Accession UAA-2005-069 - UAA-2005-069

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  • 1973-2001 (Creation)
    Defelice, James

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Writer, Actor, Director, Teacher. James (Jim) DeFelice was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on 6 January, 1937. DeFelice studied at Northeastern University, Boston University, Tufts University and the University of Indiana.
DeFelice wrote for both theatre and cinema while located in Alberta. His work has won him many awards and accolades, including the 1977 film Why Shoot the Teacher which won a Canadian Screen Award for best screenplay in 1978.
He also acted in many Alberta based theatres and events including, Shadow Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, the Citadel Theatre, Northern Light Theatre, and the Edmonton Fringe. DeFelice also acted at the Theatre Network and since 2018 he has been a guest member of the improv group Coyote Comedy.
DeFelice directed 62 plays, including 40 at the University of Alberta, where he taught in the Department of Drama for 33 years. DeFelice retired from the University of Alberta in 2002. He also took part in 21 productions at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.
In 1995, he won Sterling Awards lifetime achievement award. He also became a member of the Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame with his partner, Gail and two daughters Amy and Gwen.

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Theatre 3 was a theatre company founded in 1970 by Mark Schoenberg and Anne Green. As a professor of theatre at the University of Alberta Dr. Schoenberg supported the idea of an alternative to the Citadel Theatre and the Walterdale Theatre. He saw a need to implement what he and his department were teaching and he brought to the company a mandate of developing new plays, local talent, and less commercial work. He directed many of the company's early productions including Brendan Behan's The Hostage and the Canadian professional premiere of Harold Pinter's Old Times. Schoenberg and Edmonton actress Green registered the company as a non-profit organization gaining financial support from a number of Edmontonians. The company had a board of directors that included Leslie Green (Ann's father), Mark and Judy Schoenberg, and accountant Mark Johnson. They secured Drew Borland to design the first productions. Keith Digby succeeded Schoenberg when the latter took a position at the CBC in 1978. The company began playing in a 90-seat venue at Victoria Composite high school, moved to the Centenial Library theatre, and finally graduated to its own house in 1976. It ran until 1981 when it could no longer maintain its debt load of approximately $800,000. Keith Digby worked quickly to form the Phoenix Theatre as Theatre 3's successor. So quickly that the latter company used the same office space and even the same telephone number.

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The Catalyst Theatre was incorporated in 1978, but began from Theatre for Social Action projects directed by David Barnet in the Drama Department of the University of Alberta. One such piece, entitled Drinks before Dinner (1977), caught the attention of the Alberta Alcoholism and Addiction Commission and the commission funded a provincial tour of the piece. Soon other social agencies began to make inquiries, and Catalyst Theatre was formed, with Barnet the acting part-time artistic coordinator. In 1979, Jan Selman, a M.F.A. grad from Alberta, was hired to be Catalyst's first full- time artistic director. Catalyst's stated objectives from the outset were to 'promote and practice the use of theatre for public education and as a catalyst for social action.' Topics explored under this mandate included alcoholism and drug abuse, juvenile crime, spouse abuse, poverty and teen suicide. Plays were performed in whatever space the sponsors or tour location had available. In 1985, Ruth Smillie replaced Jan Selman as artistic director. During Smillie's tenure Catalyst moved away from producing pieces for social agencies and began to pursue projects of its own choosing. In 1990, Catalyst, for the first time acquired its own performance space in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Garneau. The new performance space, though small, became known for its experiments in cabaret theatre. During Smillie's tenure, the theatre also developed the Takwakin project featuring the writing and direction of Floyd Favel. Favel's works All my Relations (1990) and Lady of Silences and Requiem (1992) featured all-Native casts and sought to develop new images of and for the contemporary native. Smillie resigned in early 1996 and was succeeded by the directing tandem of Joey Tremblay and Jonathan Cristenson. To cut costs, they moved Catalyst into a converted warehouse at 8523- 103 St., and revised the objective of Catalyst to focus on theatrical innovation instead of social change. The new commitment was to 'creating original Canadian work that explores new possibilities for the theatrical art form and the process through which it was created,' to 'exposing work nationally and internationally', and to 'challenging the artists and audiences who participate in the creation of that work.'

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Alberta Barter Theatre was co-founded in 1972 by Prof. Larry Kadlec (UAD), Lee Livingstone (MFA Design, UA) and Bob Baker (BFA student, UA) under the auspices of the federal government's new Opportunities for Youth (OFY) grants, which provided salaries for the initial 11-member company and a small portion of production costs. The company performed in the summers at Torches Theatre, the outdoor venue at Corbett Hall built by the University of Alberta drama department for its summer theatre season from 1962-1970. The new theatre was an entirely independent company, taking its name from its box office procedures of offering admission through either cash or kind (modelled on the 1930s Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia). Offering primarily light entertainment over six summers to a large following of Edmonton audiences, Barter Theatre also provided excellent training in all aspects of theatre production and management to many students and recent graduates with professional careers in mind. Except for the Summer of 1975, Lee Livingstone remained the chief administrator of the company and was also involved in direction and design. Bob Baker left the company after 2 years and Kadlec left in 1975. When the OFY grants were discontinued after 1975, the company became fully professional. It charged regular admission, but by the end of the summer season of 1978 the company determined that the theatre was no longer financially viable.

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Northern Light Theatre was founded in March 1975 as a lunch-time theatre, modeled after the programming of Vancouver City Stage. The four founding artists were Scott Swan (Artistic Director), Alland Lysell (Administrative Director), and Andela and Merrilyn Gann (Actors). All were originally from Vancouver, but had come to Edmonton where there seemed a more receptive atmosphere for developing new theatre. NLT’s first presentation was Love and Drollery, a collage of Elizabethan music, prose and poetry, at the Edmonton Art Gallery Theatre. As this production finished, Lysell and Sean also performed Babel Rap, by John Lazarus, in the first program of Citadel Too (also known as Citadel II and Citadel Two), an alternative theatre program John Neville initiated to expand the range of the Citadel Theatre. Northern Light performed its lunch program for the next five years out of the Edmonton Art Gallery Theatre, which the company had renovated with the help of a $12,000 OFY grant that first summer. The ticket price for that first summer was $1.00. In 1976, Northern Light added two evening performances each week, so it could offer longer plays. In 1977, Frank Moher was hired as dramaturge, and the company originated a “Playwrights Unit” for reading and workshopping new plays, by such writers as Gordon Pengilly, Tony Bell, Ben Tarver and James DeFelice. Swan emphasized development of a “house style” of performance, a “lyrical intensity” of presentation and developed ensemble playing in works such as Ten Lost Years and Six War Years. Among the works that got the Canadian premieres during this early period were David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Arthur Kopit’s Wings. In 1980 Northern Light moved to an evening program of full-length plays. Part of the plan was a commitment to originating new Canadian plays with two such works to be commissioned each season. Also in 1980, as part of SummerFest, Northern Light began a summer rep company, Shakespeare in the Park, in a tent on Connors Hill, south of the Muttart Conservatory. Accumulated debts of some $107,000 forestalled plans for the 1980-81 winter season. The 1981 summer season of four plays added to the debts, leaving the company owning some $130,000. The winter season, 1981-82 had to be cancelled, and Northern Light ceased the SummerFest season in the park. In late 1981 as well, Swann was hired by Festival Lennoxville, leaving the company without a full-time artistic director. Swan split his time between Lennoxville and Edmonton until Janice van der Veen, from the Vancouver New Play centre, was hired in 1982. In 1983, after a 1982-83 season that was staged in a variety of venues, Northern Light moved to the Kaasa Theatre in the Jubilee Auditorium. A massive fund-raising campaign cleared off the debts by October 1983. The Northern Light season became a mix of established, contemporary, and new Canadian works, a season at times much like that of the Phoenix, with whom it shared the Kaasa stage (though Northern Light was more likely to put a new Canadian work into its mainstage season). From 1982, Northern Light also participated in the Alberta Playwrighting Centre, which it co-founded in collaboration with Albert Theatre Projects of Calgary. By 1987, with the theatre having gradually lost audience, van der Veen and the Northern Light board parted ways, and Gyllian Raby was hired from Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit Company. Raby’s preference was to explore theatrical form and theatrical image. She initiated a series of collaborative projects, each involving a writer, a composer, a designer and a director. The first such project was Treacheries of the Blue Angel, in June 1989. In 1991-92, Raby voluntarily took Northern Light off Canada Council operational funding, preferring the flexibility of project funding. Budgetary problems arose that year when a tour of Blake Brooker’s Ilsa , Queen of the Nazi Love Camp was cancelled by court order in mid-run, because of the Jim Keegstra re-trial- Keegstra being a character in the play. Raby resigned in 1992 to accompany her husband to Halifax. Robert Astle, formerly of Small Change Theatre, succeeded her briefly, before D.D. Kugler took over from 1994 to 1998. By late 1995, Kugler ended Northern Light’s period at the Kaasa to pursue production in “non-traditional theatre venues.” Although Kugler first attracted attention in March 1995 for a production of Daniel MacIovr’s 2-2 Tango, a piece where movement is the main communicative medium he was highly interested in the spoken word on stage, including adapting poetic works. He carried on a play-reading and development program that took works from early reading through to full production. Sandhano Schultze, formerly of Pink Ink Theatre of Vancouver, became Artistic Director in May, 1998. His early plans included continuing the play-reading series.

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Promotional materials, press releases, programs, and newspaper clippings for various Edmonton theatre companies.

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