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Modern Theatre in Context: A Critical Timeline

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Nadia Venesse and Brian Linds in 'New Canadian Kid'

The year brings a distinct deepening in and extension of the Canadian theatrical franchise. In the educational area, Ron Irving founds Island Community Theatre in Charlottetown, a resource organization for theatre teaching and production on Prince Edward Island – while young people's theatre is given a boost by Dennis Foon's play, New Canadian Kid, produced by Vancouver's Green Thumb Theatre, which becomes a staple of the Theatre for Young Audience repertoire everywhere. Similarly, spreading theatre to untraditional venues outside the major populations centres, Kam Theatre in Thunder Bay, Ontario, hosts "Bread and Circuses," a national festival of popular theatre which marks the founding of the Canadian Popular Theatre Alliance. The festival features the premiere of George Ryga's A Letter to My Son, and an address by Ryga on "The Artist in Resistance". At the same time, a second generation emerges when, in the wake of the collapse of Theatre 3, Keith Digby founds Phoenix Theatre in Edmonton. Subsequent Artistic Directors include Bob Baker, Jim Guedo, and John Cooper.

New stylistic approaches are also demonstrated by Necessary Angel Theatre, which produces the first version of John Krizanc's environmental hit, Tamara, in Strachan House in Toronto. Set in Fascist Italy and featuring both the Italian war-hero and poet Gabriel D'Annunzio – and his lover, the coldly elegant painter Tamara de Lempicka (after whom the play is named) – it offers the ultimate "dinner-theater" with spectators choosing which set of characters to follow through a house, and observing quite different actions that they must put together over their meal, in order to "solve" the situation. The play later sweeps the Los Angeles critics awards, and opens for extended runs in New York and several other North American and European cities under the auspices of media czar Moses Znaimer and "Tamara International." It is still touring 15 years later, being performed in Toronto (and elsewhere) in 2003.

At the other end of the social scale, the first Governor General's Literary Award for Drama is instituted. This is won by Sharon Pollock's Blood Relations and Other Plays, and Pollock wins the award again in 1986 for her family drama, Doc.