Blog | The History of a History Show

The History of a History Show

By admin | April 20, 2017

by Ryan Gladstone, Founder and Artistic Director of Monster Theatre

The new cast of The Canada Show is taking their place in history: Canada's history AND the history of The Canada Show!

The new cast of The Canada Show is taking their place in history: Canada’s history AND the history of The Canada Show!

Bruce Horak (who you probably remember from This is Cancer) and I wrote The Canada Show in the summer of 2001. It premiered at Calgary’s Shakespeare in the Park, and was directed by Duval Lang (Artistic Director, Quest Theatre). In that early incarnation, it featured myself, Bruce, and Aaron Olney. We only had five days to rehearse the show, and after two days it was clear that something wasn’t working. That night Bruce and me and a bottle of gin literally re-wrote the entire script, working in the relationship between the characters, which is really what makes this show stand out from other sketch style history plays.

That summer, the show toured to the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Festivals. The morning after watching the show, our billet in Winnipeg made us waffles for breakfast, and when we were all together and fed, she got out a notepad and started giving us notes.

In the summer of 2002 The Canada Show was remounted at Second City in Toronto. This version was directed by Rebecca Northan (Creator of Blind Date). Bruce and I were in it once again, but the role of the “straight man” was shared by Albert Howell (who currently writes for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) and Jeff Gladstone (yes, my brother, who’s also worked with Bard on the Beach, the Arts Club, and many more). This version then toured to the Montreal, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver Fringe Festivals to sold-out houses and five-star reviews. Along the tour the show also played at The Harbourfront Centre’s Canada Day Celebration, had a run at Calgary’s World Famous Loose Moose Theatre, and ran at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Comedy Festival after winning the Best Comedy Award at the Montreal Fringe Festival.

In Montreal we were bragging to the festival producer that our tech rehearsals were so funny—like a dirty version of the show. The next day he started promoting a special midnight “dirty version” of The Canada Show, which we delivered. In Vancouver, we were informed that Sir Ian McKellen wanted to see the show, and asked if we would let him have a comp since the show was sold out. The media was there to take photos of us with him before the show. But as show time got closer, it became clear he wasn’t coming. We dutifully performed the show and afterwards were chatting with the front of house volunteers about how sad we were that he didn’t come. They said, “Oh, he came. But he was late. The Fringe has a no late-comers policy.”

Numerous other companies have produced their own versions of The Canada Show including SKAM Theatre, Persephone Theatre, Globus Theatre, and an all-female version by Wide Open Theatrical Escapades.

Monster Theatre continued to tour the show, including a 2004 run at Calgary’s Lunchbox
Theatre, a 2007 run at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre, a run during the 2010 Olympics at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island, and a number of tours to Secondary Schools across BC and Alberta. In 2006 Manitoba Theatre For Young People presented a version which saw the first First Nations actor in the show. This version was again directed by Rebecca Northan with myself, Bruce, and Sheldon Elter (Canadian Idol, Metis Mutt).

The Canada Show hasn’t been performed by Monster Theatre since 2010 and we are so excited to be bringing it back after all these years. Bruce and I have done a major re-write/update, and we have re-cast the show to be more diverse and inclusive, and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on!

See The Canada Show May 31 through June 2 at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. Get your tickets now!

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