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Appendix D: – Canadian Radio, Some Background


distributors bought more and more theatre outlets exclusively for movies, leaving few performance spaces (Stuart, 77). Stuart writes that none of these factors were unique to the prairies, but radio may have had a stronger adverse effect on professional live theatre on the prairies than it did elsewhere:

In Western Canada in particular, radio replaced theatre in many people’s lives. Radio provided convenient, economical information, entertainment, and culture; in effect, it became Canada’s National Theatre for many years. Radio conquered the difficulties of distance and weather, bringing entertainment to everyone. It also did not have to worry about bringing widely dispersed audiences together in one place – it was available whenever a listener wanted it. Undoubtedly, the success of radio hastened the decline of professional theatre in the 1930s (Stuart 77).

Other live performances did continue, but not to the extent of the great touring companies that reigned during the early 1900s. For more information on these institutions like the Chautauqua, amateur theatre companies like the Saskatoon and Regina Little Theatres89, the extension divisions of the Universities of Regina and Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, drama pioneers like Mary Ellen Burgess, and festivals like the Dominion Drama Festival90, Stuart’s History of Prairie Theatre provides a detailed account.

By the 1940s, radio was the dominant media in most towns and cities in Saskatchewan. Art Crichton, of CKCK Regina in the forties, recalled in Signing On: “Radio was the cultural centre of the whole community. The only other cultural outlet was the movies and no one could afford to go to the movies every night” (McNeil and Wolfe 132). The economics of distance, audience, and convenience swung the pendulum of popular entertainment toward radio.

WWII offered radio another chance to illustrate its power to convey information, almost immediately, across the world. Audiences in Canada heard world events broadcast into their homes as they happened. At home and abroad, the war years saw radio drama drafted as a tool to bolster the war effort (Schmaltz 77).

89 Some of Saskatchewan’s Little Theatres: Saskatoon: Christ Church Dramatic Society, 1921-1929; Saskatoon Little Theatre, 1922-1949; and the Regina Little Theatre, established 1931 (Londré and Watermeiser 352).

90 The DDF ran from 1932 to 1970, then became Theatre Canada until 1978. Robertson Davies described the DDF as such, “The foundation of our modern professional theatre rests on many stones, but the largest and strongest is the achievement of the Dominion Drama Festival” (from his introduction to Love and Whiskey: the Story of the Dominion Drama Festival by Betty Lee: quoted by Londré and Watermeiser 356- 7).

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