with champagne in his private car. The Park Board answered by hurriedly building a boathouse beside the dam—plain proof of what the park had to offer.
The issue came to a head with a public vote. The CPR offered property owners as far away as Vancouver a free trip home to vote for "progress.” Women went from door to door pleading for the park, defying their husbands who said that property values would
rise. And despite some Grand Trunk men who perversely voted “against the boss,” the CPR was defeated by eighty-six votes. "Thank God,” said one woman, summing up popular feeling, "we can keep this a decent place to live.”
They did. In the early Twenties, visiting Governor-General Lord Byng, after driving through the city’s worst section, said: "Now show me your
slums.” Today, peripatetic bank and chain-store managers say there is no better place to bring up children. Jack Wellard, who manages the Vogue and Avon theatres, says: “In all the time
I’ve been here—three years now—there’s never been any scribbling on the washroom walls. Nobody steals the soap bowls. You know, that’s unheard of in this business.”
New families moving to Stratford are left strictly alone—until they get sick or have trouble, when they suddenly find they have neighbors. Citizens cooperate with the police and phoned in five thousand tips last year. Once, two hundred and fifty volunteers turned out to help police search all night for a missing woman.
Social pretentions run the hazard of ridicule. The greatest autocrats in town were the late McLennan sisters, whose brother John had been knighted for outstanding work in physics in Britain during World War I. The sisters, tall stout women, framed every scrap of paper Sir John had ever scribbled on, looked down on anyone “in trade” and once asked the assistant postmaster to deliver a three-cent stamp. But they never persuaded Stratford to take them seriously. To the end, the eldest sister, Janet, remained “Buck,” short for Bucktooth.
Life in Stratford has a homespun texture. Businessmen don’t hustle. Deals go through on street corners, and sometimes over United Cigar Store’s coffee counter. Practically every housewife tunes in the Swap Shop (9 a.m. to 11) to hear a local CJCS disc jockey read fifty to seventy-five telephone numbers of private citizens who have something to sell —everything from baby shoes to space in the cemetery. One woman, who had just taken up riding the week before, offered a saddle, with a guarantee it had never been touched by a rider.
These characteristics — thriftiness, unpretentiousness, neighborlinees and honesty—look different growing out of the city’s not-so-ancient history. They look less like a "liberal” creed, and more like virtues that were pioneer necessities. In this light, voting down the union in Kroehler’s seems more like independence than resistance to change. And turning down the General Electric plant is not just head-in-the-sand cunee vatism.
The Industrial Commission’s presi dent, Wilf Gregory, explains it thrway: “What’s the point of crowding
our schools, our housing, all our city services? We make the town a worse place to live in and what good does it do us? We’re definitely after industry. We’ve got six new ones in the past two years, but small ones we can absorb — maybe three hundred and twenty-five people all told. We want growth, but we want sound growth. Size doesn’t mean anything in itself.”
The General Electric decision is the GPR issue up-dated. In both, the people of Stratford have taken their stand and stated their values unmistakably—a belief that progress isn’t measured entirely by quantity, either more money, more people, or more industry.
This belief preserved the park they created out of marshland. And the double similarity in names prompted civic pride to shape the New World Avon in an Old World image. “What could be more logical,” asked a widely published newspaper editorial last year, “than that . . . the city . . . should aspire to be the Shakespearean centre of Canada?”
As a tourist attraction —as a straight money - making proposition — nothing could be more logical indeed. Rut the Stratford Shakespearean Festival Foundation says it isn’t a tourist stunt. ‘‘We’re not out to make money, ’’declares Dr. Harry Showalter, a hardworking chemist who had never heard of Alec Guinness before he became chairman. “We want an artistic success.”
Some Names to Drop
The festival is the brain child of its present manager, Tom Patterson, a slight quiet-spoken man of thirty-two. In his school days, lying on the grass in the park listening to the CNR band one balmy evening, he felt that “something big” could be done with Stratford’s Old World charm. What could be bigger than Shakespeare, or more fitting? He nursed the idea through university, through five years overseas with the Army Dental Corps and, after the war, broached it back home. No one took him seriously. He went to work in Toronto for a trade magazine, Maclean-Hunter’s Civic Administration.
Then, one autumn day in Winnipeg in 1951, while covering a convention of the American Waterworks Association, Patterson found himself talking old times with Stratford’s Mayor David Simpson. He brought out his Shakespeare idea and dusted it off. “Sounds fine,” said Simpson. “See what you can dig up and let me know.”
Patterson, now publicity wise, began to phone people like Sir Ernest MacMillan, conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Celia Franca, director of the National Ballet Company of Canada, Dr. W. J. Dunlop, Ontario’s Minister of Education. Their offers of help were highly tentative, but gave Patterson a chance to mention some big names when he started calling people in Stratford in January 1952.
Reactions were so enthusiastic that Patterson’s mother cautioned, “Look, keep your feet on the ground.” An alderman finally suggested Tom should talk to the city council: “They’ve all
heard about it anyway; they’ll be hurt if you don’t.”
Patterson was worried; if the council turned him down he was washed up. He told them first what he wanted for himself—to be manager. He talked about keeping Canadian talent at home and still hewing to British traditions. Then he leaned hard on his main point: “It would certainly increase business. I feel sure that Sir Laurence Olivier would come . . .” And Tom asked for a hundred dollars to go to New York to
find out. Alderman Wilf Gregory said: “I’m in favor of giving Mr. Patterson up to a hundred and twenty-five dollars.”
The New York trip was a failure. Patterson couldn’t even get in to see Olivier; all he got was a formal expression of “interest” at second hand from Olivier’s secretary. He went the rounds of the Broadway agents and received bland but worthless assurances of “carloads of stars.” (“What are you worrying about?” asked one. “Look at all the oil you people got up there. Go out and buy yourself a theatre.”) He tried the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. They looked at his press clippings, realized the motive was money, and said they would “consider it,” meaning no dice.
Patterson, completely disheartened, put as bright a face as he could on his report and the Stratford Beacon-Herald helped by headlining it: ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION TO CONSIDER FESTIVAL PROPOSAL. Soon afterward, Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported: “Heartened by Sir Laurence Olivier’s interest, citizens of Stratford have set up a committee to organize a Shakespearean drama for that city.”
But what actually saved the festival at that point was the heady whiff of nationwide publicity that Stratford businessmen were still inhaling, and a suggestion by Dora Ma vor Moore, founder of Toronto’s New Play Society, that her friend Tyrone Guthrie might come over and size things up.
Guthrie, a towering Scots-Irishman, was then director of London’s famed Old Vic. Patterson called him on the trans-Atlantic telephone.
“I’m certainly interested,” Guthrie replied, “especially if it offers a fresh advance in producing Shakespeare. How about money?”
“Well,” said Patterson, “I can offer you five hundred dollars.” For a few moments the line was silent, and Patterson thought he hadn’t offered enough. Then Guthrie said, “I think that’ll be all right.” Afterward, Patterson found out the connection had broken; Guthrie came out without knowing what he was getting.
In July, Guthrie cabled he was free to fly out immediately. This precipitated another crisis—the committee had no money. Chairman Showalter got on the phone, called a dozen people, and in six minutes had five hundred dollars cash. “I never thought they’d do it,” he marveled. “I thought it was all talk.”
Patterson met Guthrie at Toronto’s Malton Airport. “Now then,” said the big man, “what’s this all about?”
“First of all,” Patterson confessed, “I don’t know anything about theatre and I don’t pretend to.”
Guthrie chuckled. “If the rest of the committee is as honest as you we’ll get along fine.”
The committee had looked forward to meeting the foremost producer in British theatre with mingled awe and suspicion. “We expected he’d be a lofty abstruse person,” says Showalter, “someone who would spout culture over our heads.” Guthrie, for his part, wasn’t clear on the tourist angle, and the atmosphere on both sides was cool.
Showalter made a formal speech of welcome. Then, summoning his nerve, he said bluntly: “Mr. Guthrie, T hope you don’t mind if we ask you some embarrassing questions.”
“Not at all,” said Guthrie imperturbably, “that’s what I’m here for.”
Showalter sat down. No one spoke. The silence dragged on. No one knew any embarrassing questions to ask.
“Maybe 1 can clarify things,” said Guthrie. He stood up, impressively tall and easy-mannered, with sharp but humorous eyes.
“If you want to make a lot of money on this festival, I can tell you how to do it. Get a dozen dancing girls up from New York. Put a band and some lighting behind them. Let them shimmy a bit and your merchants should do quite well, though of course, I shan’t be with you. But if you want to try to produce the finest Shakespeare in the world, and give Canada more than wealth and industry to be proud of, then 1 think you can do it, and I’ll be with you all the way.”
In the next three minutes the Stratford committee abandoned all hope of profit. Unanimously they decided to take on themselves (lie burden of Canada’s reputation abroad. And enthusiasm was still pitched high two weeks later when Guthrie reported his findings.
Canada, he said, could muster sufficient first-class acting talent to take care of all supporting roles. The park, with its natural amphitheatre, was ideal; playgoers could stroll or go boating between acts and talk over performances.
Then Guthrie came down to specific suggestions: Leisurely productions of
only two plays at first. Lavish costumes, simple lighting and settings. An apron stage to bring back the intimacy Shakespeare used to have with his audience. A tent “which could be a thing of beauty” to give shelter and “keep the words from flying out into the night.” “But,” he warned. “I’d advise you to wait unless you can get top stars --the very best.” Then Guthrie presented his bill for two weeks’ expenses -seven-fifty—and flew back to Britain to direct the Edinburgh Festival.
One Sour Note Was Heard
The committee promptly dispatched Tom Patterson to England to shop for stars. His No. 1 target was Alec Guinness, then playing in Under 1’he Sycamore Tree. Guinness, in long underwear, received Patterson in his dressingroom, poured him a hefty Scotch, and made up while Tom talked. By the final “on stage,” Guinness, though intrigued, was still undecided. “Look,” said Patterson frankly, “I’m prejudiced. Before you make up your mind, check with Guthrie.”
Guthrie lauded Stratford’s common sense and uncommon zeal. “We couldn’t mobilize that kind of enthusiasm over here,” he said. Guinness took Patterson to lunch at his club and said he was “interested,” which, in this case, meant let’s settle the details.
“Can we talk money?” Patterson asked diffidently. He couldn’t come anywhere near Guinness’ salary from J. Arthur Rank. The lunch ended by Patterson telling Guinness he was entitled to some profit, and Guinness saying impatiently, “Look, you may lose money on this. You’ve got to keep your costs down. I’m satisfied with expenses.”
Patterson came back to Stratford with the finest package of talents the British stage could provide: Guthrie
as producer, Tanya Moiseiwitsch (who lost her RAF husband in Canada during the war) as set designer, and Alec Guinness (who renounced a lucrative Hollywood offer to accept)—all for
mmmmmmmmmmm -r DRY OBSERVATION
Bathing beauties Often get Prizes, fame,
But never wet.
twelve thousand dollars, less for the trio’s season’s work than Judy Garland turned down for one week last summer at Toronto’s under-canvas show, Melody Fair. When hard-headed Dr. Showalter, a devout Baptist, heard this news he said, “I just can’t bring myself to believe that people are this way, but I’m having it proved in front of my eyes.”
A local correspondent in the Stratford Beacon-Herald injected a sour note into this altruistic atmosphere a couple of months ago by suggesting that Guinness, a J. Arthur Rank star, was participating in the festival on orders from the boss for publicity purposes and that the Rank organization was trying to dominate the festival generally. This drew a statement from Showalter in which he acknowledged that “help and encouragement” had been received from both J. Arthur Rank and Leonard Brockington Rank’s senior Canadian executive. “This is not to say, however, that the festival is in any manner under the domination or control of Mr. Rank, Mr. Brockington or any other of its supporters.”
At year’s end the committee called in Patterson, by now haggard from trying to hold down his magazine job and ride herd at the same time on the swiftly shaping structure of the festival. “We’re going to turn the tables on you,” said Showalter. “You bought Guinness and Guthrie without any money. Now we’re going to hire you, and you know we haven’t a cent yet.”
Patterson is now in Stratford with Cecil Clarke, stage manager of the Old Vic Theatre, supervising the details for the big show. The government has declared the nonprofit festival a taxfree foundation. Canadian business —one third of it Stratford —has put up one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, no strings attached. Toronto broker John Frame has donated Toronto office space. Patterson’s bank, to his continual amazement, says nothing about the overdraft that has climbed to four figures.
Incredibly, the dream has become a reality. This summer the practical people of Stratford will open their homes and their park to what may be our largest single invasion of U. S. tourists. The cultural elite of the continent, famous names from Broadway, will stroll beside the placid little Avon. Out of an Englishman’s impulse to give a forest stream a familiar name one hundred and twenty years ago, can come something which, if successful, will lift Canada’s prestige well above the level of oil and newsprint.
But the really important thing is what the festival signifies. It is much more than Tom Patterson’s dogged faith and Guthrie’s and Guinness’ devotion to the theatre. The festival is in direct descent from Stratford’s park, the deliberately slow growth of industry. Through Guthrie’s eyes, some Stratford citizens caught a glimpse of how Canada looked from abroad and they found that they cared. Guthrie’s pungent eloquence roused the values, but in three minutes he couldn’t have created them. The values had been building for half a century.