Vol. 9 No. 1 (Spring 1988)


Robert C. Nunn

This essay studies the four plays David Fennario wrote during the time of his association with Centaur Theatre in Montreal. It examines the contradiction between two aspects of the plays. On one side of the contradiction is their adherence to the conventions of Naturalism, which signify a made environment in which human beings are trapped. On the other side is the fundamental premise of Marxism, that the social and physical environment is not fixed but is determined by a continual struggle between classes supporting the status quo, whose weapons are direct repression (force) and indirect repression (ideology), and the working class, whose weapon is praxis. The interaction between the characters and the set is the site of this contradiction. Following the productions of Moving, Fennario abandoned both Centaur and Naturalism. The essay concludes with a brief examination of the first play Fennario wrote for the Black Rock Theatre in his home community of Pointe Saint-Charles/Verdun.

Dans cet article sont étudiées les quatre pièces composées par David Fennario lors de son association avec le Centaur Theatre à Montréal. Une contradiction s'y révèle entre deux aspects de ces pièces: d'une part, leur conformité aux conventions naturalistes qui impliquent un milieu factice où l'ètre humain se trouve emprisonné; de l'autre, la donnée fondamentale du marxisme où le milieu social et physique n'est pas prédéterminé mais se définit plutôt par une lutte incessante entre, d'un côté, les classes qui soutiennent le statu quo et don't les armes sont la répression directe (recours à la force) ou indirecte (recours à l'idéologie), et de I'autre côté la classe ouvrière, don't l'arme essentielle est l'action directe. C'est dans les rapports entre personnages et décors scéniques que se situerait cette contradiction. Après la création de Moving, l'auteur abandonna et le Centaur et le naturalisme. L'article se termine sur une brève analyse de la première pièce écrite pour le Black Rock Theatre, situé à Pointe Saint-Charles/Verdun, là où demeure Fennario.

David Fennario's plays present a problem to the critic. Terry Goldie identified it when he queried how much of Fennario's reputation was due to 'non-literary and non-dramatic' reasons: the fact that he is a working class Anglo playwright from Montreal may be responsible for an overestimation of a man with a modest talent and a good ear for dialogue.1 Certainly Fennario writes very playable dialogue: it demonstrates acute sensitivity to the rhythms of working class speech; it reveals character and places character in a wide social and economic perspective with exemplary economy. On the other hand, his plots seem arbitrary and forced. Fennario himself admits that character and dialogue come easily to him, but that working out a plot, 'driving an arrow through the whole thing,' 2 is enormously difficult. Yet my experience of the plays in the theatre and in reading the texts is not that they are broken-backed, irremediably flawed. In this essay I will seek an assessment of Fennario's plays that could place their strengths and weaknesses in perspective. This can be done by focusing on the problems and solutions stemming from his choice of naturalist conventions in the plays written for the Centaur Theatre, a complex which he finally discarded in severing his connection with Centaur.3

The problem resides in the relation between what the set looks like and what can be performed on it, and as well in what that signifies to an audience. The problem is this: all the sets designed for Fennario's plays at Centaur have been realistic down to the smallest detail, with his enthusiastic consent: indeed the plays are written to be performed on those sets and to be viewed through an invisible fourth wall. Yet Fennario is a Marxist, and his plays are informed by a Marxist perspective. Marxist dramaturgy, under the pervasive influence of Brecht, has rejected naturalism on the grounds that it cannot represent social conditions as changing and changeable. Anne Ubersfeld makes the case thus:

[L]e théàtre naturaliste fondé sur la recherche de l'illusion, le théàtre à l'italienne avec son présupposé du quatrième mur transparent, isolant un morceau de 'réalité, transposé, a son incidence: le spectateur devenu voyeur impuissant répète au théàtre le rôle qui est ou sera le sien dans la vie; il contemple sans agir, il est concerné sans l'être; Brecht a raison de le dire, cette dramaturgie est conservatrice, paternaliste; le spectateur est un enfant bercé; rien, de son fait, ne sera changé au monde ... 4

Raymond Williams, however, does not dismiss naturalism out of hand. He distinguishes between 'the naturalist habit' which is content to let realism be an end in itself, and 'authentic naturalism' exemplified in Ibsen and Chekhov, which sets up a profoundly revealing tension 'between what men feel themselves capable of becoming, and a thwarting, directly present environment.' 5 The action on the stage and the stage environment do not create a seamless unity but clash, so that the audience, far from being lulled, is made aware of discords and contradictions. These are the possibilities Fennario explored in the plays he wrote for Centaur.

Fennario sees the sets for his plays as lived-in environments. His plays are constructed in such a way that the set never 'disappears into the background' 6 but is as present as the actors themselves. He says, 'I'm very much affected by environment. And I guess in all my plays the environment is very strong. I really do find that. For example, in Balconville the setting is almost the star. It just sits there, and even when it's empty it freaks me out.' 7 When I asked him what was so magical about that set, he said, 'It looked like you could rent it.' So basic is the set to Fennario's writing that the choice of setting is the first step in the process of composition and indeed generates the play. Speaking of On the Job Fennario said, 'When I thought of the shipping room ... it all fell into place.' 8 And to the question, 'When you write a play, where do you begin?' he replied, 'I usually get a sense of a set first.' 9

Underlying all these comments is a consistent attitude towards the function which sets are to have in his plays, an attitude which rests on a Marxist analysis of the social environment. His dramaturgy is informed by Marx's central emphasis on the man-made nature of the world we inhabit. Material production creates it and sustains it. It is produced by human beings working together within the conditions set by the prevailing relationships of production. The product, the man-made environment, can then be read as a system of signs indicating both the process of its creation and the social and economic relationships among its producers. The consciousness which prevails in this setting is likewise a material production. It is shaped and sustained to a great extent by the hegemonic pressures and limits exerted by the dominant class:

[The concept of hegemony] sees the relations of domination and subordination, in their forms as practical consciousness, as in effect a saturation of the whole process of living - not only of manifest social activity, but of the whole substance of lived identities and relationships, to such depth that the pressures and limits of what can ultimately be seen as a specific economic, political and cultural system seem to most of us the pressures and limits of simple experience and common sense. 10

Hegemony is the ideology of the dominant class absorbed through our pores and reinforced by most of what we do in our daily lives, so that it passes itself off as nothing less than 'reality.' It is Fennario's gift to see, and to make us see, a stage environment as a metonymy 11 of this hegemonic 'saturation of the process of living.'

The characters whom we see in this stage environment use it, working on it either to keep it as it is or to change it. Thus the set of a Fennario play is not fixed and immutable; there is a constant reciprocal action, of the set on the characters, of the characters on the set, a process whose sociality is stressed. Let us then examine the interplay of action and set in Fennario's naturalist plays: On the Job, Nothing to Lose, Balconville, and Moving.

On the Job, designed by Felix Mirbt, opened in 1975. The relationship between the action and the set is straightforward in this play; we shall see more complex relationships in his later plays. It is set in the shipping room of a clothing factory on Christmas Eve. A rush order from Eaton's has to be filled, and the men in the shipping department are denied the traditional afternoon off. More and more drunk on presents from the companies they deal with, they force a confrontation with management, get nowhere with their union representative, wreck the place and get fired. Meanwhile an office party is going on upstairs.

The set and the action are mutually reinforcing. What we learn about the degrading quality of life 'on the job' is what we learn from the look of the set. Upstage left, stairs rise to an office door, so that the whole work space appears sunk in a pit. The comings and goings of the manager, the owner and the union rep up and down the stairs signify the 'relations of production.' A small area upstage right is closed off by a cage of wire mesh with a lockable door: it is a sign of the foreman's privileged status and of his entrapment. The entire width of the set is dominated by stacks of cardboard boxes upstage rising from stairtop level like a tidal wave of work to be done. The objects within this space have rigidly defined functions. A worktable stands downstage centre, its rigidity reinforced by braces. The rules decree that one works at it standing. Midway through the play, René, the foreman, reluctantly informs Billy, near retirement age and with bad legs, that if he uses the stool any more he will be fired. A complex rule governs the use of the staplers: two staples per comer of a box if the manager is watching, three if he is not. Bottles of liquor threaten to blur these boundaries: after a few drinks the young workers turn a cart for transporting dresses into a fun ride, until René enforces the rigid definition of its function. Racks of dresses extend the connotations of this metonymy of oppression. The dresses are part of a much larger process of production, distribution and consumption which is of a piece with what we see here: the illusion of the good life and the reality of alienated work. The rigidly defined space, its wider connotations and the futile gesture of rebellion which changes nothing all propose a world that cannot be changed (rebellious Gary is shaken when Billy tells him that he was a rebel too, when he was young)12 and from which there is no escape. In this play we catch a very faint glimpse indeed of the life that cannot be lived in this trap of a room.13

Nothing to Lose, first performed in 1976, designed by Barbra Matis, does present an action in which significant change happens - offstage, while the set and the activities which take place on it suggest that nothing fundamental has changed at all. The set is modelled on pubs in Fennario's home community of Pointe Saint-Charles: a grimy tile floor, wooden tables and chairs on one side of the room, a pool table on the other, cases of beer stacked at the back; on the walls a Mini-Loto display with a winning number; a phone and a TV. The pub is across the street from the warehouse of a company ironically named Sunnybrook Farms where a conflict between labour and management has just escalated with the hiring of a new foreman to harass union activists until they quit. Rebellious Jackie resists an unreasonable order from the goon by blocking the loading dock with his truck and sitting down in the pub for a long lunch, mostly beer. The crisis erupts into violence, the workers beat off an invasion of goons and occupy the plant, an event signalled by the piercing sound of the whistle blowing at the wrong time.

The whistle may blow as a signal that the power relations in the warehouse are being disrupted, but in the tavern the routine is unbroken and more importantly unchallenged. Tomorrow will be the same in the tavern no matter what happens across the street. The contrast between what happens offstage and onstage draws our attention to the pervasiveness of authoritarian and hierarchical social structures in the world of the play. The employees of Sunnybrook Farms struggle against one power structure and do not pay any attention to another because it is so familiar. The interplay of action and set in Nothing to Lose constitutes a metonymy of the hegemonic pressures and limits exerted on the working class by corporate capitalism.

We see the set in use, a use defined by an intricate set of rules imposed from above and enforced by Claude the bartender, the foreman of the place. No beer if you fight. No beer if you piss yourself. No moving the tables. No bringing food into the pub. Once a drink is opened you have to accept it even if it is not what you ordered. 'It's the law,' says Claude, echoed and re-echoed by his pet drunk, Chabougamou. At the climax of the play the workers rush out to take over the factory, but one of them is stopped in his tracks as he exits with a beer:

CLAUDE: Hey, Frank, put it back.

FRANK: It's okay. We paid for it.

CLAUDE: You drink it here. No beer to go.14

Frank meekly puts the beer back, and only then goes off to change the world.

The warehouse employees never challenge this authoritarian structure. They hide their sandwiches under the table when they see Claude coming. When Jackie is refused service, he gets Gros-Gas to order for him. It is a series of accommodations and circumventions, exactly like those urged by Murray, the union representative, to deal with the situation across the street: get the offending foreman transferred, say that Jackie's truck broke down.

The pub's links with the world beyond it indicate that as far as you go, the same pervasive authoritarian structure is evident. The exit door leads to Sunnybrook Farms. The telephone links Murray to his superior, who treats him the way Sunnybrook treats its workers. Jerry, an Anglo working class playwright from Pointe Saint-Charles, just back from Toronto, reports that the CBC is worse than the warehouse:

JACKIE: ... Most guys who leave the Point never look back.

JERRY: Yeah, but there's nowhere to go, man. (59)

The unchanging routine in the warehouse, the cycle of negotiations, strikes and contracts, like a 'revolving door' (99), a 'movie' that 'never changes' (113), a 'merry-go-round' (119), are caricatured by the endless comings and goings of Chabougamou, 'like a yo-yo' (81). The end of the play contrasts the takeover of the factory across the street with Claude's parting words to Chabougamou: 'You go, come back tomorrow, eh, bonne homme?' (136).

So the tavern setting ironically contradicts the action of the play, placing the isolated effort to change the power-structure of one company in the context of a world in which the same structure is pervasive to the point of invisibility. In fact, one sign of authoritarian structure is only obvious in comparison with Fennario's later plays, and that is the rule that excludes women from the tavern, and from any significant role in the action.15 Women in secondary, conventionally nurturing roles, are alluded to by the all-male cast, but otherwise scarcely exist. Looking ahead to Balconville and Moving we see a contrast between the quick local solution favoured by the men in On the Job and Nothing to Lose and the awareness of the need for struggle of wider scope and of longer term possessed by women in the later plays.16

In a sense, Anne Ubersfeld's objection to naturalism is borne out by Nothing to Lose. The unchanging environment and the unchanging routines that keep it that way dominate the play and cast doubt on whether the change which is about to happen offstage will amount to much. The very conventions in which the play is composed militate against presenting a model of a changeable world. Yet the play is hardly reassuring. The signs of oppression are too disturbing for that; the expressions of frustration and rage are too raw:

JACKIE: Hey, I get on the bus every morning with my lunch bag and there's everybody else with their lunch bags and all of a sudden I know this is my life for the rest of my fuckin' life and I'm already sick of it ... I can't explain it, but feel my body getting stiff and slow like I'm becoming a truck driver, ya know? I don't like it, I don't like what's happening to me, man. (78)

The later plays written within the conventions of naturalism for Centaur push these conventions in the direction of representing praxis.17 As we examine them we cannot ignore the fact that Fennario eventually abandoned both Centaur and naturalism.

The title of Balconville (1979; designed by Barbra Matis)18 refers to a bitter joke: 'Going anywhere this summer?' 'Moi? Balconville.'19 The balconies of a tenement, as the only practical refuge from the summer heat, speak volumes about the severe pressures and limits experienced by the poor. This is why the set is 'almost the star of the show.' It is a diagonal set showing the rear facade of a two-storey brick building, with two sets of apartments, lower and upper, at right angles to each other, bounding a backyard. A wooden balcony runs along the upper storey, and is connected to the backyard by a wooden stairway with a missing step. At stage right is a detached shed. Three households share the building; the fourth apartment, downstage left, is boarded up.

To begin with, the set seems simply to signify the inescapable and unchangeable conditions of the characters' lives. But that is not the whole story. The balcony and the stairs function as connectors figuratively as well as literally, reinforcing the play's ironic contrast between the characters' misplaced frustration and anger and their common class identity. The function of the balcony is evident in relation to the two men who live on the second floor. Paquette is francophone and works at a job he hates. Johnnie is anglophone and unemployed. Once the old animosity between Bloke and Pepsi is stirred, they find each other a convenient target for their anger at the condition of their lives. They hang the blue and white fleur-de-lys and the red and white maple leaf on their portions of the common balcony, and watch the same baseball game out on the balcony on two TV's in two languages, ostentatiously ignoring each other.

Connections are made which imply the possibility of awakening to an awareness of common interests and taking action. When Paquette loses his job, Johnnie is persuaded to tell him he is sorry to hear it. All three households treat their campaigning MP with the same contempt. Irene on the second floor persuades Muriel on the first not to take out her rage on her own body but to tell her symptoms to a doctor at the hospital. Irene is a member of the Pointe Action Committee and tries to involve her neighbours. Johnnie struggles out of his lethargy and fixes the broken step.

In the final minutes of the play, the building is threatened by a fire set nearby by a landlord. At that point the balcony and stairs become the means by which the tenants, faced by a common threat, can work together to save their belongings. The connotation of the balcony and stairs expands by virtue of this new function, from ironic comment on a common class identity to the possibility of common action, a possibility emphasized by the last lines of the play: 'What are we going to do?' 'Qu'est-ce qu'on va faire?' 20

Balconville is thus a new development in Fennario's work. Whereas the environments of On the Job and Nothing to Lose stubbornly and successfully resisted any attempt to alter them or even redefine their use, this play ends with a transformation of the environment - not what it looks like but what it means. Perhaps this development is connected to the opening up of Fennario's dramatic world to include women. There is a richer humanity and maybe for that reason a greater possibility to imagine change.

Moving (1983; designed by Guido Tondino) further explores the possibility of changing the naturalist set from a signifier connoting an unalterable condition to one connoting praxis. We see the interior of the living-room-kitchenette of an upper-storey apartment. Midway along the back, a small bathroom projects out into the room. Upstage right, a door leads out of the kitchen onto a balcony and a stairway enclosed in corrugated sheet metal leading to the yard. Upstage left are two doors. A ceiling projects partway over the room; its upper side is the tarred roof of the building. There is access to the roof from the balcony. Inside, the walls are stained and grimy. The set appears to be a metonymy of poverty and despair.

The play begins with Ma and Pa Wilson being moved into an apartment in Verdun even dingier than the one they were forced to vacate in the Point, which is being invaded by renovators. They are helped by their daughters and sons-in-law, Betty Ann and Ronnie, Janet and Richard, their son Jimmie and his girlfriend Francine. The aging couple seems to be on a downward slide toward death, she from drinking, he from smoking. Bitterness and despair motivate this slow suicide. Betty Ann shares this despair, as does Jimmie: his solution to everybody's insoluble problems in Verdun is 'Nuke 'em all.' 21 Francine, francophone and Marxist, tries to persuade him that social change is possible. Janet is an activist whose marriage is on the verge of a breakdown, partly because she and her policeman husband are on different sides.

The second act, in a series of scenes that cover a period of seven months, turns from despair to hope. The news that Francine is carrying Jimmie's child brings the old couple back to life. Pa quits smoking, Ma quits drinking. Several members of the family including Jimmie involve themselves in a demonstration of the unemployed. Richard the cop is forced into a confrontation with his own wife and her family and is shocked into seeing himself as part of an oppressive system; later he quits his job. In the demonstration Francine is beaten by riot police, who kill Jimmie when he attacks them. Life goes on, the baby is born; all three marriages begin to heal as a common cause unites the couples; Ma's streak of Irish second sight, long ignored, emerges as a spiritual resource. More emphatically than in Balconville the female characters are figures of strength, will and resilience, qualities without which hope is unimaginable.

The play's action, then, is to transform the locked-in energy of despair into the active energy of hope. Everything in the play undergoes this transformation, beginning with the title, whose connotation changes from 'being moved around' to 'being on the move.' The set likewise undergoes a transformation not in denotation but in connotation. In the first act, the set connotes despair. Within minutes of arriving, Ma has located hiding places for her booze, and Pa has found the most unobtrusive spot in the whole place, where he can smoke himself to death without anyone paying attention. A perfect match between the set and the mood of hopelessness is conveyed by details such as this: Ma's china cabinet arrives at the top of the stairs with two of its legs sawn off (it got stuck halfway up).

RICHARD: Hey, moman, where do you want it?

MA: Anywhere, put it in the garbage with everything else. You can saw off my legs too while you're at it.

Jimmie discovers the roof, which becomes an escape from all the problems he cannot deal with.

In the second act, the grime on the walls comes to signify not despair but absorption with more important issues than whether or not the apartment is clean. The rooftop becomes a vantage point from which Jimmie can urge his neighbours to join the demonstration. Cardboard boxes litter the stage in the first and last scenes: in the first they signify capitulation, being filled with the belongings of the uprooted Wilsons, while in the last scene they signify resistance, being filled with flyers urging people in the district to join a rent strike. Objects transform as their use is redefined. A loudhailer from the rooftop does not mean the same thing as a loudhailer from a police car.

The play's optimism is grounded in the idea that to change the way an object or an environment is used is to change them. Marx's central concept of the transformative nature of humankind's presence in the world presses against the boundaries of naturalism. The difference between this play and Fennario's previous plays reflects a difference in the working relationship between playwright and designer. In the case of Nothing to Lose and Balconville the relationship was mediated by Guy Sprung, the director. He would receive Fennario's suggestions that Barbra Matis look at particular places and pass them on to her, she would take photographs and design the set. The director of Moving was Simon Malbogat, who encouraged a direct working relationship. Fennario and Tondino went through the script together; Fennario outlined his needs; Tondino suggested the roof, thus having a decisive influence on the final shape of the script. Fennario interprets this contrast in terms of ideology: Sprung's bourgeois ideology reinforced a set of vertical connections always running from individual workers to him, while Malbogat's proletarian ideology favoured a non-hierarchical relationship among workers, with connections not necessarily passing through him. Thus the new emphasis on the changing connotations of the set and the new collaborative relationship of playwright and designer appear to have been mutually reinforcing: the set as process not as given.

However satisfying the process of creating Moving was, it was carried out within the constraints of a bourgeois theatre addressing a predominantly bourgeois audience. Fennario felt that he had gone as far as he could go at Centaur, and following a second production of Moving in the fall of 1983 left to devote himself to creating theatre in and for the working class and drawing on its resources. It is likely too that his departure indicated a judgement that he had gone as far as he could go within the naturalist conventions with which his work at Centaur was identified. In an interview at the time Moving opened, he said, 'I've done the factory in On the Job, I've done the tavern in Nothing to Lose, I've done the outside of the house in Balconville and I've done the inside in Moving. I think I've about covered it.' 22 His next play, Joe Beef, was miles away from both Centaur and naturalism. In it we see how Fennario's abiding concern with the pressure of the environment on people and vice versa is expressed in a different form of dramaturgy, one more in keeping with that of a Brecht, a Boal, or the creators of agit-prop.

Joe Beef (1984) was written for Black Rock Theatre, a community theatre group that Fennario organized in Verdun. It is a history of Montreal from the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth, showing 'the crime that was done against us' by the seigneurs and their successors, the great capitalists Molson, McGill, McTavish, Allan et al., urging its audience to 'do something about it, about making history I mean, changing history, changing yourselves.' 23 Its conventions are presentational. The set consists simply of a neutral performance space whose boundaries are defined by the counter behind which Joe stands (and which functions as a real bar before and after the show and during the intermission), a few banners displaying images of the characters and events in the play, and the company's emblem, the Black Rock. 24 Reality is not represented but addressed: the play was designed for performance in the community whose past is the thread running through it. Indeed in one performance in the spring of 1984 the company and audience bicycled to a series of locations where the events of the play had happened: Joe Beef on Wheels.

Performance conventions were likewise presentational. At the beginning of the show, the actor playing Joe Beef (the publican who fed a thousand workers and their families for six weeks during the Lachine Canal Strike of 1877) introduces himself. Both actor and character are present throughout as host, narrator and commentator. Characterization and performance style are simplified and exaggerated as in agit-prop. Large sections are performed as call-and-response between individual and chorus. An actor in a bear suit (Joe's pet) watches the show. The presence of the audience is acknowledged at all times.

Although the play is interesting as an indication of the new direction Fennario is taking, it is full of problems. It covers two and a half centuries of Canadian history, as it impinges in some way on the history of Montreal, including the French conquest of the Indians, the British conquest of the French, the Rebellion of 1837, the building of the Lachine Canal, the union of Upper and Lower Canada, the Irish potato famine, the typhus epidemic of 1847, the building of the Victoria Bridge, of the CPR, the Lachine Canal strike and its settlement, plus a crash course in Marxian analysis - everything but the kitchen sink. As a result, the play is superficial and sketchy; its agit-prop style, which can be very potent when addressing a specific issue, gets thin when spread over so much material. On the evidence of Joe Beef, Fennario has not yet found a presentational dramaturgy that is a match for the naturalist dramaturgy of the Centaur plays.

The approach I have taken to these latter plays may make a more balanced assessment of them possible. I have argued that their strength lies in their vision of characters in specific physical environments which are metonymies of the mesh of economic base and ideological superstructure in which they are caught and against which they struggle in frustration and rage. An analysis of Fennario's dialogue would reveal the precision and economy with which he can indicate many different levels of consciousness of what the environment means. An analysis of the structure of his plays could address the problematic plotting. The plays have plots for two reasons: one is that it has been obvious from Aristotle to now that drama is an imitation of an action; naturalist drama conventionally assumes a tightly-constructed chain of cause and effect. The conventions with which Fennario was working demanded a steadily-developing plot. Yet Fennario's vision is of a world in which there is 'nowhere to go,' in which the situation exerts such force that it is difficult to believe that any change is possible. The moment-to-moment texture of the plays communicates more than their plots do, and this is particularly the case with Balconville, with its intricate pattern of interactions among its eight protagonists.

Fennario's other reason for constructing a plot is his commitment to the realism of imagining revolutionary social change: 'pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,' in Antonio Gramsci's famous phrase. The progression we have seen in his Centaur plays has evidenced a greater and greater effort to show a radical change in consciousness and therefore in praxis. There is consequently a greater and greater tension in his plays between this leaning and the conventions of naturalism with their continuous and steadily-progressing plots. 25 This tension is on the verge of a decisive break in Moving, a break which came when Fennario embarked on a search for the kind of dramaturgy Brecht called for: one in which the accent shifts from 'growth' to 'montage,' from 'linear development' to development 'in curves,' from 'evolutionary development' to 'jumps.' 26


1 TERRY GOLDIE 'On the Job and Nothing to Lose' Theatre History in Canada, Vol 2, no 2 (Spring, 1981), 63-67
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2 Fennario made this comment in a conversation I had with him in April 1985. Other material from this conversation appears later in the essay.
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3 On the Job, Nothing to Lose, Toronto, Balconville and Moving were all commissioned and first produced by Centaur Theatre Company.
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4 ANNE UBERSFELD Lire le théâtre (Paris: Editions Sociales, 1978) p 50
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5 RAYMOND WILLIAMS Drama from Ibsen to Brecht (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p 386
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6 PAUL MILLIKEN 'Portrait of the artist as a working-class hero: an interview with David Fennario' Performing Arts in Canada (Summer, 1980) p 22
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7 Milliken, p 22
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8 AUDREY M. ASHLEY Ottawa Citizen 17 May 1975 p 87
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9 ROBERT WALLACE and CYNTHIA ZIMMERMAN The Work (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1982) p 296
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10 RAYMOND WILLIAMS Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) p 110
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11 See KEIR ELAM The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London: Methuen, 1980) p 28, in which he cites Roman Jacobson's argument that 'realism ... is largely metonymic in mode.'
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12 This detail is not in the published script (Talonbooks, 1976), but was in Centaur's touring production.
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13 A paraphrase of Raymond Williams, loc. cit.
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14 DAVID FENNARIO Nothing to Lose (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1977) p 131. Further references to the play appear parenthetically in the text.
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15 I am grateful to Leslie O'Dell for drawing this to my attention.
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16 See The Work, p 294: '... in most community groups that I've been involved in, it's the women [who take the lead]. The women get tough.'
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17 In A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, ed. by Tom Bottomore (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983) p 384, 'praxis' in its Marxist sense is defined as 'the free, universal, creative and self-creative activity through which man creates (makes, produces) and changes (shapes) his historical, human world and himself.'
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18 Toronto (1977) will not be discussed in this essay as it is a slight piece of work and does not shed any further light on the topic. Fennario: 'It was a good workshop production but it certainly wasn't a play, so I shelved it.' (The Work, p 298)
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19 DAVID FENNARIO Balconville (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1980) p 28
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20 Balconville, p 121
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21 The passages from Moving are from the unpublished typescript of the March 1983 version.
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22 DOUG BALE 'Conditioned for failure, playwright has trouble with success,' London Free Press 12 February 1983 p E5
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23 From the unpublished typescript dated September 1984. The production I saw was in April 1985, at McGill University.
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24 The inscription on the stone reads: 'To preserve from desecration the remains of 6000 immigrants who died of Ship Fever, A.D., 1848. This stone is erected by the workmen of Peto, Brassey and Betts, employed in the construction of the Victoria Bridge, A.D., 1859.'
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25 See RICHARD HORNBY Script into Performance (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977) pp 154-155
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26 BERTOLT BRECHT Brecht on Theatre, ed. and trans. by John Willett (London: Eyre Methuen, 1974), p 37
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