The first recorded performance of a play in North America took place in French Canada, at Port Royal in Nova Scotia, on 16 November 1606 when Marc Lescarbot’s Le Théâtre de Neptune en la nouvelle-France was performed. But in the following three centuries the Canadian theatrical scene was dominated by foreign theatrical touring companies — mainly from the USA and Britain — and non-Canadian plays. Between 1870 and the First World War, theatre flourished in Canada where some fifty well-equipped opera houses (many seating in excess of 1000 patrons) hosted hundreds of touring companies and such foreign stars as Edwin Booth, James O’Neill, Sarah Bernhardt, Tommaso Salvini, Sir Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Mrs Patrick Campbell, and Sir John Martin-Harvey in popular plays (melodramatic in character) like Camille, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and The Only Way (an adaptation of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities). There were a few Canadian touring companies — the Tavernier Dramatic Company and the Mark Brothers companies, for example — but they did not promote indigenous drama. Canadian actors like Julia Arthur, Margaret Anglin, and Marie Dressler achieved stardom not in Canada but on American and British stages. Canadian critic B. K. Sandwell, writing in the Canadian Magazine in 1911, denounced the ‘annexation’ of the Canadian stage by American theatrical interests: ‘Canada is the only nation in the world whose stage is entirely controlled by alliens.’


Cerebral Palsy White Society Indian Girl Early Play Canadian Critic 
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Further Reading


  1. Richard Perkyns (ed.), Major Plays of the Canadian Theatre 1934–1984 (1984);Google Scholar
  2. Richard Plant (ed.), The Penguin Book of Modern Canadian Drama (1984);Google Scholar
  3. Jerry Wasserman (ed.), Modern Canadian Plays (1985).Google Scholar


  1. John Ball and Richard Plant (eds), A Bibliography of Canadian Theatre History 1583–1975 (1976)Google Scholar
  2. and Supplement 1975–1976 (1979);Google Scholar
  3. Anton Wagner (ed.), Contemporary Canadian Theatre: New World Visions (1985);Google Scholar
  4. Eugene Benson and L. W. Conolly, English-Canadian Theatre (1987);Google Scholar
  5. Alan Filewod, Collective Encounters; Documentary Theatre in English Canada (1987).Google Scholar
  6. See also Eugene Benson and L. W. Conolly (eds), The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre (1989).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugene Benson

There are no affiliations available

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