CURTAIN RISING: THE HISTORY OF THEATRE IN LONDON
London Ontario Theatre History / London Regional Art and Historical Museums / 1993 / Research: Mike Baker / Cover photograph: Yousuf Karsh / Illustrated throughout with historical photographs and art
Commissioned to appear in conjunction with an exhibition at the London Regional Art and Historical Museums, I had the pleasure of working and arguing with the Museum’s curator of regional history, Mike Baker. Mike undertook the vast majority of the research, although I was the one who broke Museum director Nancy Poole’s heart by determining once and for all that London artist Eva Bradshaw had not painted the mural on the proscenium arch at the Grand Theatre. I was away in England when the shipment of books came back from the printer and missed out on the all-night session with scissors and mucilage when Canadian theatre giant William Hutt demanded that the picture caption on page 104 that read, “Martha Henry and William Hutt in Grand Theatre World Premiere ‘The Stillborn Lover’ by Timothy Findley . . .” be covered over with one that read, “William Hutt and Martha Henry in . . .” They’re the only two people in the photograph; one a male and one a female. Nobody was going to get them confused. It was all about, ‘Hey, I go first and don’t you forget it.’ I mean, how many Mavor Moore Lifetime Achievement Awards do you have to win before that rabid squirrel of insecurity running around inside your breast is stilled? - Herman Goodden
“The book is more ‘story’ than ‘history’ because of Goodden’s ability to make people and events familiar and to really convey the warmth of that community and the depth of commitment it took to make London’s current theatre situation possible . . . Curtain Rising is entertaining, intriguing and convincing history which has left me with one overall impression: that our city’s great tradition of drama was built by the efforts of people who worked very hard for many years, just for the sheer love of the stage. And that London Community Players is the modern day inheritor of that tradition and should really be more appreciated for it.”
- Mark Young, Scene
“Undertaken as a project for the London Regional Art and Historical Museums, the book is designed for popular reading by the London community, and provides that public with a compassionate look at its theatrical past. There are few areas within this compact account of London's theatre history that the general reader will not find interesting, and the inclusion of numerous photographs aids in personalizing the people who created that history.
"The real strength of this work lies in the author's very readable style. In describing the first piece of dramatic criticism to appear in the London Herald on 7 January 1843, Goodden writes: ‘This review wonderfully combines many of the salient qualities to be found in the local reviews of the period - a scattershot spewing of witless superlatives interspersed with a few stray bricks of perfectly brutal nastiness and the whole thing glossed over with a disconcerting sheen of incomprehension.’ Such lines afford a pleasurable enlightenment to the general reading public, and to academic readers as well.”
– Patrick B. O’Neill, Theatre Research in Canada