Vol.18 No.2, 1997, Fall/ Automne



Harry Lindley belongs to a stalwart group of touring actor-managers like Henry Preston, Wilson and Clarke, and H. Price Webber whose passion for theatre endured through immense hardship. This paper examines his tours to large and small communities in Atlantic Canada between 1879 and 1894, where he consistently demonstrated ingenuity and flexibility in using whatever resources of actors and facilities were at hand. He catered to a broad spectrum of theatrical sophistication and showed a developing sensitivity to the moods of audiences in diverse locales, even as he introduced increasingly aggressive marketing strategies. Over time he became a familiar figure in the region and thus increasingly inspired confidence.

Harry Lindley appartient à un vaillant groupe d'acteurs-directeurs de tournée tels Henry Preston, Wilson et Clarke, ainsi que H. Price Webber, dont la passion du théâtre a été mise à rude épreuve. Cet article porte sur ses tournées dans diverses communautés des provinces maritimes, entre 1879 et 1894, au cours desquelles il a fait montre d'un rare esprit d'initiative dans un contexte de disponibilité, parfois bien mince, d'acteurs et de lieux théâtraux. Tout en enrichissant l'horizon d'attente du théâtre dans ces milieux, il s'est toujours montré respectueux des goûts du public et ce, tout en initiant des stratégies de mise en marché de plus en plus agressives. À travers les années, il s'est imposé comme l'un des producteurs de théâtre en qui le public faisait de plus en plus confiance dans sa région.

"The love of the stage is a species of lunacy, a hallucination," wrote Harry Lindley in his autobiography Merely Players--and he must have felt this acutely during his exceedingly trying tour through the Maritimes from November 1879 to March 1881. Lindley belongs to a stalwart group of touring actor-managers whose passion for the theatre endured through immense hardship. Like Henry Preston in the 1840s, Wilson and Clarke in the 1860s and 1870s, and H. Price Webber and W. F. Harkins in the 1880s and 1890s (among others), he supplemented the activity of amateurs in small Maritime towns and provided audiences with a window on the larger world of theatre, at a time when most companies confined their tours to the major centres of Halifax and Saint John. Ida Van Courtland, briefly a leading juvenile actress with Lindley (1880), and later a partner with her husband Albert Taverner in their own touring company, described the touring actor-manager's unceasingly arduous and complex responsibilities:

It is a cash business; each day must supply de quoi vivre. In painting, in music, in literature, you can retire to your garret and still pursue your art. No travelling expenses, no company on your hand with its enormous responsibilities, no heavy expense for wardrobe; truly it is a marvel that more of our actor managers have not broken under the strain. (Van Courtland)

Van Courtland's words provide a useful touchstone against which to measure Lindley's activities. This paper examines his memoirs, as well as newspapers, playbills, and other archival resources to provide a preliminary reading of his art as it adjusted to the diverse and often fickle expectations of audiences, the radically different venues in which he played, financial concerns--and the weather.

Lindley came to Atlantic Canada to escape a position as stage manager of the Queen's Theatre in Toronto, which he pronounced a squalidly dirty variety house "where bad jokes and indifferent singing formed the nucleus of the entertainment," whose artists he judged inferior, and whose patrons seemed to want "filth" in contrast to his own professed standards of "modesty, cleanliness and purity of tone" (82-83). In the Maritimes, during the whole of the nineteenth century, marks of morality were professed as a marketing ploy by those who opened theatres, by managers of resident companies, and by anyone who wanted to make inroads into the community, and those who wrote reviews judged accordingly. In 1845 Henry Preston proclaimed "Morality" the "guard" of his new Olympic Theatre in Fredericton ("Prologue"), while in January 1884 the Halifax Morning Herald noted approvingly that the previous year's entertainments in the Academy of Music had "been unobjectionable in point of morality" (10 Jan. 1884). In a further potential point of compatibility, Lindley's stated sensitivity to "inferior" art is in sympathy with the Saint John Micawber Club's goal at its founding in 1880 to bring to the city entertainment of the "best calibre." In any case, the already much-travelled actor-manager agreed, in early November 1879, to accept an engagement as a comedian with William Nannary's company in St. John's, Newfoundland, an agreement that he withdrew by telegram(1) after he reached Halifax, because he decided to pursue what looked like a better opportunity filling the gap Nannary's departure from the Halifax Academy of Music had left. With funds provided for him (presumably by the directors of the Academy), Lindley took the steamboat to New York to recruit a company, and on 24 November 1879 he opened at the elegant Academy--only to discover that a comedian, novelties, standard old plays, and his own understanding of "purity of tone" were insufficient recipe against financial disaster.

The late-November early-December repertoire included: the comedy Dora, whose Farmer Allan Lindley said he first performed in America in Richmond, Virginia in 1868; French Spy, which exhibited his fondness for pantomime and memories of his association with Marietta Ravel, but invited comparison from Halifax audiences who had seen Ravel; Buffalo Bill, a spectacle with bowie-knife combats, shooting matches, Indians, "fireworks, gimcracks and niggerdom," in which Lindley had been performing at least since 1867; and the burlesque Leo and Lotus, which precipitated a newspaper dispute one week into the season. The complaint from "ONE OF TUESDAY'S AUDIENCE" was the familiar one that Leo and Lotus was "vulgar and low" and that only "standard and good plays" would insulate Lindley from empty benches (MC 4 Dec. 1879). Against this Lindley countered that the burlesque included "not one line low and vulgar," and that he had produced Dora and London Assurance "to absolutely nothing" whereas Buffalo Bill had done better. "One must please to live," he pleaded. "Spare me! I am anxious to do my duty to the public religiously both as man and actor...." (MC 5 Dec. 1879). A lengthy editorial in the Morning Chronicle attempted to mediate, suggesting that "allowances must be made for a manager who, seeing that the ordinary society play will not draw, strikes out in the only direction left him" (5 Dec. 1879). Arguing against the practicality of producing the "legitimate" drama in Halifax, the editorial noted:

audiences begin to thin out in so threatening a fashion and with so persistent disdain of Shakespeare, that it takes a good strong sensational play, with plenty of tableaus, dramatic situations and scenic effects to recall the absent to the deserted rows in stalls, dress circle and gallery. . . . Managers having, like other mortals, to earn their living, naturally consult the public taste. . . . (5 Dec. 1879)

Despite the good business sense of producing sensational drama, Lindley was probably aiming to please complainants when, with the addition of Frank Roche, Albert Taverner, and Bertha Welby to the company on 11 December (all known to Halifax audiences as actors with Nannary),(2) the company produced As You Like It and Katherine and Petruchio. Predictably, neither these two Shakespearean comedies, nor the darker Man in the Iron Mask and The Hunchback, attracted good houses. Only the pantomimic Christmas burlesque Sleeping Beauty appears to have succeeded financially. Most successful of all, however--more so even than the pantomimes, sensations, and burlesques--were those social occasions when the audience gathered more out of deference to the patronage than to the players. Lindley acknowledged that he worked "the mine of patronage" as fully as he could (85), prying sponsorship from Lieutenant-Governor Adams Archibald, Sir Edmund Glover, General Sir Patrick MacDougall, Col. Drayson and other officers of the various English regiments stationed in Halifax.

The lack-lustre nature of the entire season is highlighted in the Acadian Recorder's comment on the final sponsored event, a well-attended benefit performance of Paul Pry and Moonshiners on 8 January 1880, under the patronage of Lady MacDougall: ". . . the actors who have become melancholy even when playing a farce, were roused into making an effort, and many of the parts were done justice to. Lindley, of course, was the centre of attraction" (9 Jan. 1880). While thanking the audience "for their kind appreciation of the performance," the exhausted manager made reference to "the disastrous season through which he had kept a stiff upper lip" (9 Jan. 1880)--and he still needed to, for the receipts from the benefit were insufficient to cover his obligations to his company and the dozen or so claims his creditors had levelled against him. Consequently, he found himself in the same jail where E. A. Sothern, John T. Raymond and William Nannary had been for similar reasons, and tried to gain his release as a pauper.(3) Since even that required money, soldiers of the garrison offered to settle his debts, but Lindley preferred to give up his property, "consisting of several hats, battered and worn, dilapidated and variegated pants and other miscellaneous effects" (Lindley 86). Thus, in disappointment and humiliation, began what would be the most ambitious theatrical tour of the Maritimes in the 1880s, reaching all the major centres and many small towns and villages in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

Lindley's explanation of his financial failure is that he was inveigled into becoming manager of the Halifax Academy by allurements so captivating that he "swallowed the bait," but that, with anticipated backing not forthcoming after two weeks, he found himself responsible for paying salaries and for getting the company back to New York. The implication in his memoirs is that he was expecting some sort of subsidy from the directors of the Academy that did not materialize or, more likely, some sort of partnership or loan arrangement with Simon Sichel, manager of the Academy for the directors. Sichel had attempted to set up a similar partnership with Nannary earlier in the year; but this had led to a bitter public dispute in which Nannary accused Sichel of exercising undue control, and violating an agreement for sharing receipts. Sichel, in turn, said Nannary owed him money. The first two weeks of Lindley's tenure would have made clear to the manager that the company could not draw paying houses with "standard and good plays" and that the tone of others was incompatible with the directors' view of the Academy. Lindley, for his part, quickly came to understand that "Mr. Nannary's experience of Halifax" as one of "broken promises and crushed hopes" (MC 5 Dec. 1879) was becoming his own.

A variety of circumstances conspired against Lindley's success. The three-story brick Academy (capacity 1250), then only two years old, stood in the fashionable South End of Halifax very near Lieutenant-Governor Archibald's residence, its very location a choice in favour of an elite audience and of a repertoire compatible with the values and ideals represented by Archibald and the merchant entrepreneurs who mostly were its directors. This was in contrast to both the location and the unpretentious structure of the Temperance Hall it replaced, that had been home to sundry visiting professionals in the preceding twenty years. Moreover, the city of 36,100 (1881 Census) was experiencing a depression blamed mostly on Confederation, and its citizens who earned average annual wages of $303 (Acheson 5) were not likely to afford tickets over a very long season, making paying houses for six nights every week a slim possibility whatever the quality of the company. Financial success would depend in large measure on sufficient patronage from the elite who could afford tickets regularly, some of whom attended theatre in Boston, New York, and London. William Nannary's company had occupied the Academy for half of 1877 and 1879 (as it had been the chief occupant of the Temperance Hall since 1873), and the audience was now looking for novelty. Following Nannary's departure for Newfoundland in late July, the Academy was dark except for General Tom Thumb, Murphy's Miniature (Juvenile) Pinafore Company, and Grace Egerton's dramatic readings for a few days in September, and the directors must have seen hope in the fortuitous arrival in their city of an experienced actor-manager. Still, and significantly, Lindley was unknown, a major drawback in the Maritimes which had a habit all through the century of patronizing persons who had won confidence through familiarity. Artistically, Lindley assessed his own company as only "fair" at the beginning; yet, though reviews make mention of "inevitable hitches," they also express appreciation for good acting, especially from leading lady Helen Adell and singer Louise Leighton, and for Lindley's "keeping the house in a roar." Thus, though Lindley's was not a "star" company, as he would have acknowledged, there is no evidence that he did not meet the standards of most ordinary companies.

We cannot know whether, if Lindley had succeeded financially in Halifax, the shape of his subsequent tour through the Maritimes would have been different, or whether it would have occurred. As it was, from January through March 1880 his company toured extensively in Nova Scotia, at first moving down the Annapolis Valley without Lindley who (having obtained his release from jail) joined it by Yarmouth at least.(4) From Digby the company returned up the Valley to the hub town of Truro and the north coast as far as Antigonish and into New Brunswick, arriving in Moncton on 2 April. Then the actors turned back into Nova Scotia, still performing in the small towns and villages they travelled through, late in April crossing by steamer from Pictou to Prince Edward Island, where they remained for the most part in Charlottetown. In mid-May they crossed the Northumberland Strait from Summerside to Chatham, New Brunswick, performing their way south and west to Saint John. Outside of Halifax and Saint John the communities had seen only very sporadic professional theatre, although the advent of railways and of travelling companies in the late 1870s had motivated many to renovate Masonic and Orange Halls to include dressing rooms and fixed stages. These communities were thus potential audiences waiting to be cultivated by any company willing to grasp the largely competition-free opportunity.

The strength of Lindley's will to survive is illustrated by his incredible solution to three weeks of enforced isolation in Yarmouth due to a railway dispute. The small (pop. 3,485) shipbuilding port could sustain only a few nights of performance; without performance salaries could not be paid, and future bookings already made could not be kept. The dilemma was that the Western Counties Railroad was not operating, the severe winter had made the roads impassable, and the ocean steamers were not running (the company might otherwise have been able to escape to Portland, Maine--if it had the fares). Ida Van Courtland's daily "de quoi vivre" was missing with no means of supply, while the manager's responsibilities for the company persisted. Drastic circumstances required drastic measures--the company resorted to hand-cars as a means of escape. Armed with picks and shovels to clear the tracks of ice and snow, and assisted by section hands, they set out on a sub-zero Saturday morning to traverse the treacherous 69 miles to Digby; Sunday brought an accident that seriously injured a section man. Quipped Lindley in introducing his lengthy Pinafore-style description of the ordeal:

Little did we votaries of
Thalis and Melpomene dream, when riding in blissful ease from
Digby to Yarmouth, of
upon our exodus in a retrograde direction. (Scrapbook)(5)

In all, Lindley summarized, the trip was "very expensive, as we have had to pay thrice the railroad fare, nearly killed a man, lost our performance at Digby, caught colds, and arrived at the conclusion, viz., that we shall never attempt another ride on a trolley. What never!" (Scrapbook). Despite the protestation, the incident emphasizes the obsessive need to move toward a new audience and income, even at great personal risk.

The touring repertoire, which Lindley described vaguely as "'Pinafore,' drama and burlesque" in Merely Players (87), was mostly excerpted from the lengthy Halifax season. It centred around Lindley and relied on the evocation of laughter and the appeal of sensationalism. By the time he reached Moncton (whose papers, with those of Charlottetown provide the most specific information), Louise Leighton, Frank Roche, and Bertha Welby were no longer present. Lindley himself, however, was noticed as "worth the price of admission" (Moncton Daily Times, 26 May 1880), "immense," and "simply comedy-brilliant" (Charlottetown Examiner). Reviews express enjoyment of the sensationalism of Buffalo Bill, the realism of Streets of New York, and the local hits. "That the dramatic pablum was highly relished and well seasoned was evident by the enthusiastic cheers," the Examiner declared with apparent approval on 3 May. Reviews from Moncton and Charlottetown are contradictory in their assessment of Pinafore, however. The Daily Times, after commending Lindley for his portrayal of Sir Joseph Porter, states plainly and briefly: "The company, as a whole, does not make a success of 'Pinafore,' and do [sic] not pretend to, it is said" (9 Apr. 1880). In contrast, the Examiner commended the "nonchalance" with which the company created the illusion of being on board ship, as well as the actors: Albert Taverner for his comic business as Deadeye, Louise Forster who "seemed created for the part" of Hebe, George F. Bird as a volatile Captain, John Mills for looking Rackstraw "to perfection," and Lindley who, "as the 'Admiral,' seemed to have stepped from a Portsmouth signboard;" and it was content to forgive a general musical standard that was, anyway, "not far off" (8 May 1880). Yet almost certainly the two productions were the same, and both were less than faithful renditions of the Gilbert and Sullivan favorite. A complimentary review of Louise Leighton's Pinafore in Charlottetown, two weeks after Lindley's company had left, offers a partial explanation:

Unlike the last company that was here, the "Louise Leighton" company did not omit a single song or part that was set down in the original opera, and it is needless to say that "Pinafore" without vocalistic talent and with some of the best songs and choruses omitted is . . . like the play of Othello, with the part of "Othello" left out. (Ex. 7 June 1880)

Leighton had played Josephine with Lindley in the Annapolis Valley, and her absence necessitated the substitution of Helen Adell in the part, with the consequent bowdlerisation of the script and a rumor that the Lindley troupe could not perform the comic opera. Previously the Examiner had complimented Adell for her "tragic and emotional power" (4 May 1880), neither suited to Pinafore.

There is insufficient difference in cultural background between the two communities at this point in the century to account for Charlottetown's gently forgiving acceptance of Lindley's Pinafore rendition and Moncton's terse dismissal of it; nor was Charlottetown in most ways a less sophisticated community, for it had been a recognizable "urban" centre when Moncton was a tiny village. As a consequence of the advent of the railway, however, Moncton's population did grow dramatically in a decade from 600 in 1871 to 5,032 in 1881. Most of its citizens were "from away," maintained their antecedent connections, and remained mobile. Its position at the juncture of the Intercolonial and the European & North American railroads had begun to open it to theatrical troupes travelling between Saint John and Halifax, as well as to allow its residents direct access to those cities and to Montreal. Probably for these reasons, Lindley never stayed longer than a week in Moncton, whereas he attempted to build an audience over a longer period in the larger but geographically aloof Charlottetown (pop. 11, 485), whose population could not realistically support an extensive season even as well as the much larger Halifax population could. The Examiner's accepting attitude may indicate lack of a standard of comparison; but it equally suggests a tolerance bred from isolation, that was willing to encourage a troupe that had gone so far out of its way--as well as some recognition of the dreadfulness of the only performance space available. Charlottetown had not renovated a hall for theatre, perhaps because its island location had not led it to anticipate the arrival of companies; consequently its Market Hall was grossly inadequate for both audience and actors. Its unpleasantness discouraged attendance; in an exception, the "elite honored the dingy market hall with their presence" (Ex 8 May 1880) for Pinafore, on which occasion a diagram numbering seats and marking reserved sections had been specially prepared. Merely Players records Lindley's vivid recollections of a Hall that "was redolent of beef and ungodly savours, and, as it was summer, flies of varied dimensions and colors. . . . The scenic effects were limited, and the auditorium, although unlimited as to quantity, was bestial in quality" (90). This was in stark contrast, for example, to Ruddick's New Hall in Moncton (opened on 30 December 1878). From a Methodist church and more recently an auction hall, owner Andrew Ruddick had produced a 400-500 seat theatre that was reportedly "well lighted with gas, and well ventilated," with "ample stage accommodations," an "inclined plane galley aisle" and seating arrangement "enabling the audience to have a first class view of the stage from any part of the building" (DT 31 Dec. 1878). Lindley's survival in the Maritimes depended in part on his sensitivity toward the delicate relationships that existed between available venues, the broad spectrum of theatrical sophistication (real or assumed)--and in general in his own sensitivity to the individual "personalities" of different communities.

What might be called phase two of the 1879-1881 tour began in mid-June 1880 in Saint John, visiting Moncton, Charlottetown, and villages in between, before collapsing mid-July in Chatham. During this period William Nannary (who must have been still smarting from the failure of his own company in Newfoundland eight months earlier) joined Lindley in management, with his brother Patrick as an actor. Ida Van Courtland came from New York to replace Helen Adell. And, in particular, the repertoire now featured E. T. Stetson, billed as "one of the most successful sensational stars on the American stage," in Kentuck and Neck and Neck. The company now solidly emphasized sensationalism,(6) confining Lindley's laughable antics largely to afterpieces such as Lindley's Grocery Store and The Artful Dodger.

The playbills indicate the intended attraction of this new repertoire. Kentuck, for example, is advertised as "a new American Picturesque and Realistic Drama in 4 Acts" set in "that Garden Spot of America, the Bluegrass Region of 'OLD KENTUCKY'" and written "expressly for Stetson" by J. L. McClosky, "America's own sensational Play writer" (Theatre Collection).(7) In Saint John it was allegedly such a hit that it drew to the old Mechanics Institute (built in 1840 and seating 800-900) many people who had not attended theatre since the Great Fire of 1877 had destroyed the Dramatic Lyceum and the Academy of Music. The playbill for Neck and Neck puffed it as "The Greatest Drama of the Age":

Among the many startling effects may be enumerated the EXECUTION ON THE SCAFFOLD. The condemned man ascends in the presence of the audience. The rope is adjusted, the signal given, and the TRAP FALLS. A REAL EXECUTION COULD NOT BE MORE REALISTIC. THE EXPRESS TRAIN ABOUT TO BE DASHED TO PIECES IN THE STONE QUARRY. THE DEAD ALIVE! (PANS MG 9 Vol.12)(8)

Moreover, the program urged, the drama showed a maniac's despair, rival lovers, the reward of virtue, the punishment of vice, and it had a humorous subplot to keep the audience laughing--in short, it contained something for all lighthearted lovers of sensational melodrama and morality. Besides, enticed the Saint John Evening Telegram in an incredible appeal to its supposed popularity, it had been played 1800 times.

When William Nannary went to Moncton to make arrangements for the company he now billed as "the most expensive ever brought to Moncton," the Daily Times responded in a tone of eager anticipation that conveyed its feeling of marginalization from larger Maritime centres:

It is not very often a company like this with such a great star in the theatrical firmament can be induced to visit the smaller towns, but probably this company, being on the way to Halifax, may account for it. No dramatic attraction which has visited Moncton can compare with this company and the press and public of St. John have pronounced a verdict so favorable that any doubts as to the great treat in store for to-night cannot be entertained. (3 July 1880)

Anticipation turned to disappointment, however, when the hangings, stabbings and other sensations in Neck and Neck were judged insufficient to compensate for poor performance: "some of the characters were poorly taken [or acted] and there was considerable 'prompting'" (DT July). Since Saint John residents had already patronized five productions of the piece and the press had expressed no disappointment, one wonders how this could be so. It is surprising that Saint Johners, given their long history of theatre, would attend repeated renditions that must have been even worse rehearsed at that stage, and that their press would commend them. The Moncton press had previously expressed its appreciation of sensational effects, though it had not hesitated to criticize a rough production of Pinafore. On this occasion it appears to have had higher standards for performance than Saint John; though it might make allowances for late curtains and draggy productions from an ordinary company, it probably expected more from one that featured Stetson. Moreover, the perception of success in Saint John may have been hyperbole, for the reviews there are not extensive, and Lindley's memoirs reveal his indebtedness; he said he had to deposit his "170 pounds of flesh" in jail but that his creditor, seeing his determination to remain there, "repented and apologetically offered me freedom, hoping I would settle at some later date" (89).

Stetson and the other seventeen members of Lindley's company received a mixed reception in Charlottetown. Whereas it was enough for the indulgent and moralizing reviewer for the Examiner that in Kentuck "the 'right' and the 'good' triumph in the end," the anonymous letter-writer DRAMATIC appealed for "a higher class of performance" that would discourage giggling at inappropriate moments (14 July). As he had responded affirmatively to "ONE OF TUESDAY'S AUDIENCE" in Halifax, so Lindley complied with DRAMATIC's request by starring Stetson in Hamlet, but not before warning the public through the press that the "scenic and other surroundings" of the Market Hall were hardly adequate for producing Shakespeare; indeed, Nannary added at curtain time, it seemed almost like desecration to produce Hamlet in such a place.(9) Nevertheless, the Examiner's reviewer, maintaining a consistent attitude of encouragement, was willing to overlook production difficulties in his conclusion that the tragedy "succeeded admirably" (20 July). Lindley's perception of the response to Hamlet, though, seems to bear out the advice given by the editor of the Halifax Morning Chronicle (5 Dec. 1879) that insufficient audience appreciation for Shakespeare made production impractical; he remembered Hamlet meeting a cold and undiscerning audience whose "ebullitions of approval would arise when the grave diggers buried Ophelia," while "the divine utterings of Shakespeare fell upon souls as cold as their own codfish" (Lindley 89). Noticeably, appeals for the legitimate drama in both Halifax and Charlottetown came from anonymous letter-writers and not from reviewers, though one might expect both to belong to the same social class; on the whole reviewers encourage moral theatre in accord with a broad sweep of public taste (and not always through puffery), while a vocal minority demanded something it considered superior. Shakespeare could not draw a large, knowledgeable, heterogeneous audience as he had in mid-century at the Saint John Dramatic Lyceum and at the Halifax Temperance Hall.(10)

Stetson could not induce sufficient response to rescue Lindley from the disastrous consequences of financial insolvency, and the company collapsed. In Merely Players Lindley expressed gratitude to the citizens of Chatham for helping him gather money enough to send most members to their homes (89), while he accused Nannary of hiding from him in his time of trouble (one is reminded that Nannary had blamed Lindley for abandoning him to similar circumstances in Newfoundland). Whatever the exact circumstances, on 3 August the Saint John Telegraph noted that Ida Van Courtland and Albert Taverner had left Lindley and were in Saint John and that E. T. Stetson had joined the Kitty Lougee company playing in Halifax.(11) Nannary moved his family across the continent to San Francisco and started a new life in theatre there. Lindley himself, ever resourceful in the midst of extreme adversity, is next heard of in mid-August lodging at the Rankin House in Charlottetown and, incredibly, announcing both the imminent opening of a new Academy of Music and the engagement of an entirely new company of locally available actors. Besides Lindley, the company's core consisted of Violet Campbell, widow of English comedian Belvil Ryan and a resident of Halifax, and Portia Albee and Horace Lewis who, as nearly half of the five-person Lewis-Potowski Follies, had just concluded a tour of Uncle Tom's Cabin that drew humorously scathing reviews due to the scarcity of both scenery and actors.

Charlottetown's new Academy of Music was its former Temperance Hall, renamed the Athenaeum after 1869. Lindley, with a capital of 50 cents and a persuasive tongue that captured the moneylenders, managed speedily to remodel the auditorium to hold 680 spectators in orchestra, parquet, gallery, and five stage boxes. He raked the stage and furnished it with traps, constructed a small proscenium, and installed a system of flats, wings, and borders (Ex.18,19 Aug. 1880; Lindley 89-90). In hopes of procuring a more consistent audience than previously, he issued season tickets. When attendance at the 30 August opening of All That Glitters is not Gold was "meagre," the Examiner's still loyal reviewer proclaimed himself "considerably disgusted" with the lukewarm response to Lindley's efforts:

If this is the reward of perseverance the management must feel disgusted. The house itself is clean, airy and comfortable. The stage department is admirable in comparison with previous efforts in that direction. The scenery . . . is novel in that the footlights and headlights are not seen. The boxes look cheerful and elegant, and the company far above the average. All that lacked was the response of the public, who surely out of common gratitude for a stranger's endeavour to give them a decent place of amusement, should have packed the building. (31 August)(12)

Audiences were unquestionably small throughout the season,(13) despite every effort: judicious advertising, such as the reference to the presence of eminent clergy at Lewis's Boston opening of Dan'l Druce; emphasis on Violet Campbell's emotional acting that could elicit tears from both male and female spectators of East Lynne; and the reduction of ticket prices "so as to come within range of all." Marketing strategies must have been complicated by the visible smallness of the company, however, which meant that in Ours (as in other pieces) Lindley himself had to work hard to keep the momentum going:

As usual, Harry Lindley convulsed his audience, and owing to his untiring efforts it was, that the play did not drag more heavily. The necessity of "coming to the front" in order to make the play "go," however, placed him in positions which were apparently irreconcilable, as one scene presented him as the millionaire, "bloated with wealth," whilst the next portrayed him as "chief cook and bottle washer" in a hut in the Crimea. . . . It is to be regretted that he has not a larger company to support him. (Ex. 1 Sept.)

The temperance drama Drink, of the Bottle was so "very temperately" attended that the Examiner would have understood if Lindley had turned his efforts "in the opposite direction and exhibited the delights arising from cocaethes bibendi, or, in the vulgar Saxon, the love of Drink" (5 October). Lindley refrained from that temptation, however, continuing to centre his season on staples with which he had long been familiar, including: Caste, whose Eccles he had first played in America at Richmond, Virginia and later toured with the Holmans; Lady of Lyons, whose Glavis was his initial professional engagement in Scotland; The Honeymoon, in which he first participated as an amateur; and on other "standard and good" plays such as Rose of Killarney, Lady Audley's Secret, and Ben Bolt. Though the absence of burlesque and sensation meant that he was trying to broaden his audience to include DRAMATIC and his ilk--"the intellectual and educated element" (Ex 14 Oct. 1880)--he was unsuccessful in building a paying audience from any group. Only three pieces attracted patrons in large numbers, and each of these involved the community in some way. Ours was a benefit for the Ottawa Rifle Team in which the Band of the 82nd Battalion and detachments of the Artillery and Engineers participated. The Fireman was presented under the auspices of Capt. Hickey, officers and men of Hillsboro Co., No. 7, who marched in procession from their fire hall to the Academy. Finally, Masonry Exposed drew angry masons who expected the secrets of masonry to "be fully ventilated."(14) Despite all his difficulties, amazingly, Lindley was able to survive for ten weeks in Charlottetown, one of only four travelling troupes of actors there in 1880, and the only one to stay any period of time.(15) Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining the remark in his memoirs that, in the midst of difficulties, his three visits had given him good friends among Islanders whom he initially judged to be "somewhat dull theatrically" (Lindley 90). Even the fact that he was once more put on limits, unable to leave Charlottetown without forfeiting bail, he said bonded him sympathetically to "noble" Islanders who also had little money but possessed great "simplicity of heart."

Concluding his lengthy Maritime tour, Lindley finally returned to Halifax on 20 December 1880, nearly a year after his ignominious departure. This time he wisely chose to shun the large, expensive Academy of Music (the only purpose-built theatre currently in the region) to become the first lessee of the Halifax Lyceum, "a handsome little theatre" that the St. Vincent's Dramatic Club had provided through transformation of the "dingy old" Temperance Hall. Thus he forged an immediate association with the amateurs. Albee and Lewis were absent, and Josie Robinson's replacement of Violet Campbell from 5 January 1881 brought changes to the repertoire, including The British Flag and The Colleen Bawn. The generally positive reviews suggest that Lindley had found the mood of the Lyceum's audience; his Perkyn Middlewick was "irresistibly comic" (Our Boys), his Slopenhoff "excruciatingly funny" (Turko the Terrible), his Shaun "a humourous delineation" (Arrah na Pogue), his Eccles "very amusing . . . not too coarse, and full of business" (Caste).(16) The social elite of the city are not patrons this time, and presumably are not the primary target audience. Still, loyal military(17) provided patronage for Lindley's portrayal of the tradesman in his own May and December, while the Union Protection Co. were patrons of his benefit as Micawber (a role he had played alongside Sallie Holman's little Emily [Lindley 58]). Though the season formally ended with Josie Robinson's benefit in Fanchon (29 Jan. 1881), Lindley was able to indulge his fondness for the equestrian drama through support of Zoe Gayton (whom he termed "a female of muscle") in what reviews suggest was an abysmal production of Mazeppa at the much better equipped Academy of Music (23 Feb. 1881).(18) Amateurs then combined with members of his company to tender the still obviously-beleaguered manager a benefit on 9 February, after which his whereabouts are again unknown until his final appearance in late March for a week of sparsely reviewed burlesque, chiefly Grimes Goblin, in Saint John's "New Academy of Music" (a refurbished Berryman's Hall).

He had overcome incredible problems to remain on the road and performing for over a year. He had produced at least 60 different main pieces with a company whose composition changed significantly several times, had opened three newly renovated and renamed theatre facilities (one in each province), and had taken professional theatre where there had scarcely been any. Measured against Van Courtland's criteria, Lindley's tour must ultimately be judged a success. He had given pleasure, and he had survived.

Epilogue--The Return of Harry Lindley

Lindley says in Merely Players that he later began a tour of eastern Maine in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, which included "a pilgrimage" to the Island of Grand Manan from whose fishermen residents he found himself "taxed to gain a smile" (101-102). Since this was after nearly a decade of further meanderings "from the Bay of Fundy to Georgia, or ten to twelve States of the Union, with three or four Canadian provinces thrown in as a soupçon," (Lindley 101) and as far south as Jamaica (1882), it must have been near the end of the 1880s; local newspapers have not been found to support this, however. In the early summer of 1890 Lindley's Castaways Company(19) spent two months in New Brunswick, concentrating attention on the Chatham/Newcastle area that provided help when his company collapsed in 1880. Although the Saint John press paid little attention, words like "laughter," "merriment," "good humor," "applause," pepper reviews of the six performances in Moncton. The "genuine, old-fashioned, legitimate flavor" of Lindley's own "drolleries" met with enthusiastic approval (MA 12 June 1890). Bride of the West with its "realistic railroad train in full motion" (MA 5 June 1890), Divorce with "toilets and stage settings" that were "elaborate" (UA 11 June 1890), Zeppa and other plays brought brisk business especially to the Masonic Hall in Chatham; for the first production of Little Lord Fauntleroy "the house was so full . . . that a lady purchaser of a reserved seat got the ticket seller's chair and carried it in with her" (W 14 June 1890). Lindley donated the proceeds of a "very good house" at the fifteenth and final performance to the Odd Fellow's building fund--a public-relations gesture he could afford to make, especially as he had won $3000 in the June draw of the Louisiana lottery. Chatham, the World puffed, "is not often visited by so good a company as Lindley's" (26 July 1890). In fact, Chatham was not visited by many companies at all. In 1880 Lindley's was one of two, 1889 had brought only 3, and only 1884 and 1885 had as many as five. For both Lindley and his Chatham audiences the 1890 season seems to have been a nostalgic revisiting.

A longer, five-month tour that included Newfoundland in 1894 began auspiciously with six nights of "big business" in Chatham (pop. 5,644 in 1891) and Newcastle (pop. 4,006) for which "the high priest of fun" showed gratitude through a benefit for Chatham's Elm Linden Park; his was one of seven variety and comedy companies there that year. Much had changed since Lindley succeeded Nannary's resident stock company in the Halifax Academy of Music in 1879. Halifax, Saint John, and Moncton especially had become used to touring companies of all sorts, most of which originated in the United States: opera companies, one-play companies, repertory companies, comedy companies, minstrels--companies and performers of varying qualities and reputations, some that returned repeatedly. Competition was now keen, and some of the advertisements for Lindley now present him as equal to or superior to other actors. The Halifax Daily Echo and Moncton Times puffed him outrageously as one who had "played leading comedy with Kean, Phelps, Brooks, Forrest, Irving, Booth, Adelaide Neilson, and was for three years principal comedian with the Holman Opera Co." (E 25 Oct. 1894), and who "had received the patronage of five governors-general in Canada and presidents of the United States" (MT 13 July 1894). He did tour with the Holmans, but the remaining claims must be either mendacity or hyperbole.(20) In St. John's, he and his actors were billed as a "select company of New York players" (a common enough puff) that came "heartily endorsed by Baltimore, Philadelphia, Toronto and Charlottetown press" (ET 4 Sept. 1894)--as, for instance, notices for Claire Scott in Charlottetown noted her appearance in eleven named major US cities, her performance "in twenty-eight states, and before all the principal critics, receiving the most flattering press notices" (Ex 21 July 1887). A tribute from the St. John's Evening Telegram demonstrates that Lindley's company maintained an image of social respectability, an extremely important attribute in a community whose small elite was particularly socially predominant and internationally aware:

It is composed of ladies and gentlemen who recognise and uphold their positions as such and who belong to that class of actors That Elevate the Stage and save it from being degraded by any other class entirely alienated from this. (5 Oct. 1894)

Possibly, in part, because of that image attained (and more likely because his second marketing ploy was that he had learned to give away presents to lucky ticket-holders) Lindley was finally able to draw large and even crowded houses to the Halifax Academy of Music where fourteen years previously he faced empty seats.

Unfortunately, neither in Charlottetown's Masonic Opera House nor in St. John's Total Abstinence Hall were the audiences as large as Lindley and his company would have liked, despite the puffery. Actors whose salaries were affected would hardly have agreed with the Examiner that "what was lacking in numbers was more than made up in enthusiasm and applause" (1 Aug. 1894). The recurrence of such praise as "charming," "well sustained," "very comical," "splendid" and "excellent" indicates, however, that those who did attend the performances were well satisfied.(21) Lindley himself, "like wine," one reviewer writes, "seems to improve with age" (Ex. 31 July 1894). Part of the explanation for thin houses in St. John's lies in the particular strength of its amateur societies, whose frequent productions were reviewed in the press with the thoroughness given professionals. The loyalty of both press and public to the amateurs, who would be with them long after the professionals sponsored by the Myrtle Club had gone, seems to have sparked some competition for audience. The West End Amateurs' production of Ten Nights in a Barroom drew potential audiences away from The Wages of Sin. When Lindley later scheduled the Irish-American comedy Gold King against the Benevolent Irish Society's rendition of Marsden's Clouds, he drew expressions of regret in the press that many who would have liked to see his production lacked the opportunity. (Gold King would later have a crowded house in Halifax.) Possibly Lindley scheduled Arrah-Na-Pogue for his final night in Newfoundland knowing that the Benevolent Irish Society was rehearsing it. If so, the press did not hold it against him, for the reviewer was generously impressed with the professional production while remaining confident that the amateurs would have a full house. An attitude of mutual respect is evident, ultimately, in the Lindley Company's public acknowledgement of the Myrtle Club's honorable treatment of them "pecuniarily" despite an unprofitable season, and in their offering a benefit to the Club in response to that.

Showcased in the company's repertoire and performed in all centres were several of Lindley's own melodramas. Chick, or Myrtle Ferns, advertised immodestly as "one of the latest and best comedies written" (MT 12 July 1894), was published in Peterborough in 1893. Announced as a beautiful "romantic comedy drama, full of fun and sensation, crowded with stirring situations and brilliant climaxes" (AR 8 Nov. 1894), it was judged "hardly strong enough for an opening piece" (ET 6 Sept.1894) in St. John's where it had to be rescued from perceived dullness by Lindley "and his assistants." Contrarily, in Halifax, where it was not the opener, it was judged the "best presentation yet." More to the taste of the Evening Telegram's reviewer, who was fond of describing exciting plots and tableaux, was Wronged, or a Son's Devotion, dramatized by Lindley from Will Carlton's poem Over the Hills to the Poor House. In Halifax there was standing-room only in the galleries for this piece. Ironically, the final gesture of Lindley's company on the Academy of Music's stage was the singing of Carlton's poem; though the tour could be called successful (measured by its more-than-less financial viability and by the scope of its popular appeal), one could never be sure that the poor house was not over the next hill. Similarly appreciated was a revisiting of Lindley's nautical adaptation Castaways, with its sensation of the shipwreck in Act III; both galleries and parquet were filled in Halifax for this. Fourteen other standard main-pieces and an assortment of hornpipes and gipsy dances, jigs and reels, mandolin solos and songs comprised the rest of Lindley's repertoire on the road in 1894.

The company of sixteen members had as leading lady Adelaide Flint who was, according to Walter McRaye, both "clever and pretty" (26).(22) Leading man Josiah Chapman was described as a "sterling actor," whether performing his "pet role" of Dunstan in Hazel Kirke or a "heroic rescue" in the fire-scene of Inside Track, his warm reception enhanced by audiences' familiarity with him already as a member of the Josie Mills Company.(23) The songs and acting abilities of Lindley's small daughter, "bright and bewitching little Ethel" (World 7 July 1894), were appealing. Harry Lindley himself was as always, though, his company's chief asset. Whether as a rollicking Irish servant, a cockney thief, a black-face, a Shakespearean tramp, or a judge, he played "an intelligent and not burlesqued comic part," the Evening Telegram said in relief, for he did not "twist his features out of all shape nor leap around like A Cat with Scorched Paws" (6 Sept. 1894).

In the fourteen years since Lindley's first tour of the region "popular" prices did not change from 15, 25, 35, and 50 cents. Earning power in the region remained the same. Of the places he visited, only Halifax and Moncton had increased in size; Saint John had decreased by 2,000, and other centres remained virtually unchanged.(24) His own relationship with the region had changed, however. In response to his last appearance in Halifax the reviewer for the Acadian Recorder forgot that former representatives of the city's elite had helped ensure nearly-empty houses through their criticism of a repertoire deemed vulgar in its absence of "standard and good plays." He remembered only that in earlier visits "it was Harry Lindley who for weeks at a time constituted the theatrical amusement of Halifax," and enthused affectionately over the reappearance of a star thought "to have faded from our sky":

Is it the same Lindley? Says one. "Come and see." And as the doubting one gazes on the countenance in which humor has left the impression--the crinkles caused by the pervading mirth that will wear channels as well as grief--the evidence of a fixed determination, a resolute purpose, that "So let the wide world wag as it will, We'll be gay and happy still!" the satisfied ejaculation is heard. "Yes, THAT'S Harry Lindley." . . . he is a good fellow, and an honest one, and has as his guiding principle "live and let live"--and keep things moving. . . (19 Nov. 1894)

Lindley's last performance in Atlantic Canada was a "happy speech" in response to the ovation that greeted him in Yarmouth, the last town on his tour and the one from which a railway dispute had once necessitated an enterprising and dangerous exit. This time he left more comfortably--by steamer for Portland, Maine. Under difficulties that are a tribute to Lindley's endurance and his passion for theatre, he had in his relationship with this region demonstrated ingenuity and flexibility. He had used whatever resources of actors and facilities were at hand, and showed an increasing sensitivity to the moods of audiences even as he developed increasingly aggressive marketing strategies--in the process becoming an enduring presence and familiar figure. He continued to tour, and in the last years of the century made a similarly significant contribution to opening up theatre in western Canada; indeed, Chad Evans concluded, the engagements of Lindley's company "in Vancouver, Victoria, Wellington and Nanaimo were more successful than any other stock theatre during the 1890s" (164).




Halifax Nov. 24, 1879-Jan. 10, 1880

Kentville Jan. 12-13

Yarmouth Jan. 15-26, 28; Feb. 13

Digby Feb. 16-17

Annaplis Feb. 18-19

Bridgetown Feb. 20-21

Kentville Feb. 24

Wolfville Feb. 25

Windsor Feb. 26-27

Truro Mar. 1-4

New Glasgow Mar. 5-6

Antigonish Mar. 18-20

New Glasgow Mar. 22

Stellarton Mar. 24

Truro Mar. 25-26

Acadia Mines Mar. 27

Amherst Mar. 29-Apr. 1

Acadia Mines Apr. 2-8

Truro Apr. 19-20

New Glasgow Apr. 21

Pictou Apr. 22-23

Georgetown Apr. 26

Charlottetown Apr. 27-28

Mt. Stewart Apr. 29

Charlottetown Apr. 30-May 10

Summerside May 11-13

Charlottetown May 14-17

Chatham May 19-24

Moncton May 26

Sussex May 27-28

Saint John June 14-July 1

Charlottetown July 13-20

Chatham (company collapsed)

Charlottetown Aug. 30-Nov. 10

Sackville Dec. 1

Moncton Dec. 2

Chatham Dec. 4-6

Campbellton Dec. 7

Moncton Dec. 8-9

Hopewell Cor. Dec. 10-11

Hillsboro Dec. 13

Dorchester Dec. 14

Sackville Dec. 15-16

Halifax Dec. 20-Jan. 29 1881

Halifax Feb. 1-2 (with Zoe Gayton)

Halifax Feb. 9

Saint John Mar. 24-30

Dates for the towns of Nova Scotia in the first months of 1880 are from the New York Dramatic Mirror and from the records kept by Albert Taverner while he was a member of Lindley's company. These are preserved in the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, Taverner Collection, Box 6 and are reported in: Kathleen Fraser, "Theatrical Touring in Late Nineteenth Century Canada: Ida Van Courtland and the Taverner company 1877-1896." Diss. U of Western Ontario, 1985. 193-196. Since only incomplete runs of local newspapers are now extant, many dates would be unknown otherwise. Nevertheless, in a few cases my list corrects the Taverner Collection dates to fint with evidence in local records: reviews indicate Moncton April 2-8 (TC has Truro); reviews show Charlottetown until May 17 (TC only to May 7); reviews show Charlottetown July 13 (though the MTRL has playbills for Saint John July 12-13); there was obviously no performance date to support the MTRL playbill for Saint John July 30, since the company collapsed in Chatham before then.


Saint John May 26-27

Moncton May 30-June 5

Chatham June 5-12

Newcastle June 13-14

Bathurst June 16-17

Campbellton June 18-19

Chatham June 25-27

Newcastle June 25-July 5

Chatham July 23-29New Brunswick newspapers say that Lindley went to Halifax fromNewcastle on July 5, but Halifax newspapers have no record of his appearance, and extant papers from towns along the route reveal nothing.


Chatham July 2-7

Newcastle July 9

Richibucto (part of week of July 9)

Moncton July 16-21

Buctouche "a couple of days enjoying the salt walter breezes"

Charlottetown July 30-Aug. 4

Summerside & Kensington Aug. 10-13

Charlottetown Aug. 10-13

St. John's Sept. 4-Oct. 4

Truro Oct. 26-27

Halifax Oct. 29-Nov. 24

Yarmouth Nov. 26

Lindley probably performed in the small towns of Nova Scotia enroute to catching the steamer to Newfoundland at North Sydney, and again enroute to Truro and in the Annapolis Valley between Halifax and Yarmouth.

Nightwood Chronology

compiled by Dr. Shelley Scott


The Theatre Centre established by Nightwood, Buddies in Bad Times, Necessary Angel, Actors Lab, AKA Performance Interface, and Theatre Autumn Leaf.

Sept. 6-15, 1979

The True Story of Ida Johnson , at the NDWT Side-Door Theatre and later at the Adelaide Court Theatre. A Nightwood Theatre production adapted from the novel by Sharon Riis. A project of the Explorations Program of Canada Council, with supplementary funding from the Ontario Arts Council. Kim Renders, Mary Vingoe and Maureen White in the cast, (with Lee Wildgen), Cynthia Grant the director. Nightwood Theatre Collective and Associate Members: the four founders, plus Marie Black, Kit Goldfarb, Karen Rodd, Christa Van Daele, Erna Van Daele and Rose Zoltek.


April 1980 Self-Accusation by Peter Handke, with Cynthia Grant and Richard Shoichet,   at the Theatre Centre, co-produced by Nightwood.

May 1980

Nightwood's first involvement with the Rhubarb! Festival. Nightwood's contributions:

1. Psycho-Nuclear Breakdown   by Cynthia Grant;   2. Gently Down the Stream by Kim Renders; 3. Soft Boiled by Renders, performed by Renders and White.

June 19 - 28, 1980

Glazed Tempera, inspired by the works of Alex Colville, presented by Nightwood   at the Passe Muraille Backspace. The performers were Renders, White and Peter Van Wart, with taped reading by Jack Messinger; Grant was the director and the production was said to be “conceived by” the three women.

November 1980

second Rhubarb! that year, part of the 80/81 season at the Theatre Centre. Nightwood's contributions:

1. The Best of Myles by Flann O'Brien, adapted by Maureen White and Mary Durkan;

 2. Soft Boiled #2 by White and Renders; 3. G adapted from the novel by John Berger, directed by Renders and Grant; 4. Ten Seconds After Closing by Mary Vingoe, directed by Grant; 5.   Object/Subject Nausea a video and live performance piece by Grant.


Jan. 28-Feb. 8, 1981

Theatre Autumn Leaf and Nightwood present in repertory at the Theatre Centre: The Audition and Specimens, and For Rachel directed by Renders; the piece had been workshopped at the Factory Theatre Lab, the performers were Shelley Thompson and Maureen White. In second week of performance it was accompanied by Epilogue, directed by Grant, written and performed by Lindsay Holton and Barbara Wright.

May 1981

Flashbacks of Tomorrow (Memorias del Mañana), a collective presentation by Nightwood and the Open Experience Hispanic-Canadian Theatre,   as part of the Toronto Theatre Festival's Open Stage. Grant was the director and White and Renders were in the cast. Music by Compaeros.

Summer 1981

Theatre Centre moved to 666 King St. West.

October 1-18, 1981

The Yellow Wallpaper produced by Nightwood at the Theatre Centre, adapted from the story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and with additional text by Cynthia Grant and Mary Vingoe; performed by Vingoe and directed by Grant, music by Marsha Coffey. Later adapted for radio.


March 5-21, 1982

Hooligans  produced by Nightwood Theatre at the Theatre Centre, written by Jan Kudelka and Mary Vingoe in collaboration with the company (Ian A. Black, Jay Bowen, Cynthia Grant, Irene Pauzer, Kim Renders, Linda Stephen, Bruce Vavrina), from an idea by Irene Pauzer (who played Isadora) and from the diaries and writings of Isadora Duncan, Edward Gordon Craig, Sergei Esenin, Kathleen Bruce and Robert Falcon Scott. Directed by Grant.

August 25-29, 1982

Mass/Age, a collective, multi-media spectacle of life in a nuclear age, performed by Jay Bowen, Kim Renders, Daniel Brooks, Allan Risdill, Gordon Masten, and Maureen White, directed by Grant, presented at Harbourfront Centre.

November 1982

Rhubarb! at the Theatre Centre, included Soft Boiled #3.


March 1983

Women's Cultural Building   presents a Festival of Women Building Culture: March 8, the first Five Minute Feminist Cabaret was held at the Horseshoe Tavern; May 26-29, Women's Perspective Festival, an art exhibit sponsored by Partisan Gallery, included "Caution: Women at Work." The three pieces by Nightwood were:

1. Four Part Discord, performed by Mary Durkan, Cynthia Grant, Kim Renders, and Maureen White;   2. Psycho-Nuclear Breakdown;   3. This is For You, Anna: a spectacle of revenge collectively written and performed by Suzanne Odette Khuri, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Patricia Nichols, Banuta Rubess, Aida Jordão and Maureen White.

June 1983

Nightwood presents Antigone by Sophocles, adapted by Patricia Keeney-Smith, directed by Cynthia Grant, with a chorus of 40 actors and musicians, at St. Paul's Square.

August 18 - 28, 1983

Midnight Hags presents Burning Times, at the Theatre Centre, written by Banuta Rubess with the cast and the director, Mary Anne Lambooy.

September 30 - October 23, 1983

Nightwood presents Smoke Damage: A story of the witch hunts at St. Paul's Square, 121 Avenue Road. Written by Banuta Rubess with the cast: Peggy Christopherson, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Mary Marzo, Kim Renders and Maureen White. Rubess and Cynthia Grant are “direction consultants.”

November 3 - 19, 1983

Peace Banquet- Ancient Greece Meets the Atomic Age , collectively written by Micah Barnes, Sky Gilbert, Dean Gilmour, Cynthia Grant, Charis Polatos, Kim Renders, Judith Rudakoff, Philip Shepherd, and Maureen White. Produced and directed by Grant. Presented by Nightwood at St. Paul's Square.

1983/84 Board of Directors : David Heath, Rosemary Sullivan, Grant and White.


January 1984

Rhubarb! at the Theatre Centre: White, Vingoe and Grant appeared in Nancy Drew Goes in Search of Her Missing Mother, by Ann-Marie MacDonald and Beverley Cooper, which became part of a late night series at Theatre Passe Muraille in 1984, then was given a full production in 1985, called Clue in the Fast Lane, directed by Maureen White.

June 1984

The Theatre Centre moved to the Poor Alex Theatre on Brunswick Street; tenants were Crow's Theatre, Nightwood and Theatre Smith-Gilmour.

Spring 1984

The Anna Project toured Southern Ontario (Aida Jordao was no longer involved), funded by Canada Council Explorations, Ontario Arts Council and Floyd S. Chalmers Fund. This is For You, Anna was nominated in 1984 for a Dora Mavor Moore award for artistic excellence and theatrical innovation.

Summer 1984

Love and Work Enough ("A celebration of Ontario's pioneer women"), created collectively by its five actors -- Kate Lazier, Eva Mackey, Peggy Sample, Heather D. Swain and Cathy Wendt -- directed by Mary Vingoe with Cynthia Grant, musical director Anne Lederman. Toured for 5 weeks, then toured again in fall 1984 and into '85 to 150 schools across Ontario, co-produced with Theatre Direct Canada.   Funded by Summer Canada Works, Theatre Ontario’s Youth Theatre Training program (OAC), and the Department of the Secretary of State. Winner of a Dora Mavor Moore award as best production in the children's category.

September 5 - 23, 1984

Nightwood presents   Pope Joan ("A non-historical comedy") by Ba à uta Rubess, produced and directed by Cynthia Grant at Theatre Centre. Cast included Maureen White, Mary Durkan, Mary Vingoe, Dean Gilmour, Andy Jones, and Charles Tomlinson. Nominated for a Chalmers award.

Fall 1984

The Theatre Centre R&D Festival. Nightwood contributions were: The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them by Deena Metzger; and The Medical Show by Amanda Hale.


February 1985

Re-Production by Amanda Hale, presented by Nightwood in Ottawa at a conference of the National Association of Women and the Law.

April 1985

Nightwood and Factory Theatre sponsored a reading of The Edge of the Earth is Too Near, Violette Leduc by Jovette Marchessault.

May 1985

Plutonium Players from San Francisco presented Ladies Against Women at the Theatre Centre as a fundraiser for Nightwood.

May - June 1985

The Next Stage: Women Transforming the Theatre, at Festival of Theatre of the Americas in Montreal; Grant was a panellist.

Summer 1985

Canadian Theatre Review 43: special issue on Women in Theatre included "Notes from the Front Line"   with photos and short statements by each of Nightwood's founding four, as   well as a script for and articles about This is For You, Anna.

September 1985

Nightwood restructured and hired a General Manager, Linda Brown. Mary Vingoe was appointed the Interim Artistic Coordinator. The 1985/86 Board: Susan G. Cole, Mary Durkan, Maureen FitzGerald, Rina Fraticelli, Rubess, Grant, Renders and White.

October 3 - 6, 1985

Nightwood presents Penelope, a re-telling of Homer's Ulysses with the poetry of Margaret Atwood, adapted by Cynthia Grant, Peggy Sample and Susan Seagrove at the Theatre Centre. Later developed by the Company of Sirens.

October - November 1985

Transformations, staged readings at the Theatre Centre: Oct. 24-25 - War Babies by Margaret Hollingsworth, directed by Mary Vingoe;   Oct. 26-27 - Portrait of Dora by Hélène Cixous, directed by uta Rubess;   Oct. 31-Nov. 1 - Signs of Life by Joan Schenkar, directed by Svetlana Zylin;   Nov.2-3 - Masterpieces by Sarah Daniels, directed by Mary Durkan.

November 1985

This is For You, Anna tours England; at this point, Patricia Nichols is no longer involved.


Cynthia Grant left Nightwood to co-found the Company of Sirens.

January 14-16, 1986

This is For You, Anna returns to Toronto after its English tour for a run at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

March 10, 1986

4th annual Five Minute Feminist Cabaret at Lee's Palace, presented by Nightwood and Women's Cultural Building: Djanet Sears presented the earliest version of Afrika Solo.

March 13-17, 1986

First annual Groundswell Festival includes To Humbert Humbert (which later became The Last Will and Testament of Lolita); The Paraskeva Principle by Francine Volker, directed by JoAnn McIntyre, performed by Volker and Annie-Lou Chester, which Nightwood later produced;   and A Classical Education, written by Helen Weinzweig, (playwright-in-residence).

May 14-June 1, 1986

Nightwood presents The Edge of the Earth is Too Near, Violette Leduc by Jovette Marchessault, translated by Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood, directed by Cynthia Grant, at the Theatre Centre. Kim Renders starred as Violette, with John Blackwood, Martha Cronyn, Sky Gilbert (who was nominated for a Dora award), Joan Heney, Shirley Josephs and Ian Wallace.

June 1986

DuMaurier World Stage Festival production of This is For You, Anna.


Linda Brown is the general manager (full-time, 8 months/year). The Board : Susan Cole, Mary Durkan, Maureen FitzGerald, Rina Fraticelli, Carlyn Moulton, Rubess, Renders, Vingoe and White. The playwright in residence was Peggy Thompson, through the Ontario Arts Council playwright residency program.


January 22-30, 1987

Nightwood presents My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry - A Lone Woman Show written and performed by Sandra Shamas at the Factory Theatre Studio Cafe.

January 22 - February 1, 1987

at the Annex Theatre, Second annual Groundswell includes. Afrika Solo a staged reading by Djanet Sears, directed by Annie Szamosi; and A Particular Class of Women by Janet Feindel, a workshop directed and dramaturged by Mary Durkan.

February - March 1987

Nightwood presents in association with Toronto Free Theatre, War Babies by Margaret Hollingsworth, directed by Mary Vingoe. The cast: Duncan Fraser, Bridget O’Sullivan, Don Allison, Richard Liptrot, Thomas Hauff, Nicola Lipman, Linda Goranson. Nominated for a Dora award for Best New Play.

March 9 1987

at Theatre Passe Muraille, Nightwood, with the Women's Cultural Building, presents the 5th Annual 5 Minute Feminist Cabaret. A Fertile Imagination by Susan Cole, was first   presented as a monologue.

May 1987

Nightwood is still at the Poor Alex but is no longer part of the Theatre Centre.

June 2 - 21, 1987

Nightwood and The Humbert Humbert Project (Project) in association with Theatre Passe Muraille present The Last Will and Testament of Lolita. Subtitled “a vile pink comedy,” created and performed by Louise Garfield, Ba uta Rubess, Peggy Thompson, and Maureen White, with Jim Warren as the Sandman and a film by Peter Mettler featuring Jackie Burroughs.

August 1987

Maureen White began work as Artistic Coordinator.

November 1987

at the Annex Theatre, 3rd annual Groundswell included   Let's Go to Your Place by Kate Lushington and The Clichettes, directed by Maureen White; another version of The Paraskeva Principle by Francine Volker, directed by Jo Ann McIntyre; The Herring Gull's Egg by Mary Vingoe, dramaturged by Maureen Labonte; My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna be Laundry by Sandra Shamas; and The Kingdom of LoudAsCanBe written and directed by Kim Renders.

December 1987

Nightwood and Theatre Direct present a School Tour of The Kingdom of LoudAsCanBe, written and directed by Renders. Cast: Ida Carnevali, Mary Hawkins, James Kirchner, with live music by Paul Cram.

1987/88 Board : Mary Durkan (President), Renders, White , Vingoe, Rubess, Susan Cole, Maureen FitzGerald, Rina Fraticelli, Carlyn Moulton and Peggy Thompson.


January 16 - 31, 1988

at the Factory Theatre Studio Cafe, Nightwood presents the Clichettes in Up Against the Wallpaper, written by Kate Lushington and the Clichettes (Johanna Householder, Louise Garfield, Janice Hladki), directed by Maureen White. Special added attraction, Too Close to Home, written and performed by Kim Renders. Nominated for Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding costume design.

March 1988

Maureen White was laid off.

March 31 - April 23, 1988

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) “a comical Shakespearean romance”   by Ann-Marie MacDonald, commissioned and presented by Nightwood, directed and dramaturged by Banuta Rubess, at the Annex Theatre. Cast included Derek Boyes, Beverley Cooper, Diana Fajrajsl, Tanja Jacobs, and Martin Julien. Nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award, won the 1990 Governor General’s Award for Drama, a Chalmers Canadian Play award and   the Canadian Author’s Association Award. Re-mounted and toured in 1990.

September 1988

Kate Lushington was hired in July and began work as Artistic Director in September. Linda Brown was still the General Manager, and the Board for 1988/89 was: Susan Cole, Lesley Currie, Mary Durkan, Martha Leary, Kim Renders, Wendy Elliot, Djanet Sears, Sophia Sperdakos and Mary Vingoe.

December 1988

Fourth annual Groundswell.


March 23 to April 16, 1989

Nightwood presents The Paraskeva Principle ("A slightly red comedy celebrating the life and art of Paraskeva Clark") written and performed by Francine Volker, directed by Jo Ann McIntyre, at the Annex Theatre.

May 4 - 28, 1989

Nightwood presents The Herring Gull's Egg, written by Mary Vingoe and directed by Maureen White, at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. The cast was Donna Goodhand, David Kinsman, Kate Lynch, Simon Richards and Alan Williams.

Fall 1989

First issue of Nightwords Newsletter.

November 16-26 1989

at the Annex Theatre, Groundswell included   A Fertile Imagination by Susan G. Cole, directed by Kate Lushington; and Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots by Monique Mojica directed by Djanet Sears.

1989/90 Board of Directors : Phyllis Berck, Pat Idlette, Lesley Currie, Wendy J. Elliot, Linda Brown, Andrea Williams, Astrid Janson, Martha R. Leary, Djanet Sears, Sophia Sperdakos. The general manager is now Pegi McGillivray and Jennifer Trant is the Administrator. The playwright in residence for 1989/90 is Sally Clark.


Cole, Susan G. . “Ten Years and Five Minutes: Nightwood Celebrates a Decade of Feminist Theatre.” FUSE (Spring 1990): 12-15.

January 1990

Nightwood toured Goodnight Desdemona to the Great Canadian Theatre Company (Ottawa), Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Northern Light Theatre (Edmonton), and then opened at the Canadian Stage Company's Berkeley St. Theatre on March 28, 1990. The cast was the same as the 1988 production, except Tanja Jacobs was replaced by Kate Lynch.

February 9 - March 4 1990

Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots by Monique Mojica, a co-production with Nightwood, directed by Muriel Miguel, at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Performed by Mojica and Alejandra Nunez, with music by Nunez.

Fall 1990

Newsletter is re-titled Night Talk; Nightwood moved to Adelaide Street; Diana Braithwaite is the Playwright in Residence for 1990/91. The Play Group includes Martha Burns, Jennie Dean, Djanet Sears, Pat Idlette, Kate Lushington, Sally Clark and Astrid Janson. The Board for 1990/91: Kay Armatage, Berck, Elliott, Idlette, Janson, Marion MacKenzie, Shirley Netten, Judith Ramirez, Sears, Jo Anne Sommers, Sperdakos and Teresa  Przybylski. Kate Tucker is the Business Manager and Jennifer Trant continues as Administrator; Lynda Hill is Associate Artistic Coordinator.

November 15-25, 1990

"Blood and Power" 6th annual Groundswell included Martha and Elvira by Diana Braithwaite; and dark diaspora in...DUB by ahdri zhina mandiela.


February 1-24, 1991

Nightwood presents A Fertile Imagination by Susan G. Cole, directed by Kate Lushington, at the Poor Alex.   Cast: Kate Lynch, Robin Craig, Patricia Idlette. Nominated for 2 Dora Awards and remounted at Theatre Passe Muraille, Jan.- Feb. 1992, directed by Layne Coleman, and with Yanna McIntosh replacing Idlette.

Summer 1991

Sister Reach: Nightwood's anti-racist outreach project was run by Annette Clough, Coordinator. Other staff were included   Pauline Peters, associate artist, and Lynda Hill, associate director.

June 28 - July 7, 1991

Nightwood Theatre presents the b current production of dark diaspora in... DUB by ahdri zhina mandiela, a Fringe Festival show at the Poor Alex. Co-directed by mandiela and Djanet Sears, cast is Deborah Castello, Vernita de Lis Leece, Charmaine Headley, mandiela, Junia Mason, Kim Roberts and Vivine Scarlett.

October 24 to November 3, 1991

at the Tarragon Extra Space,"Hot Flashes" Seventh annual Groundswell.

Fall 1991

Monique Mojica is the playwright-in-residence for 1991/92.


January/February 1992

at the Poor Alex, Nightwood Theatre presents Diana Braithwaite's The Wonder Quartet:

 1. The Wonder of Man: A Black Woman's Trip Through the Galaxy, directed by Djanet Sears (with assistant Diane Roberts), (Jan. 21-Feb.9) with Melissa Adamson, Lili Francks, Rosemary Galloway, Taborah Johnson, Dawn Roach, Alison Sealy-Smith and Jean Small.;   2. Martha and Elvira directed by Alison Sealy-Smith (Feb. 11-16) with Taborah Johnson and Lili Francks; 3. Do Not Adjust Your Sets directed by ahdri zhina mandiela, (Feb.11-16) with Dawn Roach, Jean Small, Luther Hansraj, and Michael Malcolm;   4. Time to Forget directed by Braithwaite, in a late night reading of a play originated at the Write Off! fundraiser, about a family Christmas.

October 1992

Diane Roberts becomes Associate Artistic Director. The general manager is now Heather Young. The Board of Directors: Joanne Abbensatts, Clare Barclay, Carol Bolt, Rita Deverell, Sally Han, Teresa Przybylski, Djanet Sears and Elizabeth Shepherd.

October - November 1992

Tarragon Theatre, "Making Waves," 8th annual Groundswell included Dryland by Pauline Peters; and Charming and Rose by Kelley Jo Burke.


February - March, 1993

Nightwood Studio, Dryland: A Story Cycle written and performed by Pauline Peters, directed by Diane Roberts.

March 15, 1993

Young People's Theatre, 11th annual Feminist Cabaret. Diane Roberts is the artistic director and Alisa Palmer the assistant director of FemCab.

May 14-16, 1993

at the Nightwood Studio, Untitled, a workshop exploration of issues of race and friendship with Kate Lushington, Djanet Sears and Monique Mojica.

June 13 and 14, 1993

Young People's Theatre, Love and Other Strange Things by Lillian Allen.

July 1993

Kate Lushington resigns as artistic director as of Dec. 1. and Diane Roberts continues as Associate Artistic Director. Kate Tucker is the financial manager and Vanessa Gold Schiff is administrative assistant; the Board is Joanne Abbensetts, Clare Barclay, Carol Bolt, Sally Han, Teresa Przybylski, Elizabeth Shepherd.

October 9-30, 1993

Charming and Rose: True Love by Kelley Jo Burke, directed by Kate Lushington, at the Theatre Centre. The cast is Kristina Nicoll, Rick Roberts and Djanet Sears.


March 1994

the new artistic team is announced : Leslie Lester is Producer, Diane Roberts and Alisa Palmer are Artistic Co-Directors.

March 29 to April 3, 1994

Poor Alex Theatre, 9th annual Groundswell included   Mango Chutney by Dilara Ally, directed by Diane Roberts.

August 1994

Die in Debt presents in association with Nightwood Theatre, Oedipus by Ned Dickens, directed by Sarah Stanley.

Fall 1994

Nighttalk newsletter in new, one page format; Djanet Sears is playwright in residence for 1994/95 season. Kate Tucker is still financial manager. The Board: Abbensetts, Barclay, Florence Gibson, Catherine Glen, Bev John, Ann-Marie MacDonald, ahdri zhina mandiela, Amanda Mills and Elizabeth Shepherd, with Shara Stone and Linda Brown as advisors. The Artistic Advisory Group is formed to select Groundswell scripts and plan events: Dilara Ally, Sarah Stanley, Dawn Obakata, Jani Lauzon, Nadia Ross, Marium Carvell, and ahdri zhina mandiela.

November 15-December 4, 1994

Wearing the Bone , subtitled "A revolution in paradise," written and directed by Alisa Palmer, presented by Nightwood at the Theatre Centre West. Cast: Anne Anglin, Susan Coyne and Sandra Oh. Nominated for Dora awards for lighting and sound design.


Glen, Catherine. “On the Edge: Revisioning Nightwood.” Canadian Theatre Review 82 (Spring

1995): 36-39.

1994/95 Board added Anita Lee and Soraya Peerbaye became the Administrator.

March 24-April 2 , 1995

Theatre Centre West, 10th Groundswell included   Green is the Colour of Spring by Jay Pitter, directed by adhri zhina mandiela; and Mango Chutney by Dilara Ally, directed by Diane Roberts.

March 29, 1995

10th Anniversary Groundswell Panel Presentation, hosted by Diane Roberts and Alisa Palmer: discussion on the topic "Art in Your Face: what is women's theatre development and what should it be?".   The moderator was Sally Han and panellists were Diana Leblanc, Sandra Laronde, ahdri zhina mandiela, Ba à uta Rubess, Judith Thompson, and Jean Yoon; Alison Sealy-Smith and Kim Renders also participated.

Documented in Peerbaye, Soraya. “Look to the Lady: Re-examining Women’s Theatre.” Canadian Theatre Review 84 (Fall 1995): 22-25.

May 1995

Nightwood Studio,The Coloured Girls Project, a workshop written and directed by Diane Roberts. Participants: Carol Anderson, Michelle Martin, Shakura Saida, Alison Sealy-Smith,   and Jane Spidell.

Fall 1995

Soraya Peerbaye is an Associate Artist and the Groundswell Coordinator; Playwrite in residence for 1995/96 is Kim Renders. The 1995/96 Board: Abbensetts, Barclay, Bev John, Anita Lee, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Elizabeth Shepherd, with Amanda Mills as advisor. The Artistic Advisory Group is Alex Bulmer, Marium Carvell, Jani Lauzon, mandiela, Obakata, Pauline Peters, Sarah Stanley and Jean Yoon.

November 1995 to March 1996

The Female Body series - a series of workshops on voice, movement, dance, and performance.


Roberts, Diane. “Dramaturgy: A Nightwood Conversation.” Canadian Theatre Review 87

(Summer 1996): 22-24.

Winter 1996

Diane Roberts announces that she is leaving her position as Artistic Co-Director. The associate artists are now Soraya Peerbaye and Jay Pitter.

March 8 - 30, 1996

Mango Chutney by Dilara Ally, directed by Diane Roberts, at the Music Gallery. Cast: Elisa Moolecherry, Monique Mojica, Soheil Parsa, Simmi Raymond, Vikram Sahay.

March 24, 1996

Brigantine Room at Harbourfront, the return of FemCab after a two year hiatus. Produced by Dina Graser, directed by Alisa Palmer, and curated by Graser, Palmer, Leslie Lester, Soraya Peerbaye and Jay Pitter. Hosted by Marium Carvell and Elvira Kurt.

May 8-12, 1996

11th Groundswell at the Factory Studio Cafe included The Madwoman and the Fool: A Harlem Duet, written and directed by Djanet Sears.

Oct. 26-Nov. 10, 1996

at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, Sugar 'n' Spice in association with Nightwood presents   Afrocentric by David Odhiambo, directed by Maxine Bailey, with Conrad Coates and Sharon Lewis.

1996/97 Board : Barclay, Shirley Barrie, Sierra Bacquie, Dawn Carter, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Dawn Obakata, with advisors Amanda Mills and Elizabeth Shepherd. The Artistic Advisory Group is: Bulmer, Carvell, Lauzon, mandiela, Obakata, Sheysali Saujam, and Sarah Stanley. Alisa Palmer is now the sole Artistic Director.


Scott, Shelley. “Collective Creation and the Changing mandate of Nightwood Theatre”. Theatre Research in Canada Vol. 18. No. 2 (Fall 1997). 191-207.

Scott, Shelley.   Feminist Theory and Nightwood Theatre. PhD Thesis, Graduate centre for Study of Drama, University of Toronto.

March 4-11, 1997

Creativity Cave in association with Nightwood presents Green is the Colour of Spring by Jay Pitter.

March 7, 1997

FemCab held at the Brigatine Room, Harbourfront Centre. Hosts are Taborah Johnson and   Diane Flacks.

April 19- May 18, 1997

Nightwood presents Harlem Duet written and directed by Djanet Sears, at the Tarragon Extra Space. Cast: Barbara Barnes Hopkins, Jeff Jones, Dawn Roach, Alison Sealy Smith, Nigel Shawn Williams.   Harlem Duet won four Dora Mavor Moore awards, for best production, new play, director and   female performance for Alison Sealy-Smith, and was re-mounted at the Canadian Stage Company’s Berkeley Street stage beginning October 27, 1997. Winner of Governor-General’s Award.

November-December 1997

Random Acts , written and performed by Diane Flacks, presented by Nightwood at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

1996/97 Board : Barrie, Bacquie, Diane Flacks, Danielle LiChong, MacDonald, Obakata and Angela Robertson. Honourary Board: Rina Fraticelli and Patricia Rozema. Playwright in residence Alanis King Odjig.

1997/98 Board : joined by Jennifer Kawaja and Eiko Shaul. Artistic Advisory: Bulmer, Karen Glave, mandiela, Erin McMurtry, Sonja Mills, Melanie Nicholls-King, Obakata and Sheyfali Shaujam. Apprentice producer is Jacquie Carpenter. Playwright in residence is M.J. Kang.


April 25-27, 1998

Women in Shorts - Mini-festival of Canadian women actors. Brigatine Room at Harbourfront, as part of the DuMaurier World Stage Festival.

May 2 and 3, 1998

Workshop of The Skriker by Caryl Churchill, directed by Palmer, with Clare Coulter, Jennifer Podemski and Waneta Storms. At Theatre Passe Muraille as part of the DuMaurier World Stage Festival.

May 13-15, 1998

Groundswell 1998 at Nightwood Studio: 1. The Aria Project - Sandra Laronde; 2. Untitled - Karin Randoja; 3. A Cup of Tears - Sheila James; 4. Hee-Hee: Tales from the White Diamond Mountain - M. J. Kang; 5. Jaded - Banuta Rubess; 6. Fish-eye - Ann Holloway; 7. Peter Panic - Ruthe Whiston.

December 1998

One Flea Spare - “an Obie award-winning script by one of the hottest new feminist playwrights on the international scene,” American poet Naomi Wallace. Directed by Palmer at Canadian Stage.

1998 Playwright in Residence is Sonja Mills


Random Acts tours to One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo in Calgary and Jest in Time in Halifax.

May 11-21, 1999

Groundswell 1999 at the Nightwood Studio: 1. The Gospel According to Me - Tabby Johnson; 2. Anything That Moves - Ann-Marie MacDonald; 3. Louise and the Red River Flood - Sheila James; 4. The Scrubbing Project - Sandra Laronde, Jani Lauzon, Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John; 5. Home - Rena Polley; 6. The Samba Prophet - Padma Viswanathan; 7. The Danish Play - Sonja Mills; 8. The White Dress - Kathleen Oliver; 9. Arias - Lynda Hill; 10. Smudge - Alex Bulmer; 11. Brown Girl in the Ring - Judy McKinley; 12. Excerpt of a New Work - Djanet Sears.

Nov. 26, 1999

Nightwood’s Taking Up More Space Launch - celebration of move to new location at 9 Saint Nicholas Street, and 20th anniversary season. Includes “Feminist Schmeminist” open mike cabaret hosted by Sonja Mills.

1999/2000 Board of Directors : Saniya Ansari, Shirley Barrie (Co-Chair), Maggie Cassella, Diane Flacks, Deb Wise Harris, Jennifer Kawaja, Dawn Obokata, Angela Robertson (Co-Chair), Harriet Sachs, Lisa Silverman.

Artistic Advisory : Alex Bulmer, Karen Glave, Erin McMurtry, Sonja Mills, Melanie Nicholls-King, Dawn Obokata, Soraya Peerbaye, Sheyfali Saujani.

1999/2000 Playwrights in Residence - Sandra Laronde, Jani Lauzon, Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John.


March 5, 2000

Five Minute Feminist Cabaret at Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre. Hosted by Sandra Shamas and Karen Robinson.

April 25 to May 13, 2000

Anything That Moves by Ann-Marie MacDonald, directed by Palmer, music by Allen Cole. At the Canadian Stage Theatre, upstairs, as part of the DuMaurier World Stage Festival. Designed by Astrid Jansen and Andrea Lundy. Cast: Tamara Bernier, Sandra Caldwell, Dan Chameroy, David Dunbar, Judy Marshak, Marc Richard. Nominated for Dora Mavor Moore awards as Outstanding New Musical and Outstanding Performance,   Female Principal Role - Judy Marshak.

June 27-30, 2000

17th annual Groundswell,   Nightwood Studio: 1. The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God - Djanet Sears; 2. Girls’ Night Out - Sharon Lewis; 3. Smudge - Alex Bulmer; 4. The Scrubbing Project - The Turtle Gals: Sandra Laronde, Jani Lauzon, Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John; 5. Write From the Hip - short works by new, young women writers.

Nov. 18 - Dec. 10, 2000

Nightwood Theatre in association with S.N.I.F.F.inc. presents Smudge by Alex Bulmer at the Tarragon Extra Space. Directed by Alisa Palmer. Cast: Diane Flacks, Sherrylee Hunter, Kate Lynch. Nominated for Chalmers award and three Dora nominations. Published in Canadian Theatre Review #108 (Fall 2001).

2000/2001 Board : same, except Lisa Silverman no longer on board. Artistic Advisory: maxine bailey, Alex Bulmer, Sonja Mills, Soraya Peerbaye, Karen Robinson, Kristen Thomson.

2000/2001 Playwright in Residence is Jean Yoon.


Alisa Palmer and Leslie Lester end their terms as Artistic Director and Artistic Producer, replaced by Kelly Thornton and Nathalie Bonjour.

February 16-18, 2001

Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God by Djanet Sears, at the DuMaurier Theatre Centre. A work in progress produced with Obsidian Theatre Company in association with Harbourfront Centre.

March 4, 2001

Five Minute Feminist Cabaret at the Bluma Appel Theatre, hosted by Maggie Cassella and Jennifer Podemski.

May1-June 3, 2001

Anything That Moves is re-mounted at the Tarragon Theatre. Won four Dora Mavor Moore awards in June 2002: Best Production of a Musical, Outstanding Direction of a Musical (Alisa Palmer), Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Principal Role, Musical (Glynis Ranney) and Outstanding Musical Direction (Allen Cole).

June 10-16, 2001

18th annual Groundswell at the Nightwood Studio. Includes Write from the Hip, Nightwood’s three month mentoring program for young women. New and Old Artistic Directors both directed. Shows included Little Mercy’s First Murder by Morwyn Brebner.

June 15, 2001

Farewell Party for Palmer and Lester, welcome for the new team.

Oct. 8, 2001

Funny Business: A Tip of the Hat to Lily - comedy cabaret tribute to Lily Tomlin, hosted by Diane Flacks as part of the World Leaders: Festival of Creative Genius at Harbourfront.


Feb.5-23, 2002

Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God written and directed by Djanet Sears, at the DuMaurier Theatre Centre. Co-production with Obsidian Theatre Company. Cast: Alison Sealy-Smith, Walter Borden, David Collins, Barbara Barnes-Hopkins, Lili Francks, Herb Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Michael Spencer-Davis, and a chorus of thirteen. Won a Dora Mavor Moore Award in June 2002 for Oustanding Choreography by Vivine Scarlett.

Spring 2002

Smudge tours to Vancouver

March 8, 9,10, 2002

Hourglass - I’m Not Yer Little Lady party with performances; The Hourglass Symposium: A Roundtable at Hart House with Lynn Fernie, Brigitte Gall, Nalo Hopkinson, Alex Bulmer and Mirah Soleil-Ross; and FemCab hosted by Kate Rigg and Shoshana Sperling.

May 20-26, 2002

Groundswell at Tallulah’s Cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times. Shows include The Trigger by Carmen Aguirre from Vancouver, and Blood by Jean Yoon. Also includes Write from the Hip   and Playwright Slams.

2002/2002 Administration: Mariko Tamaki, Natasha Mytnowych. Director of Youth Initiatives: Lisa Silverman. 2001/2002 Board of Directors: Gigi Basanta (Chair), Kathleen Gallagher, Sonja Mills, Kiran Mirchandani, Sarah Neville, Chanrouti Ramnarine, Margaret Ann Tamaki. Honourary Board Members: Dionne Brand, Rina Fraticelli, Patricia Rozema, Sandra Shamas.

Artist Advisory : Carol Anderson, maxine bailey, Sonja Mills, Evalyn Parry, Karen Robinson, Michelle St. John, Kristen Thomson. National Artist Advisory: Lise Ann Johnson, Deena Aziz, Jillian Keilly, Carmen Aguirre.

First Commissioned playwright - Sheila Heti.

2002/2003 (only changes to 2001/2002 are noted): Administration : Iris Nemani, Katrina Baran. Producers: Naomi Campbell, Janice Rieger. Board of Directors: Maja Ardal (Chair), Sally Han, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Megan Peck, Chanrouti Ramnarine, Margaret Ann Tamaki, Lascelle Wingate. Artist in Residence: Ruth Madoc-Jones, Playwright in Residence: Marion de Vries.

November 19-December 15, 2002

The Danish Play by Sonja Mills, directed by Kelly Thornton, at the Tarragon Extra Space.

Cast: Kate Hennig, Christine Brubaker, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Randi Helmers, Erika Hennebury, Eric Goulem, and Bruce Hunter. November 28, special performance and reception for the Ambassador of Denmark to Canada. Nominated for two Dora Mavor Moore Awards and invited to tour to Aveny-T Theatre in Copenhagen, May 2004.


February 18-March 9, 2003

Finding Regina by Shoshana Sperling, directed by Kelly Thornton, at Theatre Passe Muraille. Cast: Jeremy Harris, Teresa Pavlinek and Shoshana Sperling. A co-production with the Globe Theatre in Regina, where it ran October 8-13, 2002.

March 8, 2003

FemCab Remix at Theatre Passe Muraille. Curated by Mariko Tamaki and hosted by Elvira Kurt.

March 2003

Nightwood moves to new location: 55 Mill Street, Suite 301, The Case Goods Building, in Toronto’s new Distillery District. Building run by Artscape and also home to Tapestry New Opera Works. The Tapestry-Nightwood New Works Studio is located in the Cannery Building.

Spring 2003 Board Members : Maja Ardal (Chair), Susan Baker, Barb Linds, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Megan Peck, Lascelle Wingate.

April 12, 2003

The Backstage Ball, a Dance-a-thon Fundraiser, held at Berkeley Church.

June 1, 2003

Strawberry and tea reception in new location, reading from Mercedes by Marion de Vries, which was also featured at Groundswell.

June 2-8, 2003

20th Annual Groundswell Festival at Nightwood’s new location. Last night featuring young writers from the Write from the Hip program.

October 21-November 2, 2003

Hysteria: A Festival of Women , co-produced with Buddies in Bad Times, curated by Kelly Thornton and Moynan King.


February 17-March 14, 2004

China Doll by Marjorie Chan, directed by Kelly Thornton, at Tarragon Extra Space.

March 8, 2004

Nightwood presented an International Women's Day panel discussion called "First Steps: Chinese Canadian Women Leaving Their Mark."

March to August 2004

Write from the Hip program, facilitated by Lisa Codrington.

May 1, 2004

The Great May Day Cabaret included Las Pasionarias by Aida Jordao, developed with the support of Nightwood

May 2004

The Danish Play toured to Copenhagen, then played at the Magnetic North Festival in Edmonton in June and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa October 26 to November 6, 2004.

June 27, 2004

Anna Chatterton, Co-Director of Youth Initiatives, coordinates Busting Out!, a new theatre program for eight girls aged twelve to fifteen. Culminated in the performance of a collective creation, June 27.

June 2004

Nightwood held three fundraising events: A Yard Sale at Trinity Bellwoods Park, an Online Silent Auction, and "Strap One On," a Pride Week Event fundraiser organized by Buddies in Bad Times and Nightwood

July 5 and 6, 2004

Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) Mini-Conference on Dramaturgy, held at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto. Marjorie Chan spoke about the playwriting process for her play China Doll, and Kelly Thornton and Yvette Nolan (A.D. of Native Earth) addressed "the status of women in Canadian theatre and the dramaturgy of work by women."

August 24 to 29, 2004

21st annual Groundswell festival held at the Tapestry/Nightwood New Works Studio: six plays from the Groundswell Playwrights Unit and seven from Write from the Hip. Featured work by Marilo Nunez, Three Fingered Jack and the Legend of Joaquin Murieta.

November 4-14, 2004

Second annual Hysteria: A Festival of Women. Festival Directors Kelly Thornton and Moynan King, Assistant Festival Directors Erika Hennebury and Natasha Mytnowych. Includes "Saucy: Girls with Smart Mouths," an afternoon event for girls under 21.

November 12-14, 2004

"The Status of Women in Theatre: A Public Debate!" Kelly Thornton and Hope McIntyre, Chair of the Women's Caucus of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, assembled a national advisory for a three-day conference, taking place as part of Hysteria. A public debate was held on Nov. 13, 2:00 pm, at Tallulah's Cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times, hosted by Elvira Kurt. "Since last year's original panel discussion at Hysteria," similar panels have been held at PACT, Magnetic North, and LMDA.

Committee members: Jackie Maxwell, Jan Selman, Lousie Forsyth, Yvette Nolan, Naomi Campbell, Nancy Webster, Judith Rudakoff, Diane Roberts, Jessica Schneider, Cynthia Grant, Kate Weiss, Aida Jordao, Susan Bennett, Denyse Lynde, and Maria Campbell, with core research by Rebecca Burton.

December 8, 2004

"Systemic Problem Smothers Half the Talent," Globe and Mail column by Kate Taylor, R1

Board of Directors, Winter 2004:

Maja Ardal (Chair), Susan Baker, Kavita Joshi, Michele Landsberg, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Lascelle Wingate. Commissioned Playwrights: Marjorie Chan and Sheila Heti. Intern Company Dramaturg: Erica Kopyto.

Board of Directors, Summer 2004: Barb Linds (Chair), Lesley Ackrill, Susan Baker, Antonella Ceddia, Michele Landsberg, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Helen Thundercloud. Commissioned Playwrights: Lisa Codrington and Sheila Heti. Playwright in Residence: Ann Holloway.


Nightwood was accepted to Creative Trust, a unique program that supports and strengthens Toronto's mid-size music, dance and theatre companies by assisting them in achieving organizational and financial balance, and acquiring and maintaining a fund of Working Capital.

January 10-15

Workshop of All Our Happy Days Are Stupid by Sheila Heti, directed by Banuta Rubess, held at the Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio.

January 27

Second annual "Intimate Dinner" hosted by Michele Landsberg, Barb Linds and Debbie Gray.

February 12 to March 13, 2005

Cast Iron by Lisa Codrington at Tarragon Extra Space, produced in association with Obsidian Theatre. Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela and starring Alison Sealy-Smith. The play began in the Write from the Hip program and was also done at the Toronto Fringe.

March 4

Kelly Thornton and Nathalie Bonjour were honoured by The Honourable Sarmite D. Bulte, MP, at her International Women's Day Breakfast.

March 6

In recognition of International Women's Day and in conjunction with Cast Iron, Nightwood held a panel discussion called "Talking Black: Canadian Women Speak Out on the Politics of Language,” hosted by Sharon Lewis

March 19

Mount Saint Vincent University hosted a Research Collaboration Workshop: Women in Theatre: The Maritime Experience. Rebecca Burton and Denyse Lynde participated in this conference as representatives of the National Committee on the Status of Women in Canadian Theatre.

May 2, 2005

Celebration of Nightwood's 25th anniversary at FemCab, hosted by Diane Flacks and Karen Robinson, and featuring special guest Gloria Steinem.

August 21 to 27, 2005

22nd annual Groundswell Festival held at Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio. Works presented: 1. The Five Stages of Womanhood by Bev Cooper and Diane Flacks, directed by Leah Cherniak. With Cherniak, Cooper, Flacks and Martha Ross; 2. Love Medicine by Dawn Dumont; 3. Madre by Beatriz Pizano; 4. Las Pasionarias by Aida Jordao; 5. Anorexican by Becky Johnson; 6. Skim by Mariko Tamaki, directed by Kelly Thornton with Julie Tamiko Manning; 7. Horse Latitudes by Nicola Harwood. On August 27, six short works from the Write From the Hip program. The Write From the Hip plays were matched with a professional director and a cast of professional and emerging actors from Nightwood's Emerging Actors Program, led by Natasha Mytnowych.

October 2

"Ms.Conceptions: Queer Mothers and Children Tackle the Politics of Family." A panel discussion moderated by Elvira Kurt, to celebrate the premiere of Diane Flacks' one woman show Bear With Me.

November 23 to December 4, 2005

Bear With Me, by Diane Flacks, presented by Nightwood in association with Buddies in Bad Times. Directed by Kelly Thornton. A staging of Flack's book, Bear With Me: What They Don't Tell You About Pregnancy and New Motherhood.

Board of Directors, Winter 2005: Antonella Ceddia and Barb Linds (Co-Chairs), Lesley Ackrill, Susan Baker, Michele Landsberg, Du-Yi Leu (Treasurer), Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville (Secretary), Helen Thundercloud. Administrative Assistant: Marilo Nunez. Commissioned Playwrights: Beverley Cooper, Diane Flacks, Sheila Heti and Mariko Tamaki. Playwright in Residence: Ann Holloway.

Board of Directors, Summer 2005. Antonella Ceddia and Barb Linds (Co-Chairs), Lesley Ackrill, Susan Baker, Michele Landsberg, Trish McGrath (Treasurer), Sarah Neville (Secretary), Helen Thundercloud. Administrative Assistant: Christine Berg. New Director of Marketing and Development: Frances Shakov. Commissioned Playwrights: Bev Cooper, Diane Flacks, Mariko Tamaki. Playwright in Residence: Sonja Mills.


March 5, 2006


April 29 to May 28

Mathilde by Veronique Olmi. Translated by Morwyn Brebner and directed by Kelly Thornton with Martha Burns, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.


1. The contents of the telegram sent by Mrs. Luella Lindley are contained in a letter from Nannary to the St. John's Evening Telegram announcing his resignation from management of the company and dated 15 November 1879. According to Nannary, his failure to obtain Lindley as comedian, with the consequent limitations in performable repertoire, was the blow which brought the collapse of his company in Newfoundland.
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2.Roche, Taverner, and Welby were newly arrived from participating in the collapse of Nannary's company in Newfoundland, where they had declined to perform without payment of their salaries.
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3.In Town Hall Tonight Walter McRaye, who had once acted with Lindley, said that Lindley owed nearly every hotel manager in Canada. McRaye said: "Once in the Maritimes a landlord seized the company and travelled with it until his money was paid" (26).
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4.The dates of performance in the Annapolis Valley come from records kept by Albert Taverner and from the New York Dramatic Mirror; most pertinent local newspapers are now not extant. Lindley's name is not in the local press again until Yarmouth.
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5. Lindley says in this account that they used three hand-cars; in Merely Players he says there were "six hand-cars full of live freight and dead baggage" (87).
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6.Lindley said in Merely Players that he toured Hamlet with Stetson (89), but fairly complete local records show Kentuck and Neck and Neck as the chief pieces.
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7.This is a bill for an intended performance in Saint John on 13 July that did not take place on that date because the company was in Charlottetown instead.
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8.This is a playbill for Neck and Neck performed in Halifax on 7 August after Stetson joined the Kitty Lougee Company. The Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library has one dated Saint John, 30 July, for a performance that did not take place because Lindley's company had collapsed. The Halifax Morning Herald carried a note that Lindley's company intended to be at the Halifax Academy of Music on 26 July, with Stetson as the star.
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9. Nannary urged construction of an Opera House to entice those "first-class companies visiting Halifax and St. John" to include Charlottetown in their circuit; he thought this would cost about $15,000. He was also, at this time, hopeful of influencing the building of a new Opera House in Saint John for about $20,000. Earlier he had done the same in Halifax, but the theatres erected in Halifax and Saint John were far more splendid than he proposed.
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10. For a discussion of Shakespeare performance in Atlantic Canada see Smith, "Shakespeare." Trends are consistent with those discussed by Levine. By the end of the century the Saint John Opera House and the Halifax Academy of Music would be filled most often with the sensational, with broad farce comedy and with Irish comedy; yet concurrently H. Price Webber in particular would be able to fill smaller houses with old fashioned melodramas and local hits, and that mixture of tastes would prevail throughout the region.
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11. Stetson and his wife Marion Summers performed in Kentuck and Neck and Neck (3-7 August) and in Divorced (13 August). That they had joined another troubled company is evident from conflicts that caused cancellation of an 11 August performance of Divorced after the audience were seated. Kitty Lougee's company had been in the Academy of Music 16-24 July, vacated it for Lindley/Nannary's anticipated arrival, and resumed playing with Stetson as star on 3 August.
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12.Over the next few years there were several complaints about the smallness of the theatre. In 1884 H. Price Webber chose to play in the Market Hall instead, and in 1885 J. S. Murphy moved The Kerry Gow to Market Hall "to give the public an opportunity to see the drama as it should be seen" (Ex. 30 Sept.1885).
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13.I cannot see the evidence for Linda Peake's assertion that "Audiences at first filled the theatre but, as winter approached and the programme became redundant, audiences thinned considerably" (Peake, 127).
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14.Linda Peake says that Lindley then left the Island "Supposedly for a short season in Pictou, Nova Scotia" (127). The Pictou papers are missing to confirm this. On 29 November the Halifax Morning Herald announced that he was engaging a new company for a Halifax season. In December, he took East Lynne, Two Orphans, Our Boys, and Caste up and down the east coast of New Brunswick.
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15. The other companies in Charlottetown in 1880 were: Louise Leighton, who had split off from Lindley, with three performances of Pinafore in June; the Lewis-Potowski Follies, whose leaders with their repertoire Lindley used in the core of a new company of his own, with five days of different plays; and Kittee Lougee with three performances of Divorced.
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16. The Nova Scotia Public Archives has playbills for Love and Honor coupled on 29 December with Mrs. White and on 30 December with My Precious Boy; also for The British Flag (5 Jan 1881), The Ticket-of-Leave Man with Soldiers, Tinkers, Tailors and Up in the World (22 Jan. 1881).
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17. Specifically Col. Vigors and officers of the 19th Regiment and Col. Drayson and officers of the Royal Artillery.
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18. Lindley had played in Mazeppa with Zoe Gayton before (Lindley 53-54). In Merely Players he mentions other Mazeppas with whom he has acted (30-31).
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19. Lindley's adaptation Castaways was first produced in London, Ontario in 1889.
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20. The Daily Echo noted also his authorship of "several plays" (25 Oct. 1894). In Town Hall Tonight Walter McRaye commented less flatteringly that Lindley "toured the smaller towns, playing a lot of pirated plays he had stolen from New York" (26).
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21. On 26 May, when the Charlottetown Examiner first began anticipating Lindley's arrival "on or about 11th July," he was playing in Ontario. On 13 July, when he was due to open in Moncton on the 16th, the paper expected him in Charlottetown on 6 August, but he in fact opened there on 30 July. At the end of the Charlottetown season, the Examiner projected a return engagement on 15 October, but this did not materialize. (On 27 October he arrived at Gunn's Opera House in Truro too late to set up for Castaways, so Shadows of a Great City had to be substituted.) The tentativeness of all scheduling is thus illustrated.
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22. McRaye says that Flint's husband Douglas Secord was "general factotum with the company and doubled in so many parts that the auditors finally forgot his original name" (26).
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23. The Josie Mills company toured in the Maritimes in 1892, 1893 and again in 1897.
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24. The Census of 1881 and 1891 show Halifax increased from 36,100 to 38,495 and Moncton from 5, 032 to 8,762. Saint John decreased from 26,127 to 24,184. Charlottetown remained essentially unchanged at 11,485 and 11,373 as did Chatham at 5,767 and 5,644 and Newcastle at 4,209 and 4,006. Census information for St. John's is not available.
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Census 1881

Census 1891

Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS) MG vol.12

Scrapbook 277a: 39. Taverner Collection. Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library.

Theatre Collection. Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library.


Acadian Recorder (AR)

Charlottetown Examiner (Ex)

Halifax Daily Echo (E)

Halifax Morning Chronicle (MC)

Halifax Morning Herald (MH)

Miramichi Advance (MA)

Moncton Daily Times (DT)

Moncton Times (MT)

New York Dramatic Mirror

Saint John Morning News (MN)

St. John's Evening Telegram (ET)

Union Advocate (Moncton) (UA)

World (Chatham) (W)

Secondary Sources

Acheson, T.W. "The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes, 1880-1910." Acadiensis 1.2 (Spring 1972): 3-28.

Evans, Chad. Frontier Theatre. Victoria: Sono Nis , 1983.

Fraser, Kathleen. "Theatrical Touring in Late Nineteenth Century Canada: Ida Van Courtland and the Taverner Company 1877-1896." Diss. U of Western Ontario. 1985.

Levine, Lawrence W. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988.

Lindley, Harry. Merely Players. Toronto: Luella Lindley, c. 1894.

McRaye, Walter. Town Hall Tonight. Toronto: Ryerson P, 1929.

Peake, Linda M. "Establishing a Theatrical Tradition: Prince Edward Island, 1800-1900" Theatre History in Canada/Histoire du théâtre au Canada 2.2 (Fall 1981): 117-132.

Preston, Henry W. "Prologue on the Opening of the Histrionic Society Theatre in Fredericton." Loyalist. 9 January 1845.

Smith, Mary Elizabeth. "Shakespeare in Atlantic Canada During the Nineteenth Century. Theatre History in Canada/Histoire du théâtre au Canada 3.2 (Fall 1982): 126-136.

Van Courtland, Ida. Address given to the University Women's Club of Ottawa circa 1918. Taverner Collection. Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library.