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Modern Theatre in Context: A Critical Timeline

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Alec Guinness as Richard (Stratford), 1953

The year of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, which for many represents the beginning of a new age, and the ending of the war in Korea, with Canadian troops hailed as heroes, possibly contribute to making Canada self-confident enough culturally to patriate its dual heritage, French and English. At any rate, the théâtre du nouveau monde, is founded in Montreal by Eloi de Grandmont, Guy Hoffmann, Georges Groulx, Jean-Louis Roux, and Jean Gascon, becoming Quebec's leading classical theatre, while the Stratford Festival, founded in a tent on the banks of the Avon River by Stratford entrepreneur Tom Patterson, is dedicated to the plays of Shakespeare.

Specializing in the works of Molière, théâtre du nouveau monde expands to give French-language performances of world classics from the Greeks to Shakespeare, as well as plays from the modern Quebec repertoire which, like those of Tremblay, have achieved a major reputation. It enjoys a remarkable stability in leadership, with Jean Gascon, the first artistic director remaining until 1968, followed by Jean-Louis Roux up to 1981, and became well-known for fostering the youthful talents of Denise Pelletier, Geneviève Bujold, Monique Miller, and other who have become major stars.

Similarly Stratford established itself almost immediately as a significant force in English-language theatre with its first season, under the Artistic directorship of Tyrone Guthrie, featuring Alec Guinness and Irene Worth in Richard III and All's Well that Ends Well. Working together with his wife, the brilliant designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, in the following seasons Guthrie will experiment with masks in an immensely influential production of Oedipus Rex, before moving on in 1957 to found a similar theatre in Minneapolis.