Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company (NTTC)
The Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company (NTTC) was formed in early 1972 by
David Weiser (formerly a travelling salesman) and Dudley Cox (an amateur actor
with the St. John's Players and instructor at the College of Fisheries). Cox and
Weiser wanted to tour the province for two reasons: because the potential of doing
30-50 shows would provide practice and experience that was unavailable when doing
one play for eight nights in St. John's; and because they wanted to bring something
of the St. John's theatre activity to smaller communities. They started with their
own money, hoping that ticket sales would help pay for the tours, and in the last
years they received Canada Council funding. NTTC played in small towns and
communities where Weiser had established contacts (along the Northern Peninsula,
in central Newfoundland, and across the Avalon peninsula), and they toured in both
summer and winter. Their troupe of professional actors (who got paid $40 per week
plus meals) had a diverse repertoire, ranging from children's theatre, to plays by
Bertolt Brecht and Neil Simon, to local scripts by Tom Cahill and Michael Cook.
NTTC's first season in 1972 had two parts, a summer tour and a winter tour.
Their summer activity involved a production of the British farce See How They Run
by Phillip King, as well as a stage version of The Wizard of Oz, specifically for
children. The winter part of the tour produced Pools Paradise. The 1972 cast was
full of recognizable names: Tommy Sexton, Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Diane Olsen, Bob
Joy and Greg Malone. They went to Belleoram, Harbour Breton, Burgeo, Eastport,
Clarenville and many other small communities.
In 1973, when NTTC toured Tom Cahill's play Starrigan, Cathy Jones, Beni
Malone, Paul Sametz, and Charlie Tomlinson joined the troupe with Weiser continuing
as stage-manager and Cox as director. The company travelled the province,
often on back roads, in two Volkswagan vans (one with the stage props and one with
the cast and crew). They performed in community halls and in school gymnasiums.
After the first two years, NTTC also performed in parks. These outdoor venues
were for Punch and Judy-style
shows, not with puppets but with the actors performing wild slapstick comedy.
One such show, scripted and directed by Cox, was Crime and Punishment.
||Former NTTC Actors, n.d.
Many individuals associated with the NTTC went on to form or join other
theatre companies in Newfoundland, including (L-R) Cathy Jones, Andy Jones, Greg Malone,
Mary Walsh and Tommy Sexton, who became members of Codco.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives
(Coll-121, 11.50), Memorial University of Newfoundland. Reproduced by permission
The 1974 and 1975 seasons followed a similar travelling pattern as the first
two years. In the summer of 1974 NTTC performed Grace Butt's Newfoundland pageant
in over 50 communities as part of the official 25th anniversary of Confederation
celebrations. 1975 saw the touring productions of Eugene Ionesco's The Bald
Soprano, and Edward Bond's Saved in the winter (the company had to be dug out by
a snow plow on the Northern Peninsula). In the summer, NTTC performed Beaumont
Hamel co-written by Cox and Tom Cahill, and Cahill's As Loved Our Fathers.
In 1976 Cox and Weiser started to do things differently. They decided to
commission a play specifically for NTTC and they approached playwright Michael
Cook. The resulting The Fisherman's Revenge was taken on a school tour in 1976.
NTTC focussed their energies on working with drama students in high schools. The
performance of a scripted play was combined with the company workshopping
students' own ideas and scripts. Both Cook and Cox hoped that The Fisherman's Revenge
would speak to students' experiences more than the plays of American or British
writers. They visited 41 schools, and closed in December in Eastport. The cast
included Kent Barrett, Jane Dingle, Beni Malone, Jeff Pitcher and Sheila Zisman.
The success of the school activity convinced Cox that working with students
was an important function the NTTC could perform.
Unlike the companies that followed them (such as The
Mummers and Codco), NTTC was not a collective theatre company. Cox directed
almost all of the shows and he also wrote the Punch and Judy performances. The
influence of the Newfoundland Travelling Theatre Company was nonetheless
significant. Many individuals associated with it went on to form or join other
theatre companies in the province after the original company disbanded. Codco
and Rising Tide Theatre are but two of the theatre companies that benefitted
from the valuable training ground and experience provided by NTTC.
Even though the early plays were standard theatrical fare, the NTTC was far
from usual in its mandate of touring the province to as many small communities
as possible and its later dedication to workshopping drama with high school
students. Cox's company was the first to bring classical theatre to smaller
communities; they developed and produced plays about Newfoundland by local
writers; and NTTC's contribution to other major Newfoundland theatre companies
©2001, Danine Farquharson