Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  April 7, 2020  

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Issue #1

We regard all of you as part of our theatre family. While our theatres are closed we have decided to start publishing a weekly e-magazine about theatre-going, the performing arts and all its offshoots.


This is the first issue, and we hope to be sending you a new one every Tuesday. Each issue will share some features, such us:

  • Patron's Corner, where we hope to hear from you;
  • The Archives, which will look at the history of the Mirvish theatres, the plays and performers that have lit up their stages;
  • Staff's Picks, a column about and by staff members;
  • Get In On The Act, which will be an interactive series of contests and events;
  • T-Trivia, the T stands for Theatre, of course.

We hope that you find the articles interesting, informative and even instructive during these housebound, reflective times.

Like you, we are looking forward to the time we can all return to the theatre, take our seat and see the curtain rise.

In the meanwhile, be well, stay safe and stay strong.


GET YOUR NAME UP IN LIGHTS & WIN MIRVISH GIFT CARDS

You may know the slogan used at the start of WWII in the UK to inspire citizens to stay safe. It began with Keep Calm. In the spirit of that slogan, we'd like you to think of new slogans that are inspirational and instructional in these turbulent days.

Here are some examples:
Keep Calm and Stay Home;
Our Health Is In Your Hands, Wash Them Frequently;
Your Vigilance, Your Patience, Your Resolution Will Keep Us All Safe.

We're sure your slogans will be even better. Remember, they must be short, instructive and inspirational. The best new slogans will be added to the rotation on our social media platforms, website and on the digital marquees of the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Ed Mirvish Theatre. We will also publish the name of the author, who will also receive a $100 Mirvish Gift Card, which can be used to purchase tickets or subscriptions.

This is your chance to get your name in lights on the marquees of two of the continent's theatres and be able to enjoy great theatre on us!

We will choose two winners every week in April.

You'll get bonus points if your slogan has a theatrical reference or connection. It could be a play title, or a lyric from a well-known song from a musical, or even a famous theatre person's name.

ENTER YOUR SLOGAN HERE!


THE ARCHIVES

Let's go back to 1918. The Royal Alexandra was 11 years old and had been the centre of Toronto’s cultural life since its first performance. The year was a very important one: "the war to end all wars" was in its fourth year and suddenly a world pandemic struck.

It just so happens that we have an excellent record of that time. Dr. Mora Dianne Guthrie O’Neill wrote her Doctorate Dissertation in 1976 on the history of the Royal Alexandra, 1907-1939. Her three-volume dissertation is a wealth of material, including how Toronto and the Royal Alexandra dealt with the influenza of 1918.

Below is an excerpt from her dissertation. We share it here because it demonstrates that the city and the Royal Alexandra eventually triumphed.


The regular season of 1918/1919 opened predictably enough with another engagement of The Bird of Paradise, a very popular musical set in Hawaii that had made a star of Laurette Taylor on Broadway in 1912 and had since been touring the continent. (Between 1913 and 1922, it would play a dozen times at the Royal Alexandra.)

Next arrived, The Man Who Came Back, an extraordinary success during its two seasons in New York. It played for two successful weeks beginning September 2nd. This melodrama appealed to Toronto audiences, drained emotionally from four terrible years of the First World War.

A victorious conclusion to the conflict loomed imminently on the European horizon, but a more indiscriminate enemy would take its toll on the home-front before Toronto could celebrate that victory.

On October 10, 1918, newspapers replaced theatre advertisements with an announcement issued by Charles J. Hastings, Medical Officer of Health for Toronto:

CLOSING OF PLACES OF AMUSEMENT

Notice is hereby given that after Saturday, October 19th, all Theatres, Moving Picture Shows and other places of amusement, including Pool Rooms, Billiard Rooms and Bowling Alleys, throughout the city shall be closed during the period of the influenza epidemic, and shall not be reopened until further notice.

A newsie sells newspapers wearing a face mask outside the box office of what is now called the Elgin Theatre.A newsie sells newspapers wearing a face mask outside the box office of what is now called the Elgin Theatre. Notice the sign behind him.

Theatres in every city in Canada and the United States shut their doors during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

Shows that were touring were immediately shut down. Thousands of actors found themselves stranded across the continent. The Royal Alexandra lost its principal owner, Cawthra Mulock, who succumbed to the disease in New York on December 1st.

For two weeks the Royal Alexandra remained dark while the rage of the disease abated.

After a week of technical rehearsals, the theatre reopened to the public on November 4th with a New York company in the try-out musical comedy, Ask Dad, by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. (It would be retitled Oh, My Dear! when it transferred to Broadway and would run for seven months.) The arrival the following week of a travel-worn company in Oh, Lady, Lady, also by Bolton and Wodehouse, with music by Jerome Kern, made comparisons of the two inevitable, but on November 11th, the city was hardly in a mood to care.

Beginning with a symphony of steam whistles and a cacophony of bells at five o-clock on that cloudy morning, nondescript bands appeared from nowhere to lead the city in a joyous celebration of the Canadian victory at Mons the day before and the signing of the armistice to end the war.

Following the war victory and its celebrations, patrons of the Royal Alexandra turned out in force to enjoy its many offerings.

In spite of the two-week closure during the influenza epidemic, patrons had enjoyed 35 active weeks at the Royal Alexandra when the theatre’s regular season of 1918/1919 concluded on May 10, 1919.


DON'T MISS A BEAT

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Trying to add some sparkle to your household chores?
Looking for the right key to entertaining your kids at home?
Want to start the day on a high note?

Check out the Mirvish Musical Playlist on Spotify


STAFF PICKS

Check out these great theatre-themed reads recommended by Mirvish staff.

ACT ONE
By Moss Hart

Act One could have been called The Portrait of a Playwright and Theatre Director as a Young Man. Considered by many to be one of the finest memoirs of life in the theatre, this book can be found on the shelves of many theatre professionals. Hart, who was a hugely successful playwright in the 30s, 40s and 50s, was also the influential director of such seminal works as My Fair Lady. Born and raised in the Bronx to a working-class family, he caught the theatre bug when his Aunt Kate would take him to see weekly matinees on Broadway. This led to his joining amateur productions. He writes that theatre showed him "the art of being somebody else … not a scrawny boy with bad teeth, a funny name." He soon was collaborating with the great George F. Kaufman, with whom he cowrote three of the greatest farces of all time: Once In A Lifetime, You Can't Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. He then began writing musicals with collaborators such as Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers, Loren Hart and Kurt Weill. He also wrote screenplays, famously Gentleman's Agreement and A Star is Born. The last show he worked on was Camelot, which had its premiere as the first show in the newly built O'Keefe Centre in Toronto (now Meridian Hall). While directing it in Toronto he suffered a heart attack. He was able to continue working on the show when it travelled to Boston and eventually to Broadway. He died of another heart attack a year later. But his love letter to the theatre, which was published in 1959, has lived on and never been out of print. He titled it Act One because it only covered half his life. Sadly, he did not get a chance to live Act Two.


THE SEA, THE SEA
By Iris Murdock

This tale of obsession about a famous playwright and theatre director won the Booker Prize in 1978. It's main character, Charles Arrowby, is at the height of his success as the master of London's West End when he decides to leave behind his life of privilege and glamour and live in seclusion in an eccentric old house by the sea on the outskirts of a tiny village. But his days turn out to be anything but quiet as he is visited by his theatre friends, who are exposed to be vain, jealous and without any compassion. Charles himself is egotistical and self-obsessed, qualities which may have served him well as a director but are detrimental to his happiness when he discovers his first love, whom he has idolized since adolescence but had left to begin his career, lives in the village that he has now made his home. Through a complicated plot filled with twists and a panoply of unforgettable characters, The Sea, The Sea is Murdoch at her best. You'll be quickly turning the novel's 500-plus pages to find out what happens next while you fall under the spell of her exquisite prose.

The title is a reference to the famous story from Xenophon, the Greek general and historian who led the 10,000 Greeks in their conquest of the Persians in 401 BC. After years or roaming through what is now modern-day Turkey, Xenophon's army finally caught sight of what would turn out to be the Black Sea. They yelled, "The Sea! The Sea!" when they saw it because they realized they were saved from death. The title and its backstory are the key to this hypnotic novel's meaning.

IN THE WINGS
By Carole Corbeil

There have not been many novels set in the world of Toronto theatre. Luckily we have Carol Corbeil's In The Wings, about the production of Hamlet at a smallish Toronto theatre. The novel is an accurate depiction of the Toronto theatre scene of three decades ago (it was published in 1997). Of course, Corbeil would know that millieu very well. In the 1980s she worked as a theatre critic at The Globe and Mail; she subsequently married Layne Coleman, an important actor and director during the formative years of the Toronto alternative theatre community who eventually became the artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille. In The Wings is about the relationship of a young actor who is cast as Hamlet and an older actress playing his mother Gertrude. It's obvious that each of these characters is not playing just the roles of Shakespeare's most famous play; they are actually living them in real life. There is a third character -- a theatre critic. In many ways, he is the most interesting of the characters, perhaps because his author had also been one and then had crossed over to the other side to join the ranks of artists who are in some ways the natural enemies of critics. The critic is both a loathsome character and a sympathetic one. This rich, multi-layered and fascinating work was only Corbeil's second novel. Sadly she passed away from cancer in 2000 and we have been denied more work from this talented artist.

PATRON'S CORNER

Below is a letter we received from one of our Season Subscribers:

Dear Mirvish friends,

What a difference 17 days can make!

On March 11, 2020, my wife Nancy and I were enjoying a performance of “Hamilton” and keen to report about it to other family members for whom we had purchased tickets for today.

When we were there, squares of yellow cloth printed with the “Hamilton” emblem and the message “Thank you for being a subscriber” were on the back of our seats, as they were on many other seats in our area of the theatre. People were encouraged to take them home.

Subscriber wearing Hamilton mask

We brought ours home, not knowing what would happen in coming days. The corona virus attacked our world, changing our lives – and yours - dramatically.

Thank you to Mirvish Theatres for making the crucial decision to cancel shows and close in the interests of safety.

Nancy took one of our cloth squares and has sewn it to make a protective mask which I am modelling in the attached photo.

Thank you again, Mirvish, for suspending operations, playing it safe and communicating clearly with members, such as us.

Best regards,
George and Nancy

Do you have a theatre story or memory that you want to share with the world? Share it with us and you could be included in the next edition!

SEND US YOUR STORY