Voices from Beaver Hall
By Byron Toben
“This could be the start of something big” as Steve Allen’s song from the ’50s resonates.
That something big is the revival of attention to the overlooked talents of 11 Montreal women painters from the ’20s, who comprised part of the Beaver Hall group. Until now, it had been overshadowed by the more famous men’s assemblage, the Group of Seven.
Coinciding with the current Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibit “Colours Of Jazz” about the Beaver Hall group, which terminates on January 31, 2016, is a new work arranged and directed by NDG prolific playwright Colleen Curran. Ms. Curran, a McGill grad, has written some two dozen plays, many produced successfully elsewhere in Canada and abroad until, finally, the Centaur mounted her “True Nature” in 2011. That play, like a few others, had had an initial dramatic reading in the steep amphitheatre of McGill’s Redpath Museum.
The dam really broke open for Picturesque when Gazette journalist Susan Schwartz wrote an article about the staged reading. Within a day, all 120 seats were reserved, leading to a second Sunday reading, also “sold out” within a day. The word of mouth has led to inquiries about Ontario and B.C. counterparts.
The dam really broke open for Picturesque when Gazette journalist Susan Schwartz wrote an article about the staged reading. Within a day, all 120 seats were reserved…
This wide interest cannot be attributed only to the popularity of Colleen and sister Peggy (recently retired Gazette columnist), whose following comprise our very own Curran Nation, a more charming sibling act than Toronto’s Ford Nation.
Picturesque consists of 13 vignettes of 5 to 7 minutes, each dealing with one of the group. Most were written by Colleen’s playwriting students at the Quebec Writers Federation. She wrote two herself, one about artist Emily Coonan. Sister Peggy tackled artist Mabel Lockerby. Local historian Dorothy Williams contributed an ode to artist Prudence Heward. A token, dare I say, male writer was Charles Abramovici who posited an interview between Canadian icons painter A.Y. Jackson and CBC’s Peter Gzowski.
A token, dare I say, male writer was Charles Abramovici who posited an interview between Canadian icons painter A.Y. Jackson and CBC’s Peter Gzowski.
Four performers of note were Mary Burns, Tamara Brown, Jane Hackett and Ms. Curran herself. The seven others were drawn from Siasma students and the Curran Nation.
Someone should suggest to the MMFA to make its auditorium available for another staged reading of this show, which fits so well with its current exhibit. It’s a natural.
Feature image: Kathleen Morris, Marché à St-Roch
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.