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Searching for Margaret Greenham

At the opening of the Margaret Greenham Theatre, July 18, 1969. Front row (l to r) Ernesto Vinci, Catharine Whyte, Earle McPhee. Back row (l to r) Campbell McLaurin (Chancellor), Alfred William Rooke Carrothers (President of the University of Calgary), Donald Cameron. Banff Centre Historical Photo collection.

At the opening of the Margaret Greenham Theatre, July 18, 1969. Front row (l to r) Ernesto Vinci, Catharine Whyte, Earle McPhee. Back row (l to r) Campbell McLaurin (Chancellor), Alfred William Rooke Carrothers (President of the University of Calgary), Donald Cameron. Banff Centre Historical Photo collection.

On July 18, 1969, the Banff School of Fine Arts hosted a special opening ceremony for a newly built practice theatre named for Margaret Greenham, a local Banff teacher dedicated to educating Alberta children in the arts. The theatre had been built with a generous and anonymous donation. An old program for the event showed that Honorary Doctorates were given by the University of Calgary to Ernesto Vinci, Earle Douglas MacPhee, and Catharine Robb Whyte to recognize their contributions to artistic, cultural and academic development.

A commemorative plaque outside the theatre acknowledges the generosity of the anonymous donor and why Margaret Greenham was honoured.  Forty-four years later, it’s well known that Catharine Whyte was the anonymous donor. But I still wondered if Catharine had chosen the name of the theatre.

In most cases our Archives on-line database will lead a researcher directly to aphotographic or textual record. However, in this case, a few keyword searches for Margaret Greenham, Donald Cameron and Catharine Whyte yielded nothing, so I went to the Whyte Museum and Archives to do a little extra detective work.

Looking through Catharine Whyte’s papers was very interesting. I knew that she and her husband Peter had been generous patrons of the arts in Banff, but actually looking at her charitable donations over the decades showed a woman dedicated to using her wealth to advocate for local programs that cultivated young talent. I also noticed that Catharine almost always made her donations anonymously.

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Celebrating 40 years with the Banff Playwrights Colony

This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Banff Playwrights Colony and we thought it might be nice to share with you three film strips that help capture the colony’s legacy leading to the present. For more photos and writings from the archival collection swing by the Paul D. Fleck Libary & Archives and check out the current display celebrating the Banff Playwrights Colony.

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Historical Photographs Collection (BCC.LA/PW.1976.3). Photo by Ron Adlington, July 1976.

In 1976, under program head Tom Hendry, the colony’s focus was workshopping and developing scripts in progress. Hendry’s inclusion of a group of resident actors as part of the collaborative process became a national model for other playwright colonies popping up across the country. Some of the program’s earliest participants included great Canadian playwrights Sharon Pollock and George Ryga.

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Photographic Services [Technical Services] fonds (LA 1986.3). Photo by Monte Greenshields, May 25, 1986.

In 1986 John Murrell became head of the colony and refocused the colony’s mandate on the development of new plays and changed the application process to a nomination based process. The 1986 colony included Canadian playwrights who pushed the boundaries of Canadian theatre: Larry Fineberg, Paul Ledoux, and Colleen Wagner, to name a few.

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This film strip was created using images captured during a reading of, “This is War” (in July 2012) and brought together in Photoshop by Photo Services.

Today the colony remains committed to offering playwrights a dynamic environment that gives playwrights the opportunity to experiment, collaborate, and take the necessary risks that generate plays to challenge and entertain audiences.

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In conversation with: Elizabeth Sterling Haynes

Elizabeth Sterling Haynes, director of the Banff summer theatre arts course offered by the University of Alberta’s Department of Extension in 1933. Photo: Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives

While digging through The Banff Centre’s history, I encountered Elizabeth Sterling Haynes (1897-1957). Haynes was named director of the Banff summer theatre arts course offered by the University of Alberta’s Department of Extension in 1933. Haynes was a passionate advocate for theatre arts education. She mentored many young Albertan playwrights and stage actors, including Elsie Park Gowan, Gwen Pharis Ringwood, and Tom Peacocke. I thought I’d ask Haynes a few questions to find out about her passion and vision.

What was your first impression of theatre in Alberta?
I had just come here [Edmonton] from Toronto, back in the early ‘Twenties, and it was forty-five below on that dark winter’s morning. The little villages which I had glimpsed through holes scratched in the frost on the train windows, had seemed so stark and… uninhabited in the dirtied snow that I felt very disconsolate and uprooted. Then, as we turned into the old Barootes Café, I saw this playbill announcing a first-rate English company’s production of Galsworthy’s The Skin Game. I went, and I have never forgotten the performance.

In your opinion what makes theatre just as important to a rural community, as it is to a large urban centre? Drama had its inception in the natural vigour and vitality of rural village life… after the last century of elaborate, artificial, and highly commercialized show houses, it should go back to the source from which it sprang to be refreshed, revived, and strengthened…The people’s theatre is an ageless idea springing ever fresh from the hearts of humanity.  Continue Reading →

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