Avon Theatrical Productions: A Checklist

Crop of CVA’s LGN 999 – Night scene showing ‘old’ Pantages on 100 block East Hastings — what would become, in 1952, the Avon Theatre. 191- BCER.

The Avon Theatre was originally known as the Pantages, from its opening with that name as a vaudeville house in 1908 (on south side of East Hastings between Columbia and Main). It was identified less formally as the ‘old Pantages’ with the opening in 1917 of a ‘new’ Pantages (on south side of West Hastings between Carrall and Abbott; demolished 1967). With the opening of the ‘new’ Pantages, the ‘old’ theatre was known variously as the Royal, the State, the Queen, and the State again.

CVA. Avon business card given to Major Matthews.

In 1952, a repertory group under the leadership of Sydney Risk (1908-1985), Everyman Repertory Co., leased the former State Theatre building from landlord Jack Aceman (1910-1989) and it was re-named the Avon Theatre. Risk’s company, prior to moving into the Avon, was located at 2237 Main Street (Main at 7th). Everyman put on a total of 13 productions until Risk and his group parted company with the Avon in April 1953.

Jack Aceman and Charles Nelson produced 12 plays from June 1953 until they packed it in at the end of 1955. After that, the theatre was no longer known as the Avon. It was, initially, the Fairview Branch 178 Canadian Legion Social Club, which leased the space from Aceman Investments to stand bingo events. In 1956, the Canadian Chinese American Theatres Ltd. took over the old Avon to present mainly Chinese language films.

The Pantages/Queen/State/Avon Theatre was demolished in 2011.

What appears below is a checklist showing the theatrical productions staged by Risk and by Aceman & Nelson. Only shows put on by these appear below.* In most instances, I have shown the name of the play and the playwright(s), the opening date, the director’s name, the headliners (stars); and supporting cast (probably incomplete, in some cases). In the few instances when I’ve had access to a play’s programme, I’ve been able to add staffing information, as well.

(1) “MacBeth” (William Shakespeare): September 29, 1952

  • Director: Sydney Risk
  • Headliners: Dean Goodman (1920-2006), Dorothy Davies (1920-2002)
  • Supporting cast: Juan Root
  • MacBeth marked the beginning of the 7th season of Everyman Theatre since it was formed in 1946. Prior to this production, Everyman had been playing at 7th and Main Street
“MacBeth” – Avon Theatre, 1952. Tom Carter Collection.**

(2) “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Oscar Wilde): October 13, 1952

  • Director/Producer: Sydney Risk
  • Headliners: Richard Litt, Alma Thery, Ronald Siddons
  • Supporting cast: James Onley, Ted Babcock, Joanne Walker, Gwen Arntzen, Myra Benson, William Hernon

(3) “The Late Christopher Bean” (Sidney Howard): October 20 1952

(4) Double bill: “Down in the Valley”, a folk opera (Kurt Weill and Arnold Sundgaard); and “A Phoenix Too Frequent”, a 1-act play (Christopher Fry) : November 3, 1952

  • Director: Sydney Risk
  • Headliners: Dorothy Davies, Ed McCurdy,
  • Supporting cast: Natalie Minunzie, Andrew Snider, James Johnston, Jessie Richardson, John Emerson, Lee Butcher, Tom Wright, Len Haymen
  • Laurence Wilson (conductor of CBC Orchestra) conducted a 15-member pit orchestra for DITV. A Vancouver News-Herald article pointed out that some of the Avon’s best seats would be sacrificed for the inclusion of the pit orchestra in DITV

(5) “The Play’s the Thing” (Ferenc Molnar): November 17, 1952

  • Director: Dean Goodman; Co-Producers: Sydney Risk, Dean Goodman
  • Headliners: Dean Goodman, Doris Sheridan
  • Supporting cast: Ted Babcock, Stan Jones, Ron MacDonald, Norman Newton, and Juan Root.

(6) “Murder Without Crime” (Lee Thompson): November 26, 1952

(7) “Androcles and the Lion” (George Bernard Shaw): December 10, 1952

  • Director: John Thorne
  • Headliners: James Onley, Georgia Nelson
  • Supporting cast: George Murphy, James Peters, Glyn Jones, Myrna Benson, Russ Crossland, Len Lauk, Andy Snider, Renee Gordon

(8) “Little Women” (Louisa May Alcott): December 26, 1952

  • Headliner: Doris Buckingham
  • Supporting cast: Wendy Cox, Arthur Keenan, Angela Wood, Earl Baerg, Ted Babcock, Andrew Snider, Renee Gordon Eleanor Nicholls

(9) “Tobacco Road” (Erskine Caldwell): January 7, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Cast include: Babs Hitchman, Doug Haskins, Louise DeVick, Ross Mortimer, Ted Babcock, Tamara Dlugo, Douglas Hellier, Jean Robb, James Peters, Russ Crossland, Andrew Snider and George Barnes.
  • TR was described as “adult entertainment”; no matinee performances.
  • There were two special matinee productions of “Rumpelstiltskin” on January 10 and 17 (and probably also on the 24th due to the postponement of Tobacco Road because of the associated public relations fracas).
Program cover from Avon Theatre re-staging of Tobacco Road, 1953. Tom Carter Collection.

(10) “Hamlet” (William Shakespeare): January 28, 1953

  • Director: Dean Goodman.
  • Headliners: Dean Goodman, Mary Matthews
  • Supporting cast: George Murphy, James Onley, Dodd Dalsgaard, Ron MacDonald, William Lawson (among a total of 20)

(11) “Light Up the Sky” (Ross Hart): February 11, 1953

  • Director: Sydney Risk
  • Headliner: Dorothy Davies
  • Supporting cast: Babs Hitchman, Andrew Snider, Bruno Gerussi, Cathy Graham, Frank Lambrett-Smith, Ted Babcock, George Barnes, Don McManus,  Angela Wood, George Barnes, David Jones, Derek Ralston, Bob Haskins, and Jean Robb

(12) “The Hasty Heart” (John Patrick): March 4, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Headliners: Bruno Gerussi, Vivien Brooke-Harte
  • Supporting cast: John Haddy, Harry Mossfield, Doug Haskins, Len Gibson, Alec Denbigh, Guy Palmer

(13) “The Passing the Third Floor Back” (Jerome K. Jerome): March 25, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Headliner: Bill Buckingham.
  • Supporting cast: Jessie Richardson, Frank Crowson, Janet Bragg, Alma Thery, Noel Barrie, Ted Babcock, Bruno Gerussi, Jack Ammon, Dorothy Fowler, Vivien Brooke-Harte, Myra Benson

(14)  Re-opening of “Tobacco Road” (Erskine Caldwell): April 11, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Cast: Ted Babcock, Doug Haskins, Georgia Nelson, Babs Hitchman, Eleanor Nicholls, Doug Hellier, John Leslie, Cathryn Graham, Jean Robb, George Barnes, Jack Ammon
  • Company Manager: Bruno Gerussi; Stage Manager: Dave Jones; Stage Designer: Gary Ness
Program from Avon Theatre re-staging of Tobacco Road, 1953. Tom Carter Collection.

(15) “The Drunkard” — a musical comedy (Timothy Shay Arthur): June 13, 1953 

  • This had earlier been playing at the Cave Supper Club with same cast: John Watson, Cora O’Day, Dorothy London,  Alice Hulet, Elmer Cleve, Maryline Cleve.
  • ALSO on Avon’s Stage were to be 10 vaudeville acts that would include singing, dancing, musical and comedy routines

(16) “Of Mice and Men” (John Steinbeck): October 5, 1953.

(17) “Mr Roberts” (Thomas Heggen): November 30, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Craig Stevens
  • Supporting cast: Bruno Gerussi, Stan Jones, Art Keenan, John MacDonald, Roma Hearn
  • Set design: Gail McCance
“Mr. Roberts” – Avon Theatre, 1953. Tom Carter Collection.

(18) “You Can’t Take it With You” (George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart): January 4, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Headliner: Charles Coburn
  • Supporting cast: Verlie Cooter, Art Keenan, Margot Conine, Eleanor Collins, Wally Marsh, Otto Lowy, Tom Shorthouse, Howard Fair, Eve Newitt, Les Wagar, Bob Woodward, Sam Allman, Nancy Graham, Alma Thery, Rosemary Deveson, Andy Snider, William Gordon, John Maunsell
  • Stage Manager: Les Wagar; Lighting: Tommy Lea; Assistant Lighting: Andy Snider; Properties: Margot Conine; House Manager: Tom Buchanan; Sets: Sydney Risk

(19)  Jan 25 1954 “Moon is Blue” (Hugh Herbert): January 25, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Peggy Ann Garner
  • Supporting cast: Juan Root, John MacDonald, Allan Roughton
  • Sets: Andy Snider; Artist: Victor Miles; Lights: Tommy Lea; Props: Margot Conine; Stage Manager: Les Wagar

(20) “For Love or Money” (Hugh Herbert): February 15, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Victor Jory
  • Supporting cast: Lillian Carlson, Doris Buckingham, Wally Marsh, Margot Conine, Les Wager, Bud Slater, Molly Bellamy.

(21) “Kiss and Tell” (Hugh Herbert): March 8, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Margaret O’Brien.
  • Supporting cast: Lillian Carlson, Doris Buckingham, John MacDonald, Barry Cramer, Derek Ralston, Bruno Gerussi, Hilda Browne, Bobby Johnston, Bud Slater, Rosemary Deveson, Andy Snider, Art Keenan
  • Stage Manager/Sets: Andy Snider; Lights: Tommy Lea; Sound: Bruno Gerussi; Costumes/Props: Margot Conine

(22) “Country Girl” ((Clifford Odets): April 2, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Teresa Wright
  • Supporting cast: Bruno Gerussi, Derek Ralston, Wally Marsh, Barbara Desprez, Lee Butcher, Howard Fair, Al Factor, Bud Slater

(23) “Springtime for Henry” (Benn W. Levy): April 19, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Edward Everett Horton
  • Supporting cast: Mary Matthews, Jack Ammon, Patricia Leith
  • Stage manager/Sets: Andy Snider; Properties/Costumes: Margot Conine; Lighting: Tommy Lea; Set Decorator: VIctor Miles; Doorman: Tommy Buchanan.

(24) “Burlesque” (George M. Walters, Arthur Hopkins): May 19, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliners: Jean Parker, Robert Lowery
  • Supporting cast: Barney Potts, Lorraine McAllister, Wally Marsh, Margot Conine, Les Butcher, Barry Cramer, Bob Reed, Rosemary Deveson, Sam Rosen, Andy Snider, Kitt Copping, Jean Duguid, Joy Lowe, Madelain Matthews, Shirley McCowley
  • Stage Manager/Sets: Andy Snider; Properties/Costumes: Margot Conine; Lighting: Tommy Lea; Sound/Prompter: Barry Cramer; House Manager: Tommy Buchanan

(25) “The Show Off” (George Kelly): June 4, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Joe E. Brown
  • Supporting cast: Doris Buckingham, Wally Marsh, Barry Cramer, Rosemary Deveson, Art Keenan, Hilda Brown, Derek Ralston, Andy Snider

(26) “Time of the Cuckoo” (Arthur Laurent): November 12, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies, Ben Strobach
  • Headliner: Miriam Hopkins
  • Supporting cast: Lillian Carlson, Hilda Browne, Rosemary Deveson, Cyril Slater, Sam Payne, Kitty Dutcher, Art Keenan, Robert Johnston, Brian Warkman

(27) “All My Sons” (Arthur Miller): December 11, 1954

  • Director: Sam Payne
  • Headliners: Edward Arnold, Doris Buckingham
  • Supporting cast: Janet Brigg, Mel Richards

***

Note

*For example, the plays of the B.C. theatrical festival, which was often held at the Avon in February, are not included. Also, “Rumpelstiltskin” — which was a kids-only play that played two or three matinees is not counted separately (although it is mentioned along with “Tobacco Road” above).

**Thanks to Tom Carter for the idea for this post conveyed at a recent coffee meeting and for offering the scans shown above (with the exception of the first and last photos, which came from CVA).

Crop of CVA 790-2339 – Sun Sing Theatre (Chinese language theatre, as the old pantages ended by ca 1984). The building was finally demolished in 2011. 1985?
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