Showcase of free staged readings bring Montreal’s English dramatic tradition to life

Event to include first professional reading of a black comedy co-authored by Irving Layton and Leonard Cohen.

From February 24th to 27th, The McGill University Department of English – Drama and Theatre invites audiences to attend a series of free staged readings, which unearth plays from English Montreal’s not-so-distant past. The event will spotlight influential writers like Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, Aviva Ravel, Mada Gage Bolton and more, who helped shape Montreal’s English-language theatre tradition.

“This is a perfect opportunity to showcase Montreal’s English theatre tradition through the decades,” said McGill Theatre Studies Professor Erin Hurley and to test the contemporary resonance of these plays and to raise the visibility of drama in English in Quebec. “We’re so excited to show people these rarely-performed pieces of the city’s artistic history. Some may be surprised to learn that well-known poets like Leonard Cohen and Irving Layton wrote plays, or that class and identity were such strong thematic concerns across the 20th century. Staged-readings are a great way to get these works out of the archives and in front of new audiences.”

Each evening will be followed by a talk-back with the director, cast, and research team. The research team are composed of Alexis Diamond (playwright and translator) and Alison Bowie (dramaturgy and PhD candidate at Concordia), along with producing partner Emma Tibaldo (Artistic and Executive Director of Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal).


Feb. 24: Theme: “A Question of Class”
Rethinking the ‘good life’ during the Depression and WWII.

  • Mada Gage Bolton, Dealer’s Choice (1937) — A working woman comes up with a plan to trade her independent New York lifestyle for a family homestead in the country.
  • Janet McPhee and Herbert Whittaker, Jupiter in Retreat (1942) — A haughty mathematician and his two servants play a suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse in a Laurentian cabin.  

Directed by Micheline Chevrier, Artistic and Executive Director, Imago Theatre.

Feb. 25: Theme: “He said X, She asked, Why” – A poetic take on the darker aspects of human nature.

  • Irving Layton and Leonard Cohen, A Man Was Killed (1959) — A black comedy about the human impulse for violence and the destruction of social relations.
  • Elinore Siminovitch, Big X, Little Y (1974) — Women’s roles in society are playfully examined through nursery rhymes, songs, and games.

Directed by Eda Holmes, Artistic and Executive Director, Centaur Theatre.

Feb. 26: Theme: “The Third Solitude” — Portraits of the Jewish Montreal experience.

  • William Werry, The Bag of Earth (1967) — A respected Jewish tailor awaits the return of his grandson who is bringing him a bag of earth from Israel.
  • Aviva Ravel, Dispossessed (1976) — Moved by the death of a former lover, a woman confronts what her life could have been.

Directed by Caitlin Murphy, Artistic Associate, Segal Centre for the Performing Arts. 

Feb. 27: Theme: “Identity Crisis” – Tension between fact and fiction comes to a head.

  • Carol Libman, The Reluctant Hero (1956) — One miner, two reporters, and a media circus. Who will determine what makes a hero?
  • Linda Ghan, Coldsnap (1979) —  An immigrant from Jamaica must get married in order to stay in Canada, but he questions his motives and recounts his experience with racism.

Directed by Quincy Armorer, Artistic Director, Black Theatre Workshop.

WHAT: Chez Nous: A Staged-Reading Series Showcasing English-Language Drama in Québec (1930-1979)

WHEN: Monday, February 24 – Thursday 27 February at 7 P.M.

WHERE:  Moyse Hall, McGill University – 853 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal H3A 0G5

Chez Nous: A Staged-Reading Series Showcasing English-Language Drama in Quebec (1930-1979) is a collaboration between McGill University’s Department of English and Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal, with the artistic collaboration of four of Montreal’s English-language theatres: Black Theatre Workshop, Centaur Theatre, Imago Theatre, and the Segal Centre.

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