During the twenty years after World War II, the conditions in the Canadian theatre changed to such a dramatic degree that at last it became possible for an acting community of some magnitude to be created and maintained. The training and early theatrical experiences of three of Canada's most distinguished actors--Frances Hyland, Kate Reid, and Martha Henry--are emblematic of the opportunities available to Canadian actors at the time. This article traces their early careers and considers the single production in which all three appeared together: The Cherry Orchard, directed by John Hirsch at the Stratford Festival in 1965.

Pendant les vingt ans qui suivent la deuxième guerre mondiale, le théâtre au Canada a subi une transformation majeure, au point où il devenait possible de créer et de soutenir une communauté d'acteurs/trices professionnels/elles. La formation et les premières éxperiences théâtrales de trois actrices canadiennes distinguées--Frances Hyland, Kate Reid, et Martha Henry--sont caractéristiques de possibilités disponsibles aux acteurs/trices canadiens/ennes à cette époque. Cet article s'occupe des carrières de ces actrices, et examine la seule pièce où tous les trois ont joué ensemble, The Cherry Orchard, mise en scène par John Hirsch au Stratford Festival en 1965.


An unusual degree of interest heralded the opening, in late July 1965, of the final production of that thirteenth Stratford Festival season, The Cherry Orchard. It was one of only a handful of non-Shakespearean plays to have been presented on the Stratford stage, and the first time that a Chekhov play had been performed there. Productions of Chekhov plays were so rare in Canada at this time that the choice of The Cherry Orchard was considered an intriguing one, especially in combination with the other offerings of that season, Henry IV, Falstaff, and Julius Caesar.1 Furthermore, The Cherry Orchard marked the Stratford directorial debut of John Hirsch, whose "reputation as the savior of the Winnipeg theatre had preceded him," as the London Free Press exclaimed. (Martin 1965) Hirsch had never directed a major Chekhov production, but those who knew his work at the Manitoba Theatre Centre felt he could prove himself at Stratford through the particular challenge of Chekhov's plays.

Hirsch was assigned a fine cast for The Cherry Orchard, including some of the Festival's most experienced performers. Three of the original Stratford company members were in the group: William Hutt, playing Gaev; Douglas Campbell, as Lopahin; and William Needles, in the role of Yepihodov. Also in the cast were three of the significant number of actors who, drawn by the opportunities offered by the flourishing theatrical scene, had emigrated to Canada from Britain during the 1950s: Powys Thomas (Fiers); Mervyn Blake (Pishtchik); and Mary Savidge (Charlotta). Three other roles were taken by Canadian born and trained actors: Bruno Gerussi (Yasha); Hugh Webster (Trofimov); and Susan Ringwood (Anya). The remarkably high calibre of performers in The Cherry Orchard extended even to the junior members of the company, who played servants and guests, and served as understudies. Among them were such future leading players in the Canadian theatre as Lewis Gordon, John Juliani, Al Kozlik, Dan MacDonald, Leon Pownall, Joan Karasevitch, and Richard Monette.

However, the single element which distinguished this cast from any other in the history of Canadian theatre was the presence, together on stage for the first and only time, of three women who are considered among the pre-eminent actors this country has produced: Frances Hyland, Kate Reid, and Martha Henry. Their training and early theatrical experiences are emblematic of the opportunities available to Canadian actors in the twenty years after World War Two: lessons from home-town voice and speech teachers; local drama classes; performances in school plays and university productions; university theatre classes; appearances in plays mounted for regional drama festivals and the Dominion Drama Festival; professional training, usually outside of Canada; summer stock; CBC radio and television work; tours with the Canadian Players; work at the regional theatres, especially the Manitoba Theatre Centre; and status-enhancing theatrical experience outside of Canada, in England or the United States.

It should not be surprising that the career paths of these three women converged at the Stratford Festival, which by the 1960s was not only the largest employer of actors for the stage in this country, but also the most sought-after engagement. Also, in 1965 the Canadian acting community was still relatively small, so each woman had worked with one of the other two several times before. However, this was the only time they performed together; several factors contributed to this singular event. First of all, the selection of the play helped to attract both Hyland and Reid, leading players at the time. As is always the case with classical plays, the three Shakespearean works in the Stratford repertoire that summer had fewer roles for women--nine, as compared to more than thirty of any size for men. Nor were any of these women's roles leads. Programming The Cherry Orchard, with its five substantial women characters, made it possible to accommodate both performers in leading roles. A second reason for the appearance of all three on stage was the repertory system itself, in which an actress of the calibre and experience of Martha Henry could be cast in the relatively minor role of Dunyasha. In addition, John Hirsch was familiar with the work of all three performers, and had a sense of how best to use their individual abilities to advantage; his presence raised interest in the rehearsal process for this production. And finally--perhaps most important--the appearance of all three together on stage can be attributed to the Festival's "philosophy of building and developing out of the company." (Pettigrew and Portman I 182) For the fourth year in a row, there were no imported international stars at Stratford.

Kate Reid was thirty-five that summer; rather younger than her character Ranevskaya, and younger than Frances Hyland, who played her adopted daughter Varya. That the two roles were assigned as they were had to do, in part, with the different physical types of the two actors, and with the way each had been categorized in the course of her work in the theatre. Both parts, with their considerable challenges, were obvious next steps for Reid and Hyland to take in their careers. Martha Henry was their junior in age, experience, and status, having arrived at Stratford in 1962 to play the ingenue role of Miranda in The Tempest. Since then, the parts she had played, both at Stratford and elsewhere, had illustrated her growing reputation as an actor of considerable versatility and power.

The 1965 production of The Cherry Orchard provides a convenient terminus for tracing the early careers of these three actors. There are some striking parallels. All three women were only children who grew up essentially fatherless, raised mainly by their mothers. They all experienced lonely childhoods made bearable because of their powerful imaginations, the fantasy worlds they created for themselves, and their discovery of acting. They all left home quite early to seek a career in the theatre. All three had early mentors, whose encouragement and example influenced them greatly. The potential of each actor was recognized early on in her career, and each was the recipient of considerable notice and success while still a relative beginner. Furthermore, all three discovered serious shortcomings in their training for the theatre, which, in different ways, they endeavoured to overcome. The balance of this article will trace their relative progress in stages: Beginnings and Mentors; Professional Training and Early Experience; the Stratford Festival and Broadway; Stratford in 1965; and the critical and personal reaction to The Cherry Orchard. It is hoped that these comparative histories will contribute to an understanding of the circumstances affecting the profession of acting for women in Canada, during the twenty years after World War Two.


FRANCES HYLAND was born in 1927 in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, a small town south-west of Swift Current. Her mother, Jessie Worden Hyland, a teacher, and her father, Thomas Hyland, a salesman, separated, reconciled, and finally parted permanently during the first decade of Hyland's life. She never saw her father again. Hyland has indicated that she believes the second separation made her shy and withdrawn. As reported by the Montreal Star in a 1954 interview, "she deliberately stifled emotions she felt would overwhelm her if she gave them rein." (Carroll 7)

In an effort to remedy her daughter's increasingly solitary state, Jessie Hyland sent her for what she thought would be elocution lessons with Mary Ellen Burgess. Burgess' efforts on behalf of amateur theatre in Saskatchewan, including the many workshops she conducted during her travels around the province in her role as government-appointed supervisor of dramatic activities, had led to her being nicknamed "Mrs. Drama."2 Hyland took what she called "a fairly advanced little drama course" (Hyland "Beginnings" 2) with Burgess, who used improvisational and other techniques to impart basic theatre skills. This course led to the formation of the Avenue Players, for which Hyland played the title role in the Regina Junior Avenue Players' dramatization of Oscar Wilde's The Birthday of the Infanta (1940). The production was entered in a provincial drama festival for juniors by Burgess, the director. The adjudicator of the festival was Emrys Jones, another influential figure in Saskatchewan's amateur theatre. Jones was most impressed with Hyland's performance, and wrote to Burgess about her, saying: "I see no reason why, with good training and good luck, this young lady should not turn out to be a very important actress indeed." (Hyland in Shaw 87) Hyland won her first ever award for this performance.

The discovery of acting was electrifying for her. It was an emotional release for feelings she had been suppressing. As she said years later, "I discovered that I was very good at acting and rehearsing plays became my social life." (Hyland "Beginnings" 2) By the time she entered the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in the fall of 1944, she was "stage-struck," and determined to become an actor.

The University of Saskatchewan was the first Canadian institution of higher learning to establish a department of Drama, and the Department's founder and first Chair was Emrys Jones. Jones had maintained an interest in Hyland's career, and cast her as Prossie in the Department of Drama's inaugural production of Candida in March 1946. Hyland took every acting opportunity that was offered to her while at the university, including a stint touring around Saskatchewan during one summer with the Western Stage Society. (Stuart 119-20)

DAPHNE KATE REID was born in 1930 in London, England, where her Canadian parents, Helen Isabel Moore Reid and Walter Clarke Reid, were living at the time of her birth. Her father was a retired colonel, a former Bengal Lancer in the Indian army, who was considerably older than her mother. The Reids returned to Canada when Kate was ten months old, and settled in Oakville, Ontario. When she was three, her father died of heart disease.

Kate Reid was what was known then as a "sickly" child. She had been born with deformed feet--they were corrected when she was eight--and, as she said, "I was always tripping on things--breaking bones, knocking myself out, catching pneumonia--and I was out of school a lot." Aware that she was different than other children, Kate, like Frances Hyland, was a lonely child, an outsider, who developed a "wild imagination" and spent most of her time with books. In reminiscing about these years, Reid said: "I always wanted to be the person I was reading about; the idea of being someone else rather than who I was appealed to me." Her mother, with whom she had "a love-hate relationship," started sending her to boarding schools when she was eleven, but she was always desperately unhappy there. Although her mother took her regularly to the theatre, and she had even gone backstage at the Royal Alex to visit Katherine Cornell when she was "eight or nine," she never imagined then that she would become an actor.

When she was fourteen, Kate broke both ankles and a knee in a fall and, with casts on both legs, missed a year of school. When it appeared that she would have to repeat the year, she flatly refused to return. "My mother," Reid remembered, "decided that I couldn't give up living at the age of 15, and she got me into this [drama] course . . . and I just sort of went from there...." (Reid 1991) Reid was accepted into a Drama course at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in the fall of 1946, and her life changed forever:

I met people who had not known me in Oakville or at the boarding schools and who found me attractive and fun to be with, and my drama activities just seemed to fall easily into place. It was as if there had been a miracle.... Acting, then, was totally natural to me: I didn't know technique yet, I just did it.... I had no idea that the drama magic was going to happen, like enormous doors opening. It slipped up on me: I didn't know it was going to be my life. (Reid 1981 3)

Reid said that it was the remarkable Robert Gill who was "instrumental in my being in this business." (Reid in Shaw 96) Gill was the director of Hart House Theatre, and the mentor in early acting training to an extraordinary group of University of Toronto students, including William Hutt, Eric House, Anna Cameron, Ted Follows, Charmion King, David Gardner, Barbara Chilcott, and Murray and Donald Davis. In 1948 Reid performed in two productions directed by Gill at Hart House Theatre: Terence Rattigan's dramatization of Crime and Punishment, in which Herbert Whittaker noticed "the luminous quality of young Miss Reid's acting"; (Whittaker 1993 158) and Chekhov's The Seagull, in which she played Nina. In 1949 Reid played Birdie in the Dominion Drama Festival production of Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest, directed by Henry Kaplan. Both Reid and one of her co-stars, William Hutt, won acting awards.

MARTHA HENRY was born Martha Buhs3 in 1938 in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of Kathleen (Konnie) Hatch and Lloyd Howard Buhs. Like Hyland and Reid, she was a shy, lonely girl, much affected by her parents' divorce, which took place when she was about five. Her mother Konnie was a musician who, after the divorce, made a living playing piano and accordion in cocktail lounges and at private parties in Detroit, and on the road. Martha lived in Greenville, Michigan, a small town north-west of Detroit (near Grand Rapids) with her maternal grandparents, and went to school there. She saw her mother on weekends, and travelled with her on the road during the summers.

The world of books and the imagination meant as much to Henry as it did to Hyland and Reid, but there was one specific milestone in her childhood that she feels changed her life. This was the discovery, when she was six years old, of a play script in a trunk in her grandparents' home. The trunk had belonged to her uncle, who had studied briefly to be a lighting designer at Northwestern University. She says now that, "The feeling I had when I found that script was that I had finally found something that had been lost; I'd finally found the key to the thing I'd been searching for. It was the key to a world."4 It was only later that she made the connection between this "world" and the theatre; at the time, it was illuminating enough for her to recognize that the world of the script had an order and a design that her own life seemed to lack. She might be unable to control the forces that were ordering her life, but she could control a script. After that, she said, "I organized my life so that I would be as close as I could to that script." (Henry in O'Toole 32B)

Martha joined the Brownies because they did a play, and she became involved in plays at school. She worked as an usher in Detroit theatres, which gave her the chance to observe the work of performers such as Helen Hayes. She travelled to New York with her mother to see acclaimed actors and productions, including Katherine Cornell in The Constant Wife in 1951. She apprenticed in summer theatres. She says that all these experiences underlined the fact that the theatre was what she wanted; they were "a re-affirmation of the click that had gone on in my head when I'd seen the script."

First observing the work of professional actors, and then acting with them, Henry began to learn about, and welcome, the particular kind of discipline and commitment that the theatre demands. In the early 1950s she was a high school apprentice with the Saline Mill Theatre, a professional company of actors in Michigan, and in 1954 she won a theatre scholarship to the Will-o-Way Playhouse. There, she worked with such up-and-coming actors as George C. Scott, who played her father in Fay Kanin's Goodbye, My Fancy. Scott had an enormous influence on Henry; even then, she recognized that he had "the real goods," a gift that allowed him to go "to a place that the other actors didn't go, didn't know anything about."

Although there was no doubt in Henry's mind that she wanted an acting career, she and her mother agreed that she must go to university. She was only interested in schools which offered courses in theatre, however. The one she chose to attend in 1955 was the sole university which required an entrance audition; Henry assumed that if it was the most challenging to get into, then it had to be the best. It was the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, and only later did she discover that it had a reputation as the finest drama school in the United States at the time.


In 1948, Frances HYLAND graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BA in English. Emrys Jones was determined that Hyland should continue her acting training, but there were two obstacles. Not only was there no acting school in Canada at this time, making it necessary for Hyland to leave the country to study, but also Hyland's mother simply could not afford to pay for further training of any kind. Jones decided to arrange for Hyland to audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He was resolved to raise the money somehow if she were accepted. Jessie Hyland scraped together the money for train fare to Ottawa, where Frances auditioned at Government House for Robert Speaight. Speaight was adjudicating the Dominion Drama Festival, which only the year before had been re-instated after a hiatus during World War Two. RADA had agreed that if Hyland was acceptable to Speaight she would be admitted in the fall.

Hyland described the encounter this way:

I had the nerve to do, as one of my audition speeches, "Ah! They're all gone now and I have no son left," from John Synge's Riders to the Sea, which I had just done with great acclaim at the University Theatre in Saskatoon. [Speaight] endured that, and I did a bit of Rosalind, of which I understood not one word. Finally, I asked him, "Mr. Speaight, how long do you think it would take you to decide whether or not I am eligible for the Academy?" . . . He said, "Oh yes, of course you can go. You won't like it, but you can go. You're obviously very talented and very devoted, but you won't like it. It's mostly a school for debutantes and you'll probably be quite bored, but you are welcome to go if you want to."
I said: "I want to go." (Hyland in Shaw 88)

True to his word, Emrys Jones arranged for Hyland to receive a scholarship from the IODE (Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire), the Regina Little Theatre, and the Regina Princess Patricia Club. It was enough to pay her fare on a ship to England and her first-term fees at RADA.

When asked later to comment on the benefits of her time at RADA Hyland said, in 1958, "The chief thing I learned during my formal training was how not to be typed by my physique. One way to avoid this, I found, was to practice playing completely unsuitable parts--for me, roles like Lady Macbeth and Hedda Gabler." (Hyland 1958 16)

She came to realize that there were serious drawbacks to the training she had received at RADA, however. In an interview in 1983, she said: "I think, really, I was very badly taught vocally, and it took me a very long time to get over it." She recalled that her teachers were constantly reminding her to "remember her 'bust bodice' and not allow her torso to appear to move while breathing," causing her voice to sound "clenched and strained," she felt. Even more serious from Hyland's point of view was RADA's emphasis on external technique at the expense of feeling. In the same interview, she spoke about the "power" of the actor, suggesting that it comes from "a will to succeed and a lot of old rage and good emotional churning which is the basis for an actor's career; the ability to produce passion from this furnace of repression." However, she continued, "this did not happen at all in the training of an actor at RADA at that time. RADA externalized form and manner . . . [emphasizing] the style of it."5 Hyland was able to make good use of her ability to play "unsuitable parts" later on. However, as will be seen, it took her years to overcome the detrimental effects of her training on her acting technique.

Hyland did not complete the full course of study at RADA, in fact. At the end of her second term, having been awarded the silver medal for her performance in several scenes, Hyland was offered a contract by the West End producer H. M. Tennant. She chose to leave RADA without taking her second year of training so that she would be available to accept professional work. As a result of her performance in a 1950 BBC television production called Deep are the Roots, Hyland was asked to audition for the part of Stella in a replacement company of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. She took over from Renee Asherson, the original Stella, and played the part for a year, at a salary of ten pounds a week. After this exhilarating start to her professional career, Hyland's progress through the ranks of young performers was rapid, allowing her the opportunity to work with several major theatrical figures of the day, such as Peter Brook, Frederick Valk, Edith Evans, and John Gielgud. She was also seen by others who would have a profound influence on her future, notably Tyrone Guthrie.

On the strength of her performance as Gelda in Christopher Fry's The Dark is Light Enough, directed by Brook and starring Evans, Hyland was offered two roles in the 1954 Stratford, Ontario season by Guthrie, who told her, "You are Canadian. Time you came home. Got a lovely theatre there. You'll like it." Actually, Guthrie had previously invited Hyland to the Garrick Club for lunch, and asked her what roles she thought she could play. She had answered, "I have always had a feeling that I sympathize with Isabella . . . . I think she is hiding." (Hyland once said in an interview that "[my] kind of acting . . . stems from a desire to conceal my own self rather than express myself." (Carroll 9)) Guthrie had commented that he found this "interesting," but hadn't mentioned that one of the plays planned for Stratford was Measure for Measure.6

After performing at Hart House Theatre, Kate REID quickly became involved in the burgeoning summer stock movement in Ontario, working with the newly founded Straw Hat Players, the Peterborough Summer Theatre, and the Niagara Falls Summer Theatre. By now Reid was determined to make her life as an actor, and she was aware of her need to have some formal professional training, of a sort that was unavailable to actors in Canada. Unlike Frances Hyland, Reid chose the United States. In 1951 she went to New York, where she shared an apartment with her friends, actors Anna Cameron and Barbara Hamilton, and studied acting with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof at the HB Studio. In later years Reid would be somewhat defensive about her training, saying, "I have had in my time quite a lot of theatrical schooling. I find it is more beneficial to work." (Duff 23) In fact, apart from private voice lessons and workshops, usually at Stratford, her fifteen weeks at the HB studio marked the only extended period of training Kate Reid ever received. Even as she acquired greater technical skills, her approach to acting was always instinctive rather than intellectual, and her "process" a personal one. Unlike Frances Hyland or Martha Henry, she was never able to describe what her formal training had taught her. Furthermore, her protestations of solid training to the contrary, she remained deeply insecure about her technique as long as she lived.

In 1952, Reid performed for the Bermuda Repertory Theatre, an all-Canadian company that presented shows in the Bermudiana Hotel. That same year she starred with John Drainie, David Gardner, and Lorne Greene in the Jupiter Theatre production of Ted Allan's The Money Makers. The show was a hit, and had the distinction of being "the first Canadian stage play to transfer to television. CBLT, the brand-new CBC station in Toronto, mounted the play for the cameras as soon as the theatrical run was over in December 1952." (Drainie 162)

Reid was a regular television performer from the start, playing many lead roles over the years for the CBC, and later for American television as well. She also quickly established herself as an award-winning radio actor. In fact radio and television performances, along with her second marriage (to actor Austin Willis) and the birth of her first child (son Reid) occupied her until 1956, when she played Lizzie Currie in N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker, directed by Henry Kaplan at the Crest Theatre, Toronto. This production, and especially Kate Reid's performance in it, was so successful that not only was it remounted that summer at Prud'Hommes Garden Centre Theatre in Vineland, Ontario, but an English production was planned. Reid was engaged to play opposite Sam Wanamaker, first in an out-of-town tryout, and finally in the West End. Before leaving for England, Reid had a severe anxiety attack, of the kind that would prey on her for years to come. As it turned out, she was unable to take up the West End part of the engagement; her mother's final illness brought her back home to Canada.

In October 1956, Reid gave a memorable performance as Masha in The Three Sisters at the Crest Theatre, playing opposite Charmion King, Amelia Hall, and Donald Davis. In the Toronto Star, Nathan Cohen, who was later to be extremely critical of her work, called Reid's interpretation of her role "an artistic accomplishment by any test." (Cohen in Whittaker 1993 159)

Finally, in November 1958, Reid made her West End debut as Catherine Ashland in The Stepmother, directed by her University of Toronto friend Henry Kaplan. She received excellent personal reviews in the British papers, but the play itself was heavily panned, and closed after only three weeks. In recalling the experience she said, "All I did was stand around in marvellous Worth dresses. I had no real work to do until the third act, and by then it was too late." (Taylor 13)

The failure of the production caused a domestic crisis for Reid, who, anticipating an extended run, had moved to England with her husband, two children, and a housekeeper. Suddenly, after having worked steadily for years, she found herself "at liberty." Furthermore, Austin Willis had stepped into the leading role of a long-running hit comedy, Roar Like a Dove, and was now far more successful in England than she was. The marriage was deeply strained by these circumstances.

When scripts did start to arrive from producers, Reid found that most of the roles she was being offered were "older" American women, similar in type to the character she had played in The Stepmother. Frances Hyland had been determined to make a career for herself in England, and so had trained herself to speak with an impeccable upper-class English accent, but Reid was ambivalent about the speech issue. On the one hand she did not want to be typed as capable of playing North Americans only, but on the other she had no desire to give up her own Canadian manner of speech. (Cohen 1959 29) In spite of a few jobs on television, her career in England was effectively in the doldrums when she received an offer from Michael Langham at the Stratford Festival for the 1959 season, to play Celia in As You Like It, and Emilia in Othello.

From 1955 until 1959, Martha HENRY worked toward a BFA in theatre at Carnegie Tech during the winters, and during the summers began her connection with Canada by performing with a summer stock theatre, the Sun Parlour Playhouse, in Leamington, Ontario. She also discovered the Stratford Festival as an audience member, and found Henry V (1956) and Hamlet (1957), both starring Christopher Plummer, particularly memorable. Henry remembers that the first time she ever saw Frances Hyland perform was in Hamlet.

[T]he first thing I saw Frannie play was Ophelia, and. . . I was very much struck, the way I was with Plummer, that she could make the words sound like she was talking rather than reciting. She was incredibly beautiful, and obviously worked extremely well with Chris. She was the leading lady at Stratford, and an icon, even then, and she was very young.

By the time Henry graduated from university in 1959, she understood the Southern Ontario theatre scene well enough to know that she stood a better chance of getting acting work there than in New York, where most of the graduates from professional programs were automatically heading. She decided to start by auditioning for the CBC and for Murray Davis at the Crest Theatre. Davis offered her a contract for the fall of 1959. Soon she was making regular appearances in CBC-TV dramas; as was the case with so many of the members of the Toronto acting community, her television work subsidized her work in the theatre. During the next year she worked at the Crest and the Red Barn Theatre in Muskoka, and began forming a network of contacts in the Canadian theatre. Henry grew increasingly aware that her Carnegie Tech training, although of a very high calibre, had not been particularly suited to her. Discussions with Powys Thomas, one of her directors at the Crest, led Henry to seek further training at the National Theatre School. When Thomas, who was the founding Artistic Director of the school's English section, had first suggested that it was not too late for her to return to school, if she felt she needed to, Henry's reaction was, "But I've already graduated. I'm working; this is the next stage of my life." The idea of resuming her training stayed with her, however, especially as she found she was encountering obstacles in the development of her craft.

It was very clear, while I was working at the Crest, the things that I still couldn't do and the places where I got myself into deep trouble. And I didn't know...where to go to learn the things that I needed to learn to get myself through that door. I knew that my instincts only carried me so far: sometimes in performance I came up against a place where I couldn't repeat something...with its inner life; I didn't know how to mine the inner life so that it didn't dry up. I didn't know how to take the instinct and turn it into craft or use the craft to open up the instinct.

The acting training she had received at Carnegie Tech, from such remarkable teachers as Edith Skinner, had been based on the principles of the Stanislavski System as redefined by the American Method. Henry had found most of the principles themselves to be useful, but it was the manner by which they were to be mastered that created difficulties for her. The BFA at Carnegie Tech was organized as a conservatory program, but because it was part of a university curriculum, "they taught by paperwork," Henry says. The hours of work she had to do in character and scene analysis resulted in "splitting my head and my instinct. My characters never came to life for me. I received good grades for paperwork, but not for performance." It is interesting to note that this problematic split between instinct and intellect, caused by her training in the very different context of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was also central to Hyland's difficulties with her work. Henry's opportunity to retrain at the National Theatre School allowed her to avoid any long-term damage to her craft.

Martha Henry left for Montreal in the fall of 1960, with a Canada Council arts scholarship to the National Theatre School. At the NTS, she says, "Powys led us toward a place of working where the technique lay in touching the instincts and reaching in to see how those worked for you. Everything was geared to release your creativity rather than to teach you a method of fitting your creativity into." The NTS gave her the confidence to trust her instincts, and helped her to synthesize a personal process that she could rely on, at least for the early years of her career.

It was between her first and second years at the NTS that Henry began her important association with John Hirsch, when she played Jennet in Hirsch's production of Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. In the fall of 1961, her class appeared on the Stratford Festival stage in a showcase production of scenes from Macbeth. A few months later, Henry received an invitation to come to Stratford for the 1962 season, to play Lady Macduff in Macbeth, and Miranda in The Tempest, to be directed by George McCowan. She told Powys Thomas that her first commitment was to the NTS, but he advised her to take advantage of the offer from Stratford. The School had already served its purpose for her; now it was most important for her to work. Consequently, Martha Henry left the National Theatre School after a year-and-a-half, and is considered its first graduate.


The Stratford Festival played a major part in the careers of all three women; Hyland spent nine seasons at the Festival, Reid ten, and 1998 marks Henry's twenty-first season there.7 All three joined the Festival within ten years of its founding. The organization they have each described in interviews is a very different one than the Festival that exists now--or even, indeed, than the one that developed after 1965. From the actors' points of view, one of the main differences would be the size of the company. In a 1991 interview, less than two years before her death, Kate Reid talked about the "feeling of family" that had existed for her during her early seasons at Stratford. The actors were a small group of friends who knew and trusted each other, and who socialized constantly at each other's homes because there was "no place to go" in Stratford then. It was a "joyous" time, she said, full of "fun and hard work"; and, of course, they were all "a hell of a lot younger." (Reid 1991) This closeness and congeniality had a significant effect on the work.

HYLAND came "home" to the Festival first, after six years in England, to play Isabella opposite James Mason's Angelo in Measure for Measure and Bianca in Tyrone Guthrie's Wild West version of The Taming of the Shrew. In later years she commented on her time in Britain, outlining some of the reasons for her success there: "I was lucky. I appeared in a number of good parts, without being stuck in some long run." (Ness 1952) She also felt that the timing of the Stratford offer was very opportune, however: "[B]y the time I left London I was beginning to get typed as the sort of sad, young girl tragic things were apt to happen to." (Whittaker 1975 17)

Initially, she found herself daunted by the challenge of the Stratford stage, as Kate Reid and Martha Henry would be after her. She was also terrified by the difficult role of Isabella, played opposite Mason, who hadn't been on the stage for fifteen years--and who was lacking in confidence, both in himself and in director Cecil Clarke. Eventually Guthrie, whose directorial style was far less democratic than Clarke's, decided to step in. Hyland learned a great deal simply by trying to do exactly what Guthrie told her to do. As she said in an interview, "In those early days at Stratford, he used his actors like puppets, because none of us were experienced enough to know what we were doing. We wouldn't have known how to use that big space without him." (Hyland in Hallquist 24)

Although Hyland was not particularly happy with her performances that summer of 1954, she received respectable personal reviews, an offer of work during the winter season from the Crest Theatre, and an invitation from Guthrie to return to Stratford in 1955. She also became involved in CBC radio and television, and met, as she said, "a whole gaggle of actors whose names now echo in Canadian theatre" (Shaw 89)--Barbara Chilcott, Charmion King, William Hutt, Kate Reid (who became a close friend), and George McCowan (whom she soon married). The result was that even though initially she had not planned to stay in Canada after 1954, it wasn't until 1962 that she returned to England--briefly--to work.

During the following years, by taking advantage of every challenging opportunity that came her way, Hyland built the kind of theatrical career which allowed her to move from strength to strength. She toured with the Canadian Players for two seasons, and then returned to Stratford in 1957, to play Olivia in Guthrie's production of Twelfth Night and Ophelia in Michael Langham's Hamlet, with Christopher Plummer. For her Ophelia she received the kind of extraordinary personal reviews that most actors can only dream about, exemplified by Brooks Atkinson's unqualified (and subsequently much-quoted) rave in The New York Times: "Frances Hyland plays the finest Ophelia of her generation--girlish and sunny in the early scenes, phantom-like, wandering-witted in the scenes of madness, and musically articulate in the reading of the poetry." (Atkinson 15)

A New York agent had seen her work in Twelfth Night in 1957, and recommended her to the producer Kermit Bloomgarden, who was casting for Ketti Frings' stage version of Thomas Wolfe's novel Look Homeward, Angel. When the Stratford season closed, Hyland travelled to Manhattan, auditioned for the part of Laura James, and was offered the role the same day. After discussing the offer, however, she and her husband George McCowan decided that there were "too many complications" of a domestic nature, and she turned the job down. It seems likely that Hyland was most concerned about the length of the run, not only because she would be separated from her husband and son while she was in New York, but also because she hoped to return to Stratford for the following season. However, when Bloomgarden offered more money, promised featured billing, and agreed to release her for Stratford in 1958, she accepted the role. Apparently this kind of negotiation was not new to Broadway producers. According to Hyland, Bloomgarden had said to her, "[T]hat's the big problem in hiring Canadians. They all want the summer off for Stratford." (Karr 1957 67)

Hyland received excellent personal reviews for Look Homeward, Angel. The success of the production added the distinction of a Broadway triumph to her growing list of credits and opened the door to a series of performances outside of Canada. However, Hyland still faced the same typecasting issues in New York as she had in England. As she told Herbert Whittaker in 1965, "I was being paid attention to by a lot of important people, taken out to lunches and dinners, offered roles in new productions. Then I recognized that the roles they were offering were all the same roles, the same as the one I was playing. I came home." (Whittaker 1965 17) To a certain extent, however, what she came home to was a similar degree of typecasting, playing suffering ingenues such as Perdita in The Winter's Tale and Desdemona in Othello.

In spite of mounting evidence of success, and perhaps partly because of typecasting, by 1964 Frances Hyland was trying to pull herself out of several years of "the acting and emotional doldrums." The year 1959, a "watershed", as Hyland called it, had marked a crisis in her personal life. Her marriage was ending, and her concern for her son was occupying her mind. "After it, I started going down, artistically and emotionally.... I've often known despair in these years. Suffered from a dreadful feeling of incapacity...." She explained that she felt she was "terrible" as Desdemona, for example, "Doing the same things, and boring people to death." (Cobb 23) After she played Desdemona, Hyland did not return to Stratford for five years.

Her first Stratford season after this hiatus helped her to regain some of her confidence, partly because of a change in the types of roles assigned. Hyland was delighted finally to have a chance to play one of Shakespeare's "nasties": Goneril in King Lear. (The role of Cordelia, which she automatically would have been assigned in the past, in this production went to the new Festival ingenue, Martha Henry.) As John Pettigrew commented: "[How] agreeable for audiences, and doubtless for Miss Hyland, to have her as a villainess after her agonies in past years as various innocent sufferers like Ophelia, Perdita, and Desdemona." (Pettigrew 1964 440)

Finally, following the 1964 Stratford season, Hyland played her personal "breakthrough role": Kattrin, the mute daughter, in John Hirsch's production of Mother Courage at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Initially, she said, "I was in a panic--didn't know what I was doing." But with Hirsch's help she was able to achieve a level of creativity which changed fundamentally the way she worked. Everything she had done before now seemed to her like "acting"; false and superficial. "I never went behind the role [until Kattrin]," she said. (Anthony 1975) As Antony Ferry suggested in the Toronto Daily Star, in an article entitled "The Theatre's First Lady of the Year: Frances Hyland," "The tight, suffocating sense of inhibition for which critics had downgraded her in recent years was all gone...." It is intriguing to note that this role, which seemed to grant a new dimension to Hyland's acting, was one which did not allow her to use her much-praised voice.

Kate REID was always somewhat bitter about the fact that she had auditioned for Stratford in 1953 but had not been offered a job there until 1959. She did allow that she was never at her best in auditions, however. She was far more likely to be offered a part when the producer or director already knew her work. She believed firmly, and with some resentment, that it was because she had acquired some acting credits in England that she was deemed acceptable to Michael Langham and Stratford in 1959.

Once rehearsals began, she spent the first weeks in a panic. She had played in Shakespeare only once before, as Ophelia in a television production of Hamlet, and, she said, "I was terrible." In fact, Reid had far more experience acting on television than on the stage at this point in her career. Of her first Stratford adventure, she commented: "At the beginning, the whole thing looked like a big blank wall that I couldn't get through.... I learned that rehearsing for a contemporary play and rehearsing Shakespeare were two completely different things. I discovered that it was harder to speak verse than I thought. I also discovered that I had to learn to breathe properly." (Karr 1959 13)

She had considerable difficulty learning how to move on the Festival stage, as well, and for a reason that related to her own particular style of acting. As Herbert Whittaker put it, "A direct emotional actress, Miss Reid had always headed straight for the person she was playing opposite. That had to be changed.... [On the Stratford stage] you never move in a straight line, always in a curve." Furthermore, Reid said, it was made clear to her that "I have a dreadful habit of touching the people I'm acting with, something I can get away with on television." (Whittaker 1960 11)

Reid considered her first season at the Festival a turning point in her life, and an invaluable learning experience. Of Langham she said, "I consider Michael the greatest teacher I have ever had. ... He allowed me to do things, or made me do things, that I didn't think I could do." She also gave credit to a number of actors who "taught me so much: those that were so far above me," such as Douglas Campbell, William Hutt, and Frances Hyland. (Reid in Shaw 96)

Later, Michael Langham was to say, "The handicap of Kate's career--and she's not very old--is that she has not yet had as great a demand to develop her technical skill and that demand is now coming." (Langham in Duff 1962 23) Langham's idea of casting Reid in two such contrasting Shakespearean roles as Celia and Emilia was a good one. In later years he continued to capitalize on her ability to portray substantially different kinds of characters, and to be equally effective in both comic and serious roles.

By 1962, when Reid played Katharine in The Taming of the Shrew to John Colicos' Petruchio, and Lady Macbeth to Christopher Plummer's Macbeth (in Peter Coe's wildly misbegotten production), Langham was calling her "unquestionably the best actress in the Canadian theatre." (Langham in Sinclair 81) There were many critics who would have taken exception to such a statement, however; Kate Reid was apparently a figure of controversy from the time she returned to Canada from England. In fact, in 1960, the Toronto Daily Star ran an article about her--the kind of piece that, fortunately, no one would consider writing now--entitled, "Some Love Kate, Some Say Spank Her," which declared that an argument had broken out at a recent opening night party as two "men of the theatre" took sides on the issue of whether Reid was Canada's best or worst female actor. Both men, the article continued, "agreed she is undisciplined and needs a good spanking." (Duff 1960 21)

Kate Reid's profound vulnerability and her capacity to expose her psychological wounds made her the actor she was. However, these traits, along with her obsessive need to reveal her dissatisfaction with her appearance, her battles with her weight and with alcohol, with the chaos of her life, and with her sometimes crippling feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, seemed to enrage those who deplored her lack of emotional control. One of her most scathing critics, who had begun as an admirer, was Nathan Cohen. Not only did Cohen accuse her, in print, of failing to attain "a controlled and thorough grounding in the arts of acting," but he berated her for indulging in "mannerisms"--"grimacing, a tilt of the head, a trick of scrubbing her hands along her thighs"--and for "emotional hugger-mugger." He also declared, "I tell you, the heartbreak of my life is Knowing What She Could Have Been." (Cohen in Moon 36)

By 1962, the extent of her reputation as an actor was illustrated by a press release from the Manitoba Theatre Centre, in which John Hirsch announced that his production of Mother Courage, planned for the spring, was being postponed until the fall so that Reid, "our greatest actress...a figure of deep humanity...," (Hirsch in Duff 23) could play the title role. As it turned out, Mother Courage was not produced at MTC until the 1964-65 season, and it was Zoe Caldwell who played the part, with a supporting cast that included Frances Hyland and Martha Henry. Reid did, however, play the role for CBC Television: the show was aired in January 1965.

The reason that Reid was unable to play Mother Courage in the fall of 1962 after all was that in the course of the Stratford season that year, the American director Alan Schneider had seen her in performance and had offered her the role of Martha in the matinee company of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The role of Martha was one that Kate Reid "...was born to play," (Knelman 61); but when the acclaim for her performance impelled the producer to offer her a chance to head the evening company after Uta Hagen left the show, she chose instead to return to Stratford for the 1963 summer season. Like Frances Hyland, for many years Reid felt drawn back to the security represented by the Festival. Reid did play the role of Martha again, in fact--in 1965, at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, with Donald Davis as George, and directed by John Hirsch.

Sometime during the late summer of 1963 Peter Witt, Reid's agent, sent her a copy of the script for Sidney Michael's play Dylan, about the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. The director, Peter Glenville, and the producers travelled to Stratford to see her perform. After receiving the approval of the star, Alec Guinness, they offered her the role of Caitlin, Thomas's wife. True to form, Reid was ambivalent. She knew that if the play was a success, it would do wonders for her career, but she nevertheless "begged and begged Michael Langham" for work in the 1964 season, "something, anything...." Whether she was hoping an offer from Stratford might allow her to turn down Dylan is not clear. As she once admitted, however, "My first reaction when I'm offered a part is to figure out how to get out of it." (Moon 39-40; 38) In any case, Kate Reid played in Dylan, which had both a New Haven and a Toronto tryout, for ten months, to great acclaim. She received a Tony nomination for her performance. She said she was "miserable" in New York, however, so desperately lonely and homesick in spite of the many friends she made there that she kept the television on all night for company, even while she slept. Although she talked about moving permanently to New York, and even buying a house there, she ultimately chose to return home--to Stratford--as soon as her contract with Dylan had ended.

Martha HENRY's first season at the Stratford Festival was glorious; she remembers particularly how good the company was to her. Many of her memories of that first summer involve the Festival theatre itself and its famous stage, which is constructed in such a way that there is only one place backstage from which an actor can observe the audience without being seen. Before her first public performance, in Macbeth, actor Bernard Behrens took her to this place, telling her that the shock of finding themselves on the stage in front of that audience without preparation has occasionally caused actors to panic, and even lose control. Indeed, Henry says, what the actor feels "out there" is the same way a surfer must feel: "this huge thing comes at you, like a giant wave."

Henry received good notices for her inaugural Stratford performance as Lady Macduff. The outpouring of praise for her Miranda in The Tempest was typified by the review in the London Free Press: "In young Martha Henry we saw a glowing and lovely Miranda, played with charm and intensity that stamp her as a future candidate for stellar roles here. It is no cliché to say that in her a star was born last night." (Martin 1962) Only a year later, on the strength of several performances at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and on radio and television, and three more roles at Stratford, the critic John Pettigrew was declaring, "Miss Henry has established herself as the leading English-Canadian actress." (Pettigrew 1963 447)


When Frances Hyland and Kate Reid reported to the Stratford Festival for rehearsals in 1965, they were both actors with impressive theatrical credits and international reputations. Hyland's career had been the more significant of the two to begin with; Reid's stage work had taken longer to reach the same position of distinction. By 1965, they were at the top of their profession, having achieved success both in Canada and, more important according to the prevalent Canadian point of view, internationally.

The 1965 Stratford season was a particularly successful one for HYLAND. In a move that illustrates how interchangeable some of the women's parts in Shakespeare can be, she and Kate Reid had "flipped a coin for the role of Portia," (Anthony 1978 53) Brutus' wife, in Julius Caesar. Hyland had lost, and was forced to make do with the part of Calpurnia, Caesar's wife. Her other two roles that season--Doll Tearsheet in Falstaff, and Varya--fully compensated her, however. The critics were unanimous in their praise for her performance as Doll, most of them making reference to the remarkable disparity between Hyland's own physical delicacy and the lustiness of her performance. As Arnold Edinborough put it:

[F]or sheer creativity, for sheer optical illusion, the slight-framed Frances Hyland takes the crown--her own frail 105-pound frame is transformed, as Doll Tearsheet, into what seems to be a 200-pound Rubens figure. It's one of the best things she's ever done. (Edinborough 17)

Ronald Evans, of the Toronto Telegram, attributed whatever success enjoyed by the production as a whole directly to Hyland, saying that she had "grabbed the Festival by the sagging seat of its pants and hauled it off the ground." (Evans 1965) Hyland herself revealed not only what the experience meant to her, but also a good deal about her high regard for John Hirsch, when she said:

I had never done anything like it before. Some of us at Stratford tended to do Shakespeare either with prissy elegance or over-weighted solemnity. John Hirsch, who directed the tavern scenes, got us to feel the characters as if they were happy pigs, dirty, diseased, stinking, but unaware their lives were miserable, having to let the juices flow to survive. (Hyland in Ferry 2) 8

Kate REID was dealing with some problematic issues in terms of her work and her personal life that season. She had been approached by Hollywood regarding her availability for a role in a movie based on an early Tennessee Williams play, to be called This Property is Condemned. She was very overweight, however, and drinking heavily, and the producers of the movie told her that she must lose weight, and submit to a weigh-in before filming began, or lose the part. Her fellow actors were well aware of her efforts to get herself into shape for the role, and many remember how she curtailed her drinking, limiting herself to one drink a day. William Hutt says that she showed an extraordinary degree of resolve that spring and summer, and by the time she reported for filming, "She was as beautiful as I'd ever seen her." (Hutt 1996) In September her erstwhile critic, Nathan Cohen, made much of the fact that she had won the role of Natalie Wood's mother in This Property Is Condemned against competition from Eleanor Parker and Joan Bennett. He also announced that as soon as her work in the movie was finished, she was scheduled to return to Broadway in a double bill also written by Williams (The Mutilated and The Gnädiges Fraulein). (Cohen 1965 22)

By the time the three women's paths converged on stage in The Cherry Orchard, HENRY's work was already receiving the same degree of attention as Hyland's and Reid's, at least in Canada, although she was still a relative newcomer to the theatre.


The circumstances of the Canadian theatre scene in 1965 meant that most of the cast members of The Cherry Orchard had worked together before, either at Stratford or elsewhere. Most of them had also been directed by John Hirsch. This meant that the cast of The Cherry Orchard could function as a true ensemble, with a highly efficient method of rehearsal communication at their command. Not only could Hirsch and the actors experiment with the tone of the play, but also the actors' familiarity with the Stratford stage itself--with the unique demands of that stage--meant that they were able to meet the challenges of the production.

Commentators on Hirsch's work agree that some of his finest, most emotionally resonant directorial creations were his productions of the plays of Chekhov. Hirsch seemed exceptionally well attuned, emotionally and psychologically, to that complex mixture of melancholy, light-heartedness, absurdity and pain which is quintessentially Chekhovian, and suited as few other Canadian directors have been to help actors to embody the Chekhovian world with intensity and truth. Years later, Hirsch said about this production of The Cherry Orchard:

There are some productions that stand out in one's memory more than others. They acquire a kind of mythical proportion. ... It was a marvellous production and very challenging. A very frightening thing to do because the Stratford stage is not a place where you do naturalistic plays. But somehow one got a totally new feeling about Chekhov on that stage. (Hirsch 1985; Shaw 123)

In the program's "Director's Notes," Hirsch indicated his concept of The Cherry Orchard first by quoting Chekhov:

Let the things that happen on stage be just as complex and yet just as simple as they are in life. For instance: People are having a meal, just having a meal, but at the same time their happiness is being created or their lives are being smashed up.

It was this sort of simultaneity and collision of events and incidents that Hirsch wanted to suggest in his production. William Needles, who feels that this was by far the best of the several productions of the play in which he has appeared, says that Hirsch achieved this goal to an extraordinary degree:

I have very vivid memories of [The Cherry Orchard]; it was a beautiful production which John put together with consummate care. He had it so carefully planned in his mind that he was able to feed us all this really rich information. You felt that there was all kinds of activity going on in the house, offstage as well as onstage, and that there was an enormous amount of life and meaning--familial meaning--within this house that included not only the family itself but the servants and everybody in the neighbourhood. This made the ending so much more tragic when the house was denuded of everything. (Needles 1997)

Hirsch's determination to capture "the flavour of life" in the production encouraged all the actors to make strong choices in the playing of their parts. Kate Reid, Frances Hyland, and Martha Henry all seem to have been inspired to give unusual interpretations of their roles. It was a production full of humour and, for both the actors and the audience, an intriguing balance between laughter and tears.

Most of the more than twenty reviewers felt that The Cherry Orchard was a memorable production, touching and intelligent: "a new height of artistic achievement" (Bowden 1965); an interpretation like "a breath of fresh air" (Ashley 1965); "surprisingly modern in its concept and meaning...a marvel of simulated life...beautifully observed and recorded by both playwright and director, without bitterness or excessive sentiment." (Evans 1965) Robertson Davies called it "a collector's piece." (Davies 1965) Only Nathan Cohen, who Martin Knelman has suggested "was intensely scornful of Stratford, which he regarded as a disastrous blow to his own dream of a genuine Canadian dramatic flowering," (Knelman 1982 22) panned the production and Hirsch's direction. At odds with the majority of the other reviewers, Cohen found little to admire in the acting of The Cherry Orchard. He was willing to allow that "most of the players are technically adequate," but was extremely grudging with his praise for the work of any of the performers. (Cohen 1965)

Cohen expressed dissatisfaction with Frances Hyland, accusing her of "strenuous" overacting. But otherwise, Hyland received praise for her "moving performance" as Varya. The Ottawa Citizen said that she managed "to make the plain, efficient Varya rather endearing," and Davies wrote, "Miss Hyland's tears when her last hope of marriage is taken from her bring to the production one of its two or three most piercing moments of insight into the pathos of life." Herbert Whittaker too was compelled by the expressiveness of Hyland's playing: "Frances Hyland has turned herself into an ugly step-daughter to reveal, without self-consciousness, the dry life inevitably hers. We know that Lopahin could never bring himself to propose to her, nor she avoid her destiny, by the very line of Miss Hyland's cheek bone." (Whittaker 1965) As Henry says, "Varya was a wonderful part for Frannie: she gave Varya great dignity, which she doesn't always have."

In typical fashion, Nathan Cohen was particularly hard on Kate Reid, accusing her of "metamorphos[ing] the magnetic, sophisticated, self-indulgent and intelligent Madame Ranevskaya into a plump housemother, given to speaking in a high-pitched voice and pausing before each sentence." Cohen was not the only critic to express dissatisfaction with Kate Reid's voice, and her performance as Ranevskaya; a few others felt she was "miscast," and either suggested that she could have been "more flamboyant in the role," or more controlled, or less superficial. Reid's detractors were in the minority, however. On the whole, her acting was called "superb" and "glowing" and she was praised for the power and emotional intensity of her characterization. Ronald Evans of the Toronto Telegram pointed out that:

The burden of infusing all this essential vitality into Hirsch's concept of The Cherry Orchard must be borne by the players, and the major share goes to Kate Reid as Madame Ranevskaya. She carries it superbly. Chekhov said his heroine must be portrayed with a special smile, a certain charm, and Miss Reid supplies these perfectly.

Whittaker wrote: "When [Douglas] Campbell was telling (never boasting) of his purchase of the cherry orchard, Miss Reid's silent emotion provided one of the great moments of the festival. We felt our world was ending along with hers." Writing of the work of both Kate Reid and William Hutt in the production, Robertson Davies said: "...both these splendid players give us emotional riches that make the play a great experience. Their delight at being home in Act One, and their desolation--which she meets with courage and he with utter collapse--in Act Four, are among the finest things Stratford has given us since 1953."

Martha Henry says of Reid's interpretation:

I knew that Kate was not an ordinary Ranevskaya. She brought this mixture of incredible imperiousness and ultimate vulnerability to Ranevskaya. I remember Kate was so funny as well; that was always, it seems to me, one of her greatest gifts: the ability she had to do the comedic thing which allows you in. Despite Ranevskaya's imperiousness she seemed to charm and enchant all the people in the household, including the maid, because she was able to laugh at herself so much. I remember her as looking so beautiful.

Henry herself received a few rather mixed and contradictory reviews for her playing of Dunyasha. Sydney Johnson of the Montreal Star felt that "the powerful personality of Martha Henry quite submerged the maid Dunyasha." (Johnson 14) Whittaker thought her interpretation "somewhat too pushy, too common and too sophisticated," while Howard Taubman of The New York Times said: "Martha Henry, a fine actress in other Stratford roles, is not quite apt as the maid, because she is basically too elegant and well-bred in manner." (Taubman 17) Other critics praised her vivacity and flightiness, however. It is interesting to read between the lines of Henry's more negative notices; they seem to refer to a stage presence that was at odds with the supporting role she had been assigned.

On the whole, there was considerable acclaim for the high standard of acting reached by each individual member of the cast, with particular praise lavished on the performances of Mary Savidge, Mervyn Blake, and Powys Thomas. However, it was the way the company functioned as an ensemble to which the critics referred again and again. The Stratford Beacon Herald went so far as to exclaim: "...Chekhov could not have improved upon the company enlisted by director John Hirsch." (McIver 1965) As the London Free Press put it, "It is a cast without a weakness, as we have a right to expect here." (Martin 1965) A most telling comment on this subject was Gordon Jocelyn's in the Montreal Gazette. Making reference to the other three productions of the 1965 season, which had received some mixed reviews--and, for Douglas Campbell's production of Julius Caesar, an accusation of lowered standards--he wrote:

After seeing the Shakespeare this year I was convinced that what Stratford needed was a limited return to the star system, [but] The Cherry Orchard is a company play. There are no stars; yet there can be little doubt that it is...the most satisfying experience in Stratford this year. (Jocelyn 1965)

The Cherry Orchard was the last production to be produced during what some critics have considered the early Festival's "golden years"--the five seasons from 1961-65. Several of the actors featured in The Cherry Orchard, such as William Hutt, William Needles, Mervyn Blake, and, to a lesser extent, Martha Henry, continued to serve as Festival mainstays. Many more, however, left the company. Some, like Bruno Gerussi, Hugh Webster, and Susan Ringwood, never returned; Frances Hyland's last appearance was in 1967. Others, like Mary Savidge, Douglas Campbell, and Kate Reid, returned less frequently, as job offers took them elsewhere. The last two seasons of Michael Langham's tenure as artistic director, 1966 and 1967, were marked by adverse reviews, attendance problems, financial difficulties and "mounting public criticism" of the Festival. Finally, in 1967, there was a return to the earlier policy of using international stars. The "happy spirit" which had existed among the actors during the so-called golden years, and which, in turn, had created a strong sense of ensemble and high acting standards, began to dissipate.

It is significant that the three actresses whose careers this article has traced would have appeared together only once, on this occasion. Chekhov's play provided a sufficient number of complex women's roles. Hirsch provided an atmosphere that allowed an apparently unusual experimentation in interpretation and tone. And the Festival itself provided opportunities and advantages--casting against type, for example, and a familiar, supportive ensemble--sufficient to justify turning down more commercial acting engagements.

After 1967, the Canadian theatre as a whole entered a remarkable period of expansion. As the opportunities for actors increased, and as the number of young people entering the profession soon outstripped the opportunities, the circumstances which had made possible this production of The Cherry Orchard were altered forever. In some ways, then, The Cherry Orchard can be seen as the end of an era at the Festival, and in Canadian theatre. "I felt very privileged," said Martha Henry, "to be in [The Cherry Orchard]; I knew that it was amazing to have that group of people together."


1 In fact, 1965 was "the year of The Cherry Orchard" (Taubman 1965 17), with the Moscow Art Theatre's production having played New York in February, and Tyrone Guthrie's production, in a new translation done by Leonid Kipnis (the same translation used at Stratford), scheduled at the theatre named in Guthrie's honour in Minneapolis that summer as well. Guthrie's production starred Jessica Tandy as Ranevskaya and Hume Cronyn as Yepihodov. In comparing his and Guthrie's productions, Hirsch later noted: "I had seen his production and when he saw mine Tony said: 'Well, my dear boy, your Act I is better than mine. My Act 2 is better than yours.'" (Hirsch in Shaw 123)
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2 See E. Ross Stuart, The History of Prairie Theatre: The Development of Theatre in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 1833-1982, Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1984.
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3 One of Martha Henry's fellow students at the National Theatre School was Donnelly Rhodes. When, in 1962, Martha Buhs (pronounced 'bus') married Rhodes, it was his family name of Henry that she adopted as her stage name. (Rhodes' mother is the Winnipeg playwright Ann Henry.)
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4 Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes by Martha Henry are from a personal interview, 11 October 1996.
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5 See Terryl Wright Hallquist, "The Makings of a Classical Actress in the Modern Twentieth-Century Western Theatre: A Comparative Study," diss., U of Michigan, 1985, 18; 19.
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6 See Shaw, 88-89.
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7 One of the three roles that Martha Henry plays during the 1998 Stratford season is Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard.
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8 In the main, Falstaff was directed by Stuart Burge.
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-----. "Together Again: Kate and Franny and one ex-husband." Toronto Sunday Sun 14 May 1978: 53.

Ashley, Audrey M. "Director Hirsch freshens Cherry Orchard in debut." Ottawa Citizen 27 July 1965.

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-----. "Three Conversations with Nathan Cohen: 'In Canada I Just Didn't Feel I Truly Belonged--Kate Reid.'" Toronto Daily Star 11 April 1959: 29.

Davies, Robertson. "The Cherry Orchard at Stratford: For Chekhov 87 per cent." Peterborough Examiner 31 July 1965.

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Duff, Morris. "Now They Believe Kate Reid Is Our Greatest Actress." Toronto Daily Star 5 May 1962: 23.

-----. "Some Love Kate, Some Say Spank Her." Toronto Daily Star 16 January 1960: 21.

Edinborough, Arnold. "Stratford, Theirs and Ours." Saturday Night August 1965: 17.

Evans, Ronald. "Stratford's Best Production: Cherry Orchard is Touching." Toronto Telegram 27 July 1965.

-----. "Stratford's In Stride As Frances Sets Pace." Toronto Telegram 16 June 1965.

Ferry, Antony . "The Theatre's First Lady of the Year: Frances Hyland." Toronto Daily Star 31 December 1965: 2.

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Hutt, William. Personal Interview. 11 October 1996.

Hyland, Frances. "Beginnings." Today Magazine 5 July 1980: 2.

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-----. "Performance of 'The Tempest' Rated as Most Memorable." London Free Press 21 June 1962.

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-----. Interview. Butch Blake Research Project, Stratford Festival Archives, 1991.

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-----. "Cherry Orchard Blossoms on Open Stage." Globe and Mail 27 July 1965.

-----. "Frances Hyland breaks out of the ingenue trap." Globe and Mail 16 October 1965: 17.

-----. "Showbusiness: Fun, Games on Outside at Festival Theatre." Globe and Mail 8 June 1960: 11.

-----. Whittaker's Theatricals. Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1993.