Tag Archives: Theatre

Is this holiday about St. George or William Shakespeare?

Archival Moment

April 23

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George's Day be called Shakespear's Day.

Since 1936 their have been voices in Newfoundland suggesting that St. George’s Day be called Shakespear’s Day.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, April 23, is St. George’s Day  celebrating our ‘English ancestry’.

 (The provincial holiday is held on April 24, the nearest Monday.)

 

St. George’s Day has long been acknowledged as a significant date in Newfoundland and Labrador but it was not celebrated as a holiday until April 23, 1921.

Traditionally it was a day filled with pageantry and parading. Typically all of the English Protestant organizations including the Newfoundland British Society, Loyal Orange Association, Society of United Fishermen, Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Sons of England Benefit Society, lined up in honor of St. George parading through the streets of St. John’s.

Throughout the town on St. George’s Day all of the men would be sporting a red rose in their lapel, the national emblem and flower for England

April 23 is however not only about St. George it is also all about William Shakespeare.

In Newfoundland there have always been enthusiasts for William Shakespeare and on April 16, 1936, George W. Ayre, a lawyer from St. John’s writing from his home at 24 Circular Road wrote to the local newspapers:

“Now, I should like to call your attention to the fact that the 23rd of April is far more important than its being St. George’s Day and that is that it is also the day on which Shakespeare was born and died, his birthday and deathday, and Shakespeare is as far above St. George as the intellect is above the physique or something mental is above something physical.

St. George is more or less confined to Englishmen or the person of British Empire, as their Patron Saint but Shakespeare is the intellectual ocean into which the little tributaries of intellect flow. He is the myriad minded man, the greatest, mind, possibly, that ever was on earth, and as Englishmen, for he was an Englishman, as Britishers, for he was a Britisher, as men of intellect, as his was the greatest intellect, we should honour his birthday and deathday.

He is not only all these but he is the outstanding genius of the world, whose works are studied by schoolchildren, scholars, actors, and others, of all countries.

We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.

We cannot afford to drop it as Shakespeare’s Day.

Let us therefore honour Shakespeare on that day, (April 23) let there be Shakespearean recitals and performances; let there be dances, concerts, etc. all in honour of the greatest mind that was ever in the world.”

There were those in St. John’s who were not amused with the letter; in fact they were quite baffled. Mr. Ayre (the gentleman penning the letter) was the first President of the St. George’s Society in St. John’s.  Ayre’s loyalties were clearly suspect. One of his first acts as the president of the St. George’s Society (founded on April 23, 1921) was to encourage theatrical groups in St. John’s to present Shakespearean plays on April 23.

Many thought it was really a bit much for the President of St. George’s Society, which was to advocate for their great patron St. George to write that:

“We could easily afford to drop the 23rd of April as just, St. George’s Day.”

Who was St. George?  According to legend, St. George, a soldier of the Imperial Army, rescues a town in what is now Libya from the tyranny of a dragon. St. George overpowered the beast and then offered to kill it if the townspeople would convert to Christianity and be baptized. The story is that there were 15,000 conversions on the spot. Openly espousing Christianity was dangerous and eventually the authorities of Emperor Diocletian arrested George. He was martyred about 303 AD.

Many of us associate St. George with his flag. The standard, the Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown on the foremast of the Mayflower (with the early Union Flag combining St. George’s Cross of England with St. Andrew’s Saltire of Scotland on the mainmast) when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Renews, Newfoundland  to replenish their supplies before they went on their way to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

St George is the patron saint of England. He is the patron of soldiers and archers, cavalry and chivalry, of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers, of horses, riders and saddlers.

He is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Istanbul, Lithuania, Moscow, Palestine, and Portugal. But only in Newfoundland and Labrador have we declared this day a holiday!

Recommended Action: Wear a Red Rose in your lapel on April 23 just to remind people that you know why you had the day off. If you want to celebrate the birth and death of Shakespeare impress your friends by reciting a few lines from the bard.

A haunting evocative evening in the theatre

the-weir-flyerTHE WEIR

by Conor McPherson

A haunting evocative evening in the theatre

In a remote country pub in Ireland, newcomer Valerie arrives and becomes spellbound by an evening of ghostly stories told by the local bachelors who drink there. With a whiff of sexual tension in the air and the wind whistling outside, what starts out as blarney soon turns dark as the tales drift into the realm of the supernatural. Then, Valerie reveals a startling story of her own….

Conor McPherson’s The Weir is a haunting evocative evening in the theatre you will never forget. Tickets are available $30 at the LSPU Hall.

November 1 -5 at 8PM

MATINEE: Saturday, November 5 at 2:00pm

Book your ticket on line at http://rca.nf.ca/

All proceeds go towards “Team Broken Earth” and their work in rebuilding Haiti. Read More: http://www.brokenearth.ca/

 

The First Newfoundland Film

Archival Moment

August 26, 1914

The First Newfoundland Film

The First Newfoundland Film

There was much excitement in St. John’s on August 26, 1914, residents interested in film were excited about the first public showing of a film that was produced in Newfoundland. They were anticipating the showing of the production “Ye Ancient Colony” at the Nickel Theatre.

The setting for the film was the newly established ‘Bowring Park’ known to most residents of the city as the Rae Island property. The company that had undertook the venture was the Newfoundland Biograph Company with financial backing from A. Winter, Mr. Outerbridge and Mr. Harvey.

The film was by today’s standards a documentary featuring the official opening of Bowring Park on 15 July 1914 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught.

Those promoting the film wrote in the Evening Telegram:

“We are inclined to hail the advent of the local firm who have had the courage to inaugurate the idea of preserving by means of animated photography figures, scenes and occurrences of our Home Land. Their courage and enterprise is something of which we must not lose sight ….“

The newspaper went on to read:

“and it is hope that the people who witness the film at the Nickel Theatre tonight, will bear in mind that this splendid presentation is no mere passing item, an ordinary release, but is a local rendition of a local subject, photographed by local people, financed by local promoters and offered as Newfoundland’s first contribution in the way of animated photography.”

Though much of the early film shot in Newfoundland and Labrador was lost or destroyed, a valuable and significant archive has been preserved.

Recommended Archives: The Provincial Archives at The Rooms includes footage by pre-Confederation filmmakers, Varick Frissell’s; The Viking (1931) and The Great Arctic Seal Hunt (1927) , NIFCO, the National Film Board of Canada maintain rich collections of much of the work done since Confederation. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Reading: The Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation (NLFDC). The NLFDC has been mandated to promote the development of the indigenous film and video industry in the Province, as well as to promote the Province in national and international film and video markets as a location for film, television, and commercial productions. Read more:  http://www.nlfdc.ca/

Recommended at The Rooms Theatre: View archival film footage of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War.  Ongoing showings from 2 – 4pm in the Level 2 theatre

Recommended Film Festival: The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) is one of the longest running women’s film festivals in the world. Established in 1989 to support and promote women filmmakers, SJIWFF produces several screenings, workshops and other events throughout the year, culminating in a five day film festival held in October in St. John’s.  http://www.womensfilmfestival.com/

 

 

The first “talking pictures” in Newfoundland

Archival Moments

June 1, 1914

Advertisement: Evening Telegram (St. John's, N.L.)

Advertisement: Evening Telegram (St. John’s, N.L.)

There was much excitement in St. John’s on June 1, 1914 the talk in the town was all about the Casino Theatre on Henry Street, audiences at the old theatre were treated to a “talking picture” that united for the first time, sight and sound, through “talking” motion pictures.

The St. John’s, newspaper, The Evening Telegram declared that this new technology created by the American Inventor Thomas A. Edison, just one year previous, known as the ‘Edison Kinetophone’:

“has taken its place among the high class theatrical attractions now touring Canada and the United States, and is successfully competing with the largest of dramatic and musical organizations.”

Those attending the premier of the first talking pictures in Newfoundland were enthusiastic in their praise:

“it was with a general feeling that the kinetophone has scored …. the most novel success of this new mechanical form of entertainment.”

Audiences were delighted, the evening began with “the talking pictures being preceded by a film shown in the ordinary way with musical accompaniment … “. Typically, all theatres had pianos and or organs and the musician played along with the scenes as they appeared on the screen.

Following the silent film “the talkies (were) thrown on, music and voice, the clear natural tones of the actors as they appear in the different subjects is truly a marvel of genius.”

There were three presentations. In one of the subjects Sprigs from the Emerald Isle the dialogue songs and pipe music (were) so real so vivid in its presentation that the audience forgets the mechanical contrivance and last night broke into loud and prolonged applause.

The night also featured an interview with Baseball Manager John J. McGraw, manager of the New York Giants who won the National League pennant in 1913 and ended with with another talkie that scored a hit the “Four Blacksmiths” a vaudeville singing and talking act.

The reviewer for the Evening Telegram, declared that this new form of entertainment – these talking pictures would be a success. He wrote:

Every member of the audience last night spoke in most appreciative terms of the talking pictures in all their aspects the synchronization and marvelous record of human voice … it is safe to say that many of the pictures should be repeated before the company closes their engagement.”

The enthusiasm of the audiences in St. John’s was not shared by Thomas Edison the inventor. In 1913 he had produced thirteen talking pictures but by 1915 he had abandoned sound motion pictures.

It was discovered that because the sound portion was played on a phonograph that was separate from the projector, it was difficult to get the sound and the motion synchronized perfectly. Audiences found this annoying. Edison was an inventor, he was not a very creative film producer, many people thought his films were boring. Each lasted only six minutes, and portrayed scenes from famous plays or vaudeville acts.

The dissolution of the Motion Picture Patents Corp. in 1915 may also have contributed to Edison’s departure from sound films, since this act deprived him of patent protection for his motion picture inventions.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  film  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives