Massey Era

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Era:
1919 - 1972

After eight years of construction, interrupted by the war, Vincent Massey declared that “the House as it now stands is intended to represent the sum of those activities of the student which lie outside the curriculum.” The Massey era was both one of great progress and hurdles. This era represented wider social and political developments in North America. The main one was with regards to gender equality. Women were not allowed in Hart House itself during the Massey Era. After his death, the regulations were expanded to allow female members in 1972.

Hart House Theatre itself was a result of Massey’s wife, Alice and her love of drama. The Theatre in the Massey era saw some problems as a result of natural tensions between different stakeholders, students represented by the Players Club the broader community of “Little Theatre” practitioners, and Massey’s personally assembled “Board of Syndics” who oversaw the financial operation of the theatre until 1966.1

Massey’s conviction towards amateur theatre’s preciousness would only solidify as he was drawn into another massive cultural project—the Dominion Drama Festival. Created by the Governor General Lord Bessborough in 1932 as a way to further the development of a Canadian theatre culture, this nation-wide amateur theatre competition became a mainstay of Hart House Theatre (who played regular host to the Central Ontario regional competition) until its eventual collapse in 1971.


Notes

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  1. Richard Partington, “Theatre: A Matter of Direction,” in A Strange Elation: Hart House: The First Eighty Years, ed. David Kilgour (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 97-98.