Magic of the stage

Under the dormer at the back of the house. Photo: Robert Barrow, 2006

Under the dormer at the back of the house. Photo: Robert Barrow, 2006

“The magic began for me at the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg—which in itself predisposed me to the sorcery of the stage, with its rows and rows of ornate balconies, its immense chandeliers, and its heavy crimson velvet curtain. (…) In the highest balcony, leaning over the rail towards the actors – who from that height looked very small – I could barely catch the words, which for me were pretty obscure anyways, yet I was spellbound.” (Enchantment and Sorrow, Lester & Orpen Dennys Publishers, p.54–55)

Even as a child, Gabrielle already showed an interest in the theatre; she loved to play “pretend” and to act the part of famous people like La Vérendrye, the explorer. She staged little plays with her friends in a shed in the back yard. As a pupil at St. Joseph’s Academy, she won prizes for public speaking in both English and French. The theatre in Winnipeg introduced to her the great English dramatists, beginning with Shakespeare. Later, she acted with the Cercle Molière, the St. Boniface amateur theatre company. She toured the province with a small group of actors, raising funds for French-language educational institutions. In 1937, thinking she might pursue a career in the theatre, she went to London and Paris to study dramatic arts. However, the time she spent in Europe convinced her that her future lay in writing.

Do you like to act too? Here you can see some mementoes of St. Boniface theatre as it was in the time of Gabrielle Roy; or you can pick out a costume and choose a script for a short scene such as she might have acted in at school.

Lights! Curtain!

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