SPG Book Reviews - A Round for Fifty Years

Reviewed by: Shelley A. Leedahl

In his Foreword, commissioned writer Gerald Hill claims “no objectivity for [his version of the theatre’s history], no nose for the dirt (if any exists, other than bat or pigeon dung), no investigative-reporter zeal,” and affirms that what follows is his rendering of the story. To that I say:Hurray! Hill’s got a SK-sized mountain of excellent publications (mostly poetry) behind him, and the longtime professor at Regina’s Luther College also has personal ties to the Globe. I can’t name a more suitable writer to pen a close-up retrospective that celebrates the folks – on both sides of the Globe’s curtain – who’ve made Saskatchewan’s first professional theatre company such a long-standing success.

This book’s a classy package. The cover’s appropriately dramatic: a front-lit photo of the historic Globe theatre building contrasted against the night sky and skyscrapers. The generously-spaced text assures easy reading; the book’s saturated with photographs (mostly from performances); and it’s smartly organized into three Acts, with a comprehensive Appendices that includes selected show posters. Its presentation is coffee table-ish; you’d be proud to have this sitting out where friends could see it.

Hill credits innovative English director\playwright Brian May for the Globe’s “in the round” performance style, which allows actors and audience to “[share] the same physical and psychological space”. (In short, the closer Joe and Susie theatre-goer get, the better their experience.) There are nods toward the SK Arts Board for early interest and investment, specifically through Drama Consultant Florence James, and theatre’s relevance is addressed: “ … the essential goodness of humans can be accessed and reinforced through theatre”.

If one were to make an analogy to fiction, the theatre company would be the protagonist in this story, and the setting would include the entire province of SK. Dynamos Ken and Sue Kramer founded the Globe in 1966 as a school touring company that performed interactive shows in gymnasiums around the province. It was extremely “grass roots,” with self-made costumes, props and sets that were “usually nothing more than six plywood rostrum blocks of various sizes.” The company’d set off in Kramers’ Vauxhall and a donated Ford van, plowing through prairie blizzards, and share their theatrical magic with thousands of SK youngsters. Actor Bill Hugli says that a good show was indicated by “wet spots on the floor – kids so caught up in the experience, they couldn’t hold it anymore”.

Financial crises, building moves and renos, major programming changes, fresh visions, fun anecdotes (ie: bats), and a large cast of players – from 15-year Playwright-in-Residence Rex Deverell to successive Artistic Directors Susan Ferley and Ruth Smillie – make this a stimulating read.

In Act 3, Hill delivers a nearly day-by-day account of the work required to mount a huge production (Mary Poppins), and for me, realizing what everyone from wardrobe people to musicians went through over one frantic preparatory three-week period was especially eye-opening. To the Globe’s many committed characters – and the collaborators in this wide-ranging and splendidly-written book – a standing ovation, of course.

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