Vol. 10 No. 1 (Spring 1989)

DORA MAVOR MOORE: BEFORE THE NEW PLAY SOCIETY

PAULA SPERDAKOS

When Dora Mavor Moore founded the New Play Society in Toronto in 1946, she was already close to sixty years old and had been working in the theatre as actress, director, producer and teacher for almost forty years. During those years, Canada had virtually no indigenous professional theatre; it was the amateur stage that kept Canadian theatre alive. Her work from 1906 to 1946 serves as evidence not only of what forms Canadian theatrical activity took, but also of what it meant to make one's living in the theatre then.

Lorsque Dora Mavor Moore créa la New Play Society à Toronto en 1946, elle avait déjà presque soixante ans et travaillait au théâtre depuis quelque quarante ans, a titre d'actrice, metteur en scène, directeur de productions et institutrice. Durant ces années, il n'existait au Canada aucun théâtre professionnel indigène; il n'y avait que les amateurs qui seuls gardaient vivant le théâtre canadien-anglais. Le travail de Dora Mavor Moore pendant les années 1906-1946 fait preuve non seulement des formes que le théâtre canadien a suivies, mais aussi de ce que c'était que de gagner sa vie au théâtre durant cette période.

In 1979, in the last year of her long life, Dora Mavor Moore received a letter from one of her former students, Leon Major, on behalf of a committee organized to establish theatrical awards in Toronto. In the letter, Major wrote, 'it was unanimous that the awards be called the "Dora Mavor Moore" awards . . I All of us would be gratified if you, who have contributed so much to the theatre in this country, would permit us to honour you by allowing us to use your name.'1 Mrs. Moore was delighted: 'It means more to me to be so recognized by my fellow workers in the theatre than to have a string of letters after my name.'2 In fact, the 'string of letters' after her name had also come her way in recent years, as she had been awarded an honourary Doctorate of Fine Arts, an honourary Doctorate of Laws, and the Order of Canada. But this acknowledgement of the respect of her peers was the best tribute the professional theatre could give her.

Mrs. Moore did not live to see the first Dora Mavor Moore Awards ceremony held at the St. Lawrence Centre on 25 January 1981, but the event was nevertheless a personal triumph for her. To a considerable extent, her efforts in the theatre had helped to make a professional theatre community possible.

It is for her work with the New Play Society, Toronto's first indigenous professional theatre, that Dora Mavor Moore is best known. From 1946 until 1971, when the NPS gave up its charter, and its 'founder and producer' retired, the history of the Society was one of great achievement. Over seventy plays, including eleven by Canadians,3 were produced, and over one hundred performances of nine original short plays were given to benefit the Canadian Mental Health Association. Mrs. Moore was also involved in the therapeutic use of drama for the mentally ill, producing two pageants for the Ontario Hospital in Whitby. The NPS was the first English-Canadian theatre to have its own theatre school, and the first to present an all-Canadian production -- Morley Callahan's To Tell the Truth-at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The Society gave considerable help and support to the formation of the Stratford Festival, and was the originating company of the highly successful Canadian revue, Spring Thaw. It can be argued that the NPS made possible the founding of the Crest Theatre and the Jupiter Theatre, by clearly showing that Toronto was at last ready to accept and to encourage a professional theatre of its own.

But when Dora founded the NPS in 1946 'to establish a living theatre in Canada on a professional but non-profit basis,'4 she was already close to sixty years old and had been working in the theatre for almost forty years. During those years, she trained for the theatre in Toronto, London, and New York, established herself as a professional actress in the United States and England, and returned home in 1919 to experience the impact of the Little Theatre Movement on Canada. She witnessed the founding and dissolution of dozens of amateur theatre groups in Toronto, the various attempts to create a National Theatre, the formation of the Dominion Drama Festival, and the growing interest in the use of drama as a teaching tool. Many of the other significant theatrical figures of the time bad come and gone, but Mrs. Moore persevered through all the changes, through a Depression and two World Wars, getting on with her job as she saw it, which was to create the circumstances in which theatre could be made to serve the community. Between 1913 and 1946 she taught for over twenty different schools, colleges, and organizations, producing and directing over fifty-five productions for various theatre groups; she gave lectures about the theatre, adjudicated, became involved in the use of theatre in education, and founded one of the most significant amateur groups of the period: the Village Players. In many ways, the history of the theatre in Canada in the twentieth century is embodied in Dora Mavor Moore's life and work. It is the first four decades of her career, the years before the New Play Society, which are surveyed in this article.

Dora Mavor was born on 8 April 1888 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Christina Watt Mavor and James Mavor. In 1892, the Mavor family moved to Toronto, where Dora's father took over the chair of Political Economy at the University of Toronto. James Mavor was to have an enormous influence on Canadian culture and economy: a supporter of Canadian literature and art, and one of the founders of the Art Gallery of Ontario, he was also responsible for the meeting between Charles Currelly and the archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie that led eventually to the founding of the Royal Ontario Museum. He wrote what for many years was considered the definitive historical work about Russia and its people, An Economic History of Russia (1914), as well as many reports for the Canadian government on labour relations, immigration, taxation and trade. To James Mavor is attributed the creation of a modern department of political economy at the University of Toronto.5

The Mavor family lived in the only professor's house on the University of Toronto campus, a 16-room mansion on an acre of ground on what is now King's College Road. In talking about it, Mrs. Moore said, 'The house ... was described by one of [my father's] students as "At Once a Rallying Centre for Toronto and a Clearing-House for Europe."'6 Professor Mavor held open house to a steady stream of celebrated visitors from all over the world, as well as to his students and Toronto friends. His daughter particularly remembered meeting the naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton, Sir William Van Horne, manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the British acting couple, Gertrude Elliott and Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, the Russian anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin,7 as well as W. B. Yeats and Ben Greet, two later influences on Dora's work in the theatre.

Dora attended school in Toronto, first at Havergal College from 18941895, and then at Bishop Strachan School from 1895-1900. But James Mavor felt that if his children were to escape the parochialism of Canadian life they must travel, and see more of the world than Toronto. So in 1901 Dora and her younger brother Wilfrid were taken by their mother to England, where Dora attended high schools in London and Kent until 1904. Then the three Mavors went to Brussels for two years, where Dora learned French at the finishing school L'Ecole Sup6rieure de Demoiselles. She was sufficiently traumatized by having to change schools so often that she recalled these experiences always with misery: 'I can remember going through hell with other children of my age, being so different . . .'8

Letters written home to her father by Dora during this time suggest that they had a pleasant, if somewhat distant, relationship. But she later said that her father was a formidable, even forbidding parent, and that his children were frightened of him. The conflict beween father and daughter most probably surfaced when Dora returned to Canada in 1906 to attend University College of the University of Toronto. During the next four years she found herself, as she later said, so 'overwhelmed by the oppressive Intellectual Hot-House of [her] home environment'9 that she failed her second year twice, then dropped out of the university programme at Radcliffe College after one year. But although her sense of inadequacy and of her father's disappointment made Dora lose confidence in herself, she nonetheless had two experiences of the theatre which deeply influenced her.

In 1906, as she put it, 'My earliest interest in the theatre was aroused . . .'10 She saw a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by her father's friend, the actor-manager Philip Ben Greet and his Pastoral Players during Convocation week at the University of Toronto. Greet was dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to as many people, under as many circumstances, as possible. In 1886 he had given the first professional pastoral performances in Britain of Shakespeare's plays. In 1902 the Ben Greet Players first toured the United States, and in 1903 James Mavor arranged for Greet's company to come to Toronto. In Greet's 1906 company were Sybil Thorndike and her brother Russell, both at the beginning of their professional careers. Dora later said, 'I ask you to imagine the impression made on a very young girl, of the natural surroundings of these productions, the sincerity of the young people taking part in a pioneer field under inspired direction-and perhaps best of all, hearing Shakespeare's lines beautifully spoken.'11

The experience of seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by a professional company on Dora's home territory had a two-fold effect on her. It marked the beginning of her life-long dedication to Shakespeare, and it made her realize that the theatre was a place in which men and women were equal in status.12

Then, in 1908, she played Rosalind in a production of As You Like it for the Women's Dramatic Club of University College. Acting was a revelation to her: 'The only thing I'd ever been successful with in my whole life was this play. It was the only thing I'd ever been told was right.13 Dora, who had never been able to express herself before, realized that performing could mean freedom from one's limitations. She never forgot the feeling of joy it gave her to communicate with people through Shakespeare's words, and the memory of the way in which performing transformed her own life was to inform her work in the theatre for the rest of her life. When she began teaching and directing, she always aimed to give others the opportunity to find themselves in the theatre, just as she had done.

After As You Like It, Dora acted as much as she could, as Olivia in Twelfth Night at the University of Toronto, as India in a patriotic celebration called 'The Masque of Empire' for the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario (' "India", in a saffron -coloured veil and draperies, brought down the house with her dramatic representation, )14 and as one of the daughters in Maeterlinck's Interior at the Arts and Letters Club, directed by Roy Mitchell.

In 1910 she managed to convince her father, who was deeply distressed by her university failures, that she should be allowed to attend the Margaret Eaton School of Literature and Expression. This Toronto institution was a highly respectable finishing school for the offspring of parents who, while encouraging their daughters to learn deportment and cultivated speech, and even to appear in well-chosen plays, would never countenance their becoming actresses. James Mavor was amenable to any academic pursuit for his daughter. But it was Dora's idea that she was beginning her escape into the theatre. The School, which had been Timothy Eaton's gift to his wife in 1906, had as its principal from 1907 until 1925 an extraordinary woman named Emma Scott Raff, who was not only a well-known teacher of vocal expression, but also one of the central figures in the amateur theatre in Toronto at this time. Mrs. Scott Raff's teaching centred in her belief that the human voice and the spoken word were the most vital elements in both education and the theatre. She felt that 'literature could become a living art through the medium of the voice.'15 She was to take a particular interest in her student Dora Mavor, and what Dora learned at the School was to influence her own teaching later on.

In 1910 and 1911, Dora competed in the Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Trophy Competitions. Founded in 1907 by Canada's ninth Governor General, 'with the view of encouraging the sister arts, Music and the Drama, throughout the Dominion of Canada,'16 these competitions were the precursors to the Dominion Drama Festival in terms of vice-regal patronage of Canadian amateur theatrical activity.

In the 1910 competition, held at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Dora appeared as Lady Phyllis de Beauchamp in Catharine Nina Merritt's production of her own play A Little Leaven.17 Although Miss Merritt's comedy was one of the entries that elicited strong criticism from judges Ernest Beaufort, B. K. Sandwell and Hector Charlesworth, Dora's acting received honourable mention. And in 1911, appearing as Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, under the direction of Emma Scott Raff, Dora made an even greater impression on the judge (Hector Charlesworth again), who said, 'Miss Dora Mavor ... made an exquisite picture, and her vivacity and charm lent many graces to the part . . . her handling of the English tongue is the essence of refinement . . .'18

The Earl Grey competitions were predominantly social events, contributing very little to the development of indigenous Canadian theatre. They were ostensibly open to all amateur musical and dramatic organizations in Canada and Newfoundland. But in fact it was only the socially acceptable groups that were invited to compete. As Betty Lee says in her book on the Dominion Drama Festival, Love and Whisky, Dora was 'so disillusioned with the "pointless socializing" among the amateur groups she vowed to work toward professional status.'19 Certainly, when the thirties brought the formation of the Dominion Drama Festival, it was the same 'pointless socializing' and elitism, as well as practical considerations, that convinced Dora that this kind of amateurism was not for her.

Dora received scholarships from the Margaret Eaton School in both 1911 and 1912. On I June 1912, with her $50 in prize money won for 'showing positive genius' in the recitation of a monologue from Romeo and Juliet, she sailed to London, to be the first Canadian to enter the Academy of Dramatic Art (before it received its Royal Charter). While there, she took classes from Elsie Chester, rehearsed various scenes in which, being quite tall, she was cast in men's parts, and tried to come to a decision about what she was going to do next.

Letters of this period from Emma Scott Raff indicate that Dora was not yet sure whether a career as an actress was what she wanted for herself. But when she was offered an opportunity to act professionally in her own country, the decision was made for her, at least for the time being. In late August, while she was sailing home, the Colonial Stock Company of Ottawa communicated a request that she report immediately if she was interested in joining the company for the season. Her father did not want her to take the offer, but bowed to the inevitable when she went directly to Ottawa. He did, however, direct an Ottawa acquaintance, a Mr. Ritchie, to report on the credentials of the company: Ritchie revealed that the Colonial Stock Company was owned by friends of his, including the son of Sir Sanford Fleming, and 'although they bought the property as a speculation, since they acquired it they and their wives and families have developed a marked interest in the drama and their theatre.'20 From the manager of the theatre, Ritchie ascertained that 'the quality of the Company is to be improved and ... plays of interest to others than the groundlings will from time to time be produced . . .,21 This recommendation notwithstanding, Dora found her work and surroundings at the Colonial Stock Company uncongenial, and after playing in such productions as C. M. S. McLennan's Leah Kleschna and Paul Kester's When Knighthood Was in Flower, she left the company and headed for New York to look for work.

She contacted her father's friend Ben Greet, who scolded her for even thinking about acting professionally, and told her to go home or she might get into trouble. But when he saw that she was serious, he offered to give her private coaching. For some months she 'did the rounds.' She saw various producers and took walk-ons and supernumerary jobs when she could get them. She appeared as 'a Roman girl' in the crowd scenes in William Faversham's acclaimed production of Julius Caesar, and had an interesting encounter with an angry camel in a biblical spectacular in Central Park. Then Ben Greet introduced her to the Shuberts, producers of Edward Sheldon's new play Romance, and she was cast in a bit part. Sheldon noticed her work as 'Miss Gray' and wrote in a few more lines for her. While she was appearing in Romance, her father again sought to have her progress investigated. Robert Stuart Piggott, formerly a leading figure on the Toronto amateur theatre scene and now a New York 'Teacher of Speaking and Singing' as well as Ben Greet's agent, wrote to Prof Mavor: 'I heard every word she said, and at no time did her voice sound unnatural. The costume was especially becoming, and with the exception of the star she made quite the most charming picture in the play There are so few gentlewomen on the stage, and when one is incisive without being strained she is sure to be noticed.22 Dora also appeared as Hortense Duval in C. R. Hopkins' new play How Much Is a Million?, in ,23 which she was described as 'a capital soubrette , in Jerome K. Jerome's Poor Little Thing, and in a silent film version of Anna Karenina, when the producer was influenced by Dora's father s acquaintance with Tolstoy.

Her mentor Ben Greet also employed her several times between 1912 and 1914. She played first Pimple, and then Constance Neville, in She Stoops to Conquer, in various venues in and around New York City. Greet, who was given to making comments in an audible whisper to his actors while on stage, told her that she was too tall for the part of Constance Neville, but did seem to feel she had talent. Dora also played Beauty in Greet's touring production of Everyman, with the respected English actress Edith Wynne Matthison, who coached Dora in the interpretation of her part. In the summer of 1914, Dora joined the Ben Greet Players, including Sidney Greenstreet, St. Clair Bayfield, Geoffrey Tearle, and Marjorie Maude, to play Viola in Twelfth Night, on a Chautauqua tour of Pennsylvania and West inia that took the company to 56 towns in 65 days. In Butler, Pa., a's 'salary' was $6.42; in Smethport, Pa., the local paper said: 'The lady presenting Viola was fully equal to the occasion and acquitted herself in very satisfactory manner. This may sound like rather cool commendation, but such a concession from one who owns to being a Twelfth Night "crank," and has seen every revival of the play that has been put on the stage during he last thirty years, it means as much as favourable criticism can mean.'24

Dora was to say that it was to Ben Greet 'that I owe much of my professional training and discipline.'25 The latter quality was always to be of paramount importance to Dora, and it was on her tours with Ben Greet that e learned about the discipline that the theatre demands. She also conquered shyness, acquired confidence and acting technique, and began to throw off the inhibitions of her life as her father's daughter. Ben Greet influenced her by is practical attitude to the theatre, by his no-nonsense directorial approach, nd of course by his passion for Shakespeare.

But Dora also said, 'my real inspiration for my life's work in the Theatre, and in teaching, came from Laurence Irving, son of Sir Henry Irving.'26 On a visit to Toronto in March 1914, Dora attended Irving's lecture 'The Drama as a Factor in Social Progress' in Convocation Hall of the University of Toronto. In his address, Irving said:

What human creature is satisfied with the conditions and environment into which it is born? ... Every child is a theatre-lover and every child ... is born with the desire to act. From what does this desire spring? It springs, I believe, from the divine gift of dissatisfaction-from that quality of the human mind which has been very well summed up in the Russian proverb: 'Happiness is there where we are not.'27

Irving went on to affirm 'the principles that . . . the theatre must observe if, in the new age, it was to play its part in a society that, as never before, would rely upon the drama to reflect its progressive moral and political aspirations.'28

Dora, who was still looking about her for what to do with her life, was profoundly influenced by this speech: 'the effect on me was terrific and I saw the future clear-not working in the Theatre for personal gains but using the Theatre as a necessary part of our social structure.'29 She was also powerfully affected by the fact that less than three months later, on their way home to England, Laurence Irving and his wife went down with the steamship Empress of Ireland when it collided with another ship in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In 1915, with a war on and her younger brother already wounded, Dora's mother implored her to come home, where she acted in and stage-managed performances in aid of war charities. But the next milestone in Dora's career was her association in 1916 with a Toronto social settlement house, the Central Neighbourhood house, where, as she later said, 'I realized that I had a missionary compulsion to teach.30 She taught dramatics to the children of residents of the 'Ward,' and she directed a simplified version of Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, for which Roy Mitchell designed the lights. The programme read:

[P]erhaps even in the din of international confusion more hearts than we dream are turning wistfully towards the times that are waiting to be born, when the Dragon of Domination shall have given place to the Winged Spirit of Re-formation ... We are producing our play tonight not merely for the sake of an evening's entertainment, but for the permanent good that comes from following Maeterlinck's thought.31

Dora's work in the Toronto theatre was interrupted at this point by her marriage to the former curate of St. James Cathedral, Toronto: the Rev. Francis John Moore. Shortly after their wedding in February 1916, Dora followed her husband to England, where he went to await posting to the Front as an army chaplain. She stayed in England until early 1919, giving birth to the first of her three sons, Francis Mavor Moore, in 1917 and, renewing her association with Ben Greet, appearing as Viola in Twelfth Night with members of the Old Vic Company, of which Greet was the director, in a performance for the troops. She was the first Canadian to act with the Old Vic Company.

When Mrs. Moore returned from England, with one son in hand and another on the way, she found an interesting theatrical situation in Toronto. The stage in Canada was, as it had always been, dominated by foreign interests, and audiences still seemed perfectly satisfied to experience professional theatre through touring companies and stars from elsewhere, without requiring Canadian talent or dramatic content. But the war had inspired considerable introspection about matters cultural, the question of Canadian national identity was finally receiving attention, and with it the question of Canadian theatrical identity as well. There was a sense of hope that the theatre in Canada could recreate itself by an adherence to the principles and aims of the art theatres in Europe and of the Little Theatre Movement in the United States. Once again, the theatre in Canada would take its inspiration from elsewhere, but this time it would use the ideas of others to revitalize itself.

In the 1920s the foremost Toronto laboratory for experimenting with the ideas of the Little Theatre Movement was Hart House Theatre, opened late in the year of Mrs. Moore's return, a well-equipped, attractive, ideal theatre space for its purpose, with the visionary Roy Mitchell as its first director.

But the University of Toronto fostered various other groups which added to Toronto's burgeoning amateur activity, groups such as the Victoria College Women's Dramatic Club, founded in 1917, and the Dramatic Club of the University College Alumnae Association, founded in 1918. Meanwhile, professional groups, such as the Vaughan Glaser Players and the Cameron Matthews English Players came from elsewhere, stayed a while, and disappeared, but amateur activity continued to increase .32

By 1920, Dora had come to terms with the fact that, of necessity, her professional acting career was over. Ben Greet invited her to return to the Old Vic, but she refused the offer. Her commitment now was to her new life as a wife and mother. But she had no wish to become a mere appendage to her husband, as she had felt her mother was to her father. So she continued to involve herself in any theatrical or teaching opportunity that came her way, while her young family grew. James Mavor Moore was born in 1919, and Peter Mavor Moore in 1921.

Dora was one of a select group of community players whose experience would add lustre to any production, and she was called on to perform several times during the 20s. Although she acted once more during the early 30s, this was the last period of her life when she thought of herself as an actress. For her former teacher Emma Scott Raff, now Mrs. Nasmith, she played Kathleen in Yeats' The Countless Kathleen, at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. She appeared at Hart House Theatre, playing Chihaya in the North American premiere of The Toils of Yoshitomo, directed by Bertram Forsyth (1923), and Procula in John Masefield's Good Friday (1926), for Walter Sinclair. When she repeated her role of Procula in a production of Good Friday at Westminster Central Church in 1927, E. Garry Allighan of the Evening Telegram wrote, 'Procula was played with consummate artistry. This critic has not seen better emotional acting in this country and in the Old Country, only in the ranks of the most eminent professional actresses. It was the histrionic treat of years.'33

Dora's last acting appearance of the 1920s was in Walter Sinclair's farewell production of Twelfth Night (April 1927) in which she played her favourite role of Viola for the last time. So successful was this production, with an unprecedented demand for tickets, that a revival was mounted one month later. Lawrence Mason called Dora 'nothing less than superb as "Viola," ' and concluded that the production ranked 'with the very highest art House annals.'34 Dora also received praise in Saturday Night, which said that she 'played her part with verve, spirit, charm, and gave a bit of a swagger to the character in an endeavour to hide the woman she could not quite conceal, which was just what Shakespeare intended.35 An opening night ter from Walter Sinclair to Dora, in which he thanked her for her 'splendid work,' her 'graciousness' and her 'advice and suggestions in matters of stage business' suggests that he was well aware what a resource Dora was, and ow fortunate he was to have as his Viola an actress who had played the part under so many different circumstances.36 Certainly it seems that Viola was the ideal part for Dora, that she could bring to this role the truth and vitality of her own character.

During the 1920s she began to shift her energies from acting to directing; she also began to concentrate on her principal interest, teaching. She soon acquired an excellent reputation as a versatile director and a fine teacher of speech and oral interpretation, and was considered the ideal person to give lectures and speak authoritatively about the professional theatre.

From 1921 to 1923, and again from 1924 to 1925, Dora returned to the faculty of the Margaret Eaton School of Literature and Expression, teaching dramatic art. In the mid-twenties she began an association which would continue for many years with both the University of Toronto's Department of Extension, giving talks on such subjects as story telling and reading aloud, and with some of the university theatre groups. She also taught dramatics in the Victoria College Department of Public Speaking.

Twice during the decade Mrs. Moore directed an all-female production of Twelfth Night for the Margaret Eaton School, as well as an evening of one act plays, including Chekhov's The Boor. For the Victoria College Dramatic Society, she directed The Lilies of the Field by John Hastings Turner. But her directorial energies during the twenties were for the most part channelled toward religious events, as befitted the wife of a clergyman whose parishioners did not entirely approve of their pastor being married to a 'theatre person.' Returning to the vehicle which added lustre to Ben Greet's reputation when he rescued it from centuries of neglect, Dora Mavor Moore directed the St. James' Cathedral Community Players in Everyman in 1920 and again in 1921, playing the part of Everyman herself while her husband played Death. At other times Mrs. Moore directed tableaux at Missionary Exhibitions, and various church-related events at the St. James' Cathedral Parish House. Then in 1928 she directed an Anglican Historical Pageant in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Diocese of Toronto at Massey Hall. This was an ambitious undertaking, involving 15 churches, 3 colleges, the choir of St. James' Cathedral under Dr. Albert Ham, a symphony orchestra, a cast of 350, and 20 scenes. Although the pageant was essentially a religious and social event, with no particular impact on the theatre of Toronto, Dora's connection with it can only have enhanced her reputation as a director who could handle theatrical challenges.

By 1928, Dora had been back in Toronto for a decade. She had spent those years raising her three boys, lending support to her husband's work, and incidentally pursuing her own interests. But the end of the decade was a difficult and crucial time for her: her life changed again, dramatically. Her marriage, which had been unhappy for some time, was ending, and in September 1929 she and her husband separated, with considerable acrimony. The Rev. Moore moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and they never communicated directly again. Dora was left with three sons under the age of thirteen and, at first, no financial support from her husband. Consequently, this point in her life marked the beginning of her efforts to make a living what she knew best: teaching and directing. Certainly she had no choice in the matter, but it was ultimately to be the making of her. Her life after that always involved struggle, particularly financial struggle. She was never in a position to indulge her artistic ideals; she always had to be practical in her approach to what she could or could not do in and for the theatre. She never gave up her essential beliefs in the social usefulness of theatre, and in its ability to transform lives. But it was not until another decade had passed that she was able to come into her own by acquiring a 'laboratory' and putting her ideals and theories into practice.

In the 1930s, during the Depression, Mrs. Moore taught whatever and whenever she could, to support herself and her children. Some of her records of this period show that for some years she was teaching six days a week at five or six different locations all over Toronto, to children and adults, while constantly directing productions for various groups and seeking other work. Some of the organizations for which she taught Dramatics were the Extension Department of the University of Toronto, the Eaton's Girls Club, Harbord Collegiate, the Central High School of Commerce (with Herman Voaden), the Heliconian Club, St. Mildred's College, and the Toronto Playground Association. She taught French and Dramatics at Dr. Blatz's experimental Windy Ridge Day School, and Opportunity Classes at the Forest Hill Village School, and she worked with the Forest Hill Village Arts Guild. During the summers she was a Dramatics Counsellor at children's camps such as Camp Tanamakoon and Glen Barnard Camp, partly as a means of financing summer vacations for her sons. She was a lecturer at the YWCA for several years, making $1.50 per lecture on such subjects as 'What Is the Art of Living?', 'The Art of Conversation and Self-Expression,' 'Parliamentary Procedure,' and 'Etiquette and Personality.'

She was by all accounts a dynamic and charismatic teacher, deeply interested in her students' individuality, and, once again, in the use that her students, and indeed that education, could make of the theatre. No doubt she was remembering her own first experiences with acting when she wrote, 'The child when it is acting another person is not bound by limitations of its own life but has a whole realm of the imagination in which to dwell.37 And to describe her Dramatics classes for children, she would say, 'I do believe ... that an ability to express themselves properly is a real essential for children, and it is just that training that I am seeking to provide through the medium of my classes. Clear diction, correct pronunciation, pantomime and stagecraft all combine to develop the child's individuality.'38 Before long, Mrs. Moore was being referred to as 'one of the outstanding workers in the development of young people's drama in Canada.'39 Her interest in and her work with children would continue throughout her life. And because she came into contact with a whole generation of children in Toronto whom she interested in the theatre, she inevitably fostered her own future audiences as well as her future performers. In fact, it is at this point that the names begin to appear in her programmes of the Canadian theatre people of the future, such as Lloyd Bochner and Jane Mallett.

During the thirties Mrs. Moore directed plays by Shaw, Goldsmith and Maeterlinck, as well as such amateur fare as Tilly of Bloomsbury (Ian Hay) and Nine 'Till Six (Aimee and Philip Stuart), for groups such as the St. Hilda's College Alumnae Association, the Humbercrest Graduates Association, and the Toronto Public Library Dramatic Club. But it is also at this time that she consolidated her position as one of those to whom Herbert Whittaker referred as a 'contributing Shakespearean'40 of the period before the Stratford Festival. Apart from acting (for the last time) in G. Wilson Knight's 1932 Hart House production of Romeo and Juliet, and being involved in the founding and early days of the Toronto Shakespeare Society, Mrs. Moore worked with two touring groups which were formed to take Shakespeare's plays to the high schools in and around Toronto. For the University Extension Players she directed As You Like It, for which Arthur Lismer designed the costumes and Healey Willian was the musical director, and for the Hart House Touring Players she directed Twelfth Night. Of As You Like It, one review commented: 'The work of the players was smooth and showed a pleasing lack of obvious effort . . . to the director, Mrs. Dora Mavor Moore, must go the congratulations for the very effective training which it was apparent the students had received.41 And for Twelfth Night, Mrs. Moore was praised for 'doing a service of inestimable value to the community.'42 In fact what Mrs. Moore was doing, along with other groups such as the Earle Grey Players and the University groups with their annual Shakespeare productions, was preparing the ground for what would eventually be a theatre of great national importance, the Stratford Festival. And in further anticipation of the future for Canadian theatre, it was in 1930 that she received a letter from her cousin, the Scottish playwright James Bridie (Osborne Mavor) introducing her to ,a tall wraith-like figure,'43 Tyrone Guthrie, who had arrived in Canada to direct a radio series of episodes in Canadian history for Canadian National Railways. She was to be instrumental in securing Guthrie's services for the Stratford Festival in 1952.

Dora had been talking about her interest in the development of Canadian drama for many years, but it was not until she took a trip to Dublin in the summer of 1937, spent an afternoon with W. B. Yeats, and was taken by him to the Abbey Theatre that she realized, 'we could have a Canadian theatre just as they had an Irish theatre.'44 And, in a roundabout way, she set out to make one.

In 1938 Mrs. Moore was able to buy a historic log farm house-built in 1815-on Bathurst Street above St. Clair Avenue, which was practically in the country then. Francis Moore later described it:

The place had a well but no running water, no bathroom, no electricity, and an old wood stove for cooking. The property, however, had one asset-a barn-which we turned into the 80-seat "Barn" theatre, birthplace of Mother's theatre movement. chicken coop became dressing rooms, the horse stall the stage. With lamps, tin and candles for footlights,[wel put on the first Canadian productions of Lorca, Priestley and Tennessee Williams, plus works by ... Canadian writers.45

The 'we' to which Mrs. Moore's son referred was the Village Players.

Dora had started giving private acting lessons at her home whom she was roached by several of her students about starting a theatre group. The Village Players were formed in the summer of 1938, under Mrs. Moore's permanent directorship, and their first production was, of course, Shakespeare. ontinuing the work of the touring groups with which she had been associated at the beginning of the decade, the Village Players took their modern dress version of Macbeth to Forest Hill Village School, Oakwood Collegiate, and Hart House. Augustus Bridle called it 'Of all Macbeths seen here the nost unusual,' and described the performance as 'all a rather spontaneous expression of youth.'46 Of the controversial modern dress, which Mrs. Moore no doubt decided upon for economic and practical reasons, 'F.B.R.' in Acta Victoriana said:

It is the personal conviction of the writer that the production in modern dress has facilitated the action of the drama in many respects ... [It] served to make the characters appear as the real human beings they were and rather ancient history became a vivid struggle of man against his passions.47

Mrs. Moore continued to teach as well as to direct for other groups until 1946 and thereafter, directing successful productions such as The Importance of Being Earnest, She Stoops to Conquer, and The Skin of Our Teeth for the Victoria College Dramatic Society, Ladies in Waiting (Cyril Campion) and The Enchanted April (Kane Campbell) for the Kingsway Women's Club Dramatic Group, and The Night of January l6th (Ayn Rand) for the Confederation Life Association Dramatic Club. Teaching and directing for amateur groups remained her main source of income. But it was to the Village Players that she devoted most of her energy and her interest. She directed them in As You Like It, Everyman, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Make Believe by A. A. Milne, Henry IV Part I, John Van Druten's The Damask Cheek, and Brandon Thomas' Charley's Aunt.

Production budgets were tiny: for example, the expenses for As You Like were $159.38, with $9.74 going to the director. But all of Mrs. Moore's productions with the Village Players were received with appreciation both by the critics and by Torontonians in general, who were coming to expect certain standards of material and of performance from the group. From 1943 until the end of the war, Village Players' productions were used to entertain the troops. And at the Barn Theatre, a loyal following for the group's summer fare was also being built up and educated.

The Village Players were proudly uncommercial. No one was paid; any profits from the touring shows were used to finance the next production. Admission to the plays at the Barn, which was so small that the audience had to be arranged according to height, was free, although the collection plate was passed at the end of each show. Besides acting, the group members learned about running a theatrical enterprise, and about the technical aspects of production. Everyone took turns doing everything. As members of the Village Players would leave to go into active service (at one point there were forty-six in the armed forces) others would join after being carefully scrutinized by Dora Mavor Moore for their dedication and willingness to work. By the time they did Henry IV, Part I, there were so few men available that Prince Hal was played by a 17-year-old, Melwyn Breen. The motto of the Village Players was, of course, 'There are no small parts, there are only small actors.'

In the group, at various times, were such performers as Mavor Moore, Francess Halpenny, William Needles, Vincent Tovell, Pegi Brown, Peter Mews, Lister Sinclair, Budd Knapp, Ruth Springford, Jack Medhurst, Vernon Chapman, Barbara Kelly, Don Harron-and the list goes on and on. They also employed guest directors, such as Earle Grey, who directed Henry V. By 1945 Rose MacDonald was saying in the Toronto Telegram, 'Easily the most consistently accomplished work in the little theatre in Toronto these times is being done by the Village Players at the Barn, on a 13-foot stage ... [They1do plays which are invariably interesting and usually in the experimental field.48

The Village Players were responsible for several 'quietly progressive'49 productions during their history, including their public readings of such works as Herman Voaden's libretto for the opera The Prodigal Son. But the most significant was their 'Evening of Original Canadian Plays' which Mrs. Moore produced in September of 1943. The plays performed (and directed by their authors) were Refugee by Lister Sinclair, Concerto in c Minor, by Vincent Tovell, Variations on a Theme by Beryl McMillan and Finale, by Alan King. The Globe and Mail reported that 'the plays, which showed considerable originality and independence of thought, also brought out some excellent acting.'50 But this experiment was only the first step in Dora Mavor Moore's dreams for her own professional theatre, and the New Play Society was to be the first professional Canadian theatre to include a large number of plays by Canadians.

By 1946 the servicemen were back, some of them looking for work in the theatre, and wanting to stay in Canada. Where were the actors for the burgeoning radio drama going to come from if they all went elsewhere for work? Mrs. Moore, who had witnessed the cultural renaissance that had followed the First World War, realized that the same thing was likely to happen again. The time was ripe to put her aspirations for the Canadian theatre into action.

By July 1946 Dora had introduced the possibility of forming a profesional theatre organization. Discussions ensued among the Village Players about whether it would be better to enlarge the Barn or to seek a rental accommodation. The issue was obviously highly charged. In her book on her father, Don Harron, Martha Harron describes the evening of 28 August, 1946:

Don ... found at least 60 people crammed into Dora's historic old house on that  historic night ... Everyone present was a veteran of Dora's war, her crusade to

create world-class theatre in her own back yard ... Mrs. Moore came straight to the point: the Village Players had been offered a permanent home, a real theatre ... a  small lecture hall in the basement of the Royal Ontario Museum-no windows, no  wing space, no backstage washrooms and no free rent, but it meant the chance to become a professional company.51

Many of the Village Players (including Harron himself) opposed the move, seeing in it the end of the group as it had been, and fearing the possibility of failure for Dora. Nevertheless, the proposal carried. The Village Players chose to remain an amateur group, but promised their full co-operation to the new organization. Dora made a few purchases of equipment to improve the Museum space with $2000 in war bonds her sons had sent her, and on 5 October 1946 the New Play Society opened its first season with her production of Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, featuring several former Village Players in the cast. What followed forms another whole and significant chapter in Canadian theatre history.

In the last two decades of her life the accolades for Mrs. Moore came thick and fast. As Canadians rushed to honour her, perhaps realizing she was not going to be around forever, she was called 'the founder of Englishspeaking theatre in Canada in this century.'52 Her response to this abundance of attention was to say that 'they were all lucky she had lived so long.'53

Dora Mavor Moore did not develop an indigenous Canadian theatre all by herself. But she was a pioneer, and she inspired and directed and taught two generations of people who also helped to develop it. Her determination to improve the theatre in this country never faltered, even when she was working under the most discouraging circumstances. She was a courageous survivor in what was often a theatrical desert. Her work in the years before she founded the NPS is a vital link between the theatre as it was at the beginning of the century and as it developed after the Second World War, and between the amateur theatre and the professional theatre in Canada.

NOTES

1 LEON MAJOR, letter to Dora Mavor Moore, 8 Feb 1979. Dora Mavor Moore Papers (hereafter abbreviated to 'DMMP'), Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Univ of Toronto, Box 78
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2 DORA MAVOR MOORE, letter to Leon Major, 20 Feb 1979, DMMP Box 78
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3 These were: The Man in the Blue Moon (Lister Sinclair); To Tell the Truth (Morley Callahan); no's "o (Mavor Moore); The Inheritance (Harry Boyle); Narrow Passage (Andrew Allan); Riel (John Coulter); Going Home (Morley Callahan); Mistress of Jalna (Mazo De La Roche); Sunshine Town and The Optimist (Mavor Moore); Turvey (Don Harron)
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4 New Play Society Papers, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Univ of Toronto, Box 3
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5 For further information on JAMES MAVOR, see his autobiography in 2 vols, My Windows on the Streets of the World (Toronto: J M Dent & Sons 1923) and ALAN FRANKLIN BOWKER, 'Truly Useful Men' (Ph D Thesis, Univ of Toronto, 1975)
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6 DORA MAVOR MOORE, Address to Graduating Class, Univ of Toronto, 2 June 1970, on the occasion of conferring on her of degree, Doctor of Laws honoris causa
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7 Through his friend Kropotkin Mavor became involved with Leo Tolstoy and his efforts to relocate the Doukhobors. Mavor helped make the arrangements to have them migrate to Saskatchewan in 1898, and thereafter twice visited Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana
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8 DORA MAVOR MOORE, speaking to Harry Mannis, 'D.M.M.: A Profile,' written and prepared by Vincent Tovell for 'Project '65,' CBC Radio, 21 Mar 1965
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9 DORA MAVOR MOORE, address, 3 June 1970
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10 Ibid
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11 Ibid
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12 MAVOR MOORE, interviewed by Paula Sperdakos, 6 May 1987
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13 MORRIS WOLFE, 'Dora Mavor Moore: Canada's First Lady of the Theatre,' Saturday Night Nov 1971 p 30
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14 Mail and Empire 19 Mar 1909
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15 DOROTHY N R JACKSON, 'A Brief History of Three Schools: 1901-1941,' (Toronto: 1953) p 7
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16 Programme of the Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Competition (1911) p 1 DMMP Box 1
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17 For information on Catharine Nina Merritt, see ANTON WAGNER ed, Canada's Lost Plays, vol 2: Women Pioneers (Toronto: CTR Publications 1979)
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18 HECTOR CHARLESWORTH, Programme of the Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Competition (1911) p 163
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19 BETTY LEE, Love and Whisky (Toronto: Simon and Pierre 1982), p 77
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20 J A RITCHIE, letter to James Mavor, 29 July 1912, DMMP Box 2
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21 J A RITCHIE, letter to James Mavor, 3 Aug 1912, DMMP Box 2
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22 ROBERT STUART PIGGOTT, letter to James Mavor, 21 Feb 1913, DMMP Box 2. Piggott had been a member of one of the first Ben Greet companies to perform at the Univ of Toronto and had stayed on to become involved in the amateur theatre as director and actor
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23 AMY LESLIE, News (Chicago), quoted in Telegram 12 July 1913
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24 Anonymous newspaper clipping, Smethport, Pa., Aug 1914, DMMP Box 2. Programs of Ben Greet's productions often did not credit the individual players by name
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25 DORA MAVOR MOORE, address to Graduating Class, 3 June 1970
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26 1bid
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27 LAURENCE IRVING, 'The Drama as a Factor in Social Progress,' address delivered at Convocation Hall, Univ of Toronto, 10 Mar 1914
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28 LAURENCE IRVING, The Precarious Crust (London: Chatto and Windus 1971), p 212
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29 DORA MAVOR MOORE, address to Graduating Class, 3 June 1970
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30 LOTTA DEMPSEY, Toronto Star 12 June 1969
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31 Programme of the Blue Bird, presented at the Orde Street Social Centre of the Central Neighbourhood House, Toronto 25 Jan 1916, DMMP Box 2
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32 See ROBERT BARRY SCOTT, 'A Study of Amateur Theatre in Toronto, 1900-1930,' (MA Thesis, Univ of New Brunswick 1966)
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33 E GARRY ALLIGHAN, Evening Telegram 16 Apr 1927
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34 LAWRENCE MASON, Globe 30 Apr 1927 and 31 May 1927
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35 'W J J,' Saturday Night 30 Apr 1927
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36 WALTER SINCLAIR to Dora Mavor Moore, 2 Mar 1927, DMMP Box 20
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37 DORA MAVOR MOORE, 'Drama in the Schools,' address to Ontario Music Teachers' Association 5th Annual Convention, 15-16 Apr 1941. Rough notes for this address are in DMMP Box 12
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38 DMMP Box 4
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39 Brochure, Forest Hill Village School 1938, DMMP Box 5
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40 HERBERT WHITTAKER, 'Shakespeare in Canada Before 1953,' Shakespeare Seminar, Stratford Papers on Shakespeare, ed B W Jackson (Stratford, Ont 1964)
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41 Standard (St Catharines) 22 Mar 1930
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42 The Curtain Call 4 Mar 1931 p 5
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43 OSBORNE MAVOR (James Bridie), letter to Dora Mavor Moore, 25 Dec 1930, DMMP Box 59
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44 MORRIS WOLFE, ibid
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45 FRANCIS MOORE, 'Unforgettable Dora Mavor Moore,' The Reader's Digest, Apr 1981 p 119
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46 AUGUSTUS BRIDLE, Star, Jan 1939
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47 'F B R,'Acta Victoriana, Univ of Toronto Feb 1939
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48 ROSE MACDONALD, Evening Telegram 30 July 1945; 27 June 1946
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49 ROSE MACDONALD, ibid Nov 1946
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50 'M H P,' Globe and Mail, 24 Sept 1943
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51 MARTHA HARRON, Don Harron: A Parent Contradiction (Toronto: Collins 1988) p 86
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52 JUNE CALLWOOD, Globe and Mail July 1976
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53 DORA MAVOR MOORE, quoted in letter of condolence from Mary Garvie-John to Francis Moore, after the death of Dora Mavor Moore in 1979, DMMP Box 80
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