“Now and Then: Found Treasures of Canadian Theatre History,” an exhibit that has been running all summer at the Perth Museum (Matheson House), is extending its successful run another month until November 4. The exhibit – a colourful journey through some significant periods in the post-World War II development of Canadian culture, as well as some remarkable pieces of Perth’s own theatrical history that go back almost a century – has been a big hit with tourists who toured the installation before and after shows at the Classic Theatre Festival this past summer.
“We’ve had a lot of ‘wow’ moments from visitors who have really enjoyed this trip down Canada’s theatrical memory lane,” says Museum Curator Karen Rennie. “Where else in this neck of the woods can you see 1950s resume pictures of Christopher Plummer and William Shatner before they found international fame?”
The exhibit was largely inspired by the lives of Canadian actors Bernard Behrens and Deborah Cass, both of whom worked in the early years of Stratford and CBC, touring North America with Canadian Players, playing summer stock, and performing at the Toronto Crest Theatre, Halifax’s Neptune Theatre, and the Shaw Festival. They were part of a generation whose faces many Canadians grew up watching both on stage and on TV shows such as The Forest Rangers and The Beachcombers, and many of those performers are featured in photographs and paintings at the Perth Museum exhibit.
The Now and Then part of the exhibit focuses on original Canadian productions of shows that have been performed by the Classic Theatre Festival, from The Marriage-Go-Round and The Star-Spangled Girl (last summer’s lineup) to Bell, Book and Candle and The Fourposter.
Visitors to the museum exhibit still have an opportunity to enjoy the sights of Stratford in the 1950s and 1960s, from the colourful playbills and season posters to original magazine stories about landmark moments in Stratford’s theatrical history. They’ll also see original paintings by legendary Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, as well as memorabilia from Perth’s very own Balderson Theatre, which for years was the largest theatre between Toronto and Montreal and was the home of the comic troupe The Marks Brothers.
“This has certainly been a unique look back at some of the founding companies of modern Canadian theatre, and it’s great that we have this opportunity to continue sharing this with visitors as well as residents who haven’t had a chance to see it yet,” says Rennie.
The exhibit, at 11 Gore Street East, runs until November 4.