Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
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.
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. 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
Check out these great theatre-themed reads recommended by Mirvish staff.
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.
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.
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!