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Eight Men Speak

Eight Men Speak: A Play by Oscar Ryan et al.

Edited & with an Introduction by ALAN FILEWOD
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 167
  • Book Info
    Eight Men Speak
    Book Description:

    This volume comprises a reprinting and gloss of the original text of the 1933 Communist playEight Men Speak. The play was banned by the Toronto police after its first performance, banned by the Winnipeg police shortly thereafter and subsequently banned by the Canadian Post Office. The play can be considered as one stage-the published text-of a meta-text that culminated in 1934 at Maple Leaf Gardens when the (then illegal) Communist Party of Canada celebrated the release of its leader, Tim Buck, from prison.Eight Men Speakhad been written and staged on behalf of the campaign to free Buck by the Canadian Labour Defence League, the public advocacy group of the CPC.

    In its theatrical techniques, incorporating avant-garde expressionist staging, mass chant, agitprop and modernist dramaturgy,Eight Men Speakexemplified the vanguardist aesthetics of the Communist left in the years before the Popular Front. It is the first instance of the collective theatrical techniques that would become widespread in subsequent decades and formative in the development of modern Canadian drama. These include a decentred narrative, collaborative authorship and a refusal of dramaturgical linearity in favour of theatricalist demonstration. As such it is one of the most significant Canadian plays of the first half of the century, and, on the evidence of the surviving photograph of the mise-en-scene, one of the earliest examples of modernist staging in Canada.

    eISBN: 978-0-7766-2074-9
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Language & Literature, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Critical Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)

    Eight Men Speakoccupies an ambivalent place in the canons of Canadian dramatic literature. It is at once a play, a Communist Party leadership pageant and a political campaign; a text and a text event. It is better known for the controversy it generated and the bans and censorship to which it was subjected than for its dramatic content. Since its single performance at the Standard Theatre in Toronto on 4 December, 1933,Eight Men Speakhas been published only twice, in 1934 and 1976, and its few archival traces are to this day subject to government redaction. It survives...


    • Foreword
      (pp. 5-8)

      Why are the Canadian authorities afraid of this play? Why do they move heaven and earth to prevent it being presented for a second time? Why has the order gone out from the Ontario Parliament Buildings that any theatre which is rented for the showing of EIGHT MEN SPEAK shall at once lose its license? Why did the Winnipeg police and the Manitoba Government swoop down on the Walker Theatre and remove the license the day before the play was to appear there?

      The answer is not far to seek. It lies in the essential truth of every word of...

    • ACT I
      (pp. 9-18)

      The scene is the lovely and expensively “landscaped” garden of the Warden of the Penitentiary, Stone. To the right of the stage can be seen part of the Warden’s house. Steps lead from the door of the house on to a terrace on which is arranged attractive garden furniture—two or three easy chairs and a small wicker table. The table bears the necessary utensils for the “cocktail” hour. Steps lead down from this terrace to the garden (front stage) where more expensive garden furniture is scattered around, also another small table bearing glasses, cocktail shaker, etc.

      It is the...

    • ACT II
      (pp. 19-26)

      In this scene, the stage is in complete darkness. The voices come from prisoners in their cells.

      1ST VOICE (bitterly): Steal a million and see Collins Bay!

      2ND VOICE (sarcastically): The government’s doing all it can, boys. Can’t you be patient?

      3RD VOICE (sarcastically): For heaven’s sake listen to reason!

      4TH VOICE (in anger): When are we going to get decent food?

      5TH VOICE (despairingly): Six months.... day and night.... my hands shackled to the bars.... Six months of the hole (his voice rises to a scream) I’m going mad!

      6TH VOICE (very young): My stomach! It’s killing me!


    • ACT III
      (pp. 27-35)

      The scene is the Workers’ Court. At the right rear is a raised Judge’s dais, draped with red. Seated on this dais is the WORKERS’ JUDGE and his two CO-JUDGES. They are wearing black sateen shirts, open at the neck, and black sateen trousers. Around their necks, a red kerchief. (The uniform of the Workers’ Theatre). Downstage, to the extreme right, the C.L.D.L. ORGANIZER, who is ATTORNEY FOR THE PROSECUTION, is sitting at her desk, which is covered with papers and legal books. She is dressed quietly, in a neat suit; her attitude is one of entire confidence in her...

    • ACT IV
      (pp. 35-40)

      The scene is the interior of a large cell. Across the entire front of the stage stretches bars. About three paces behind bars, a long bench on which the EIGHT sit. They are wearing regulation convict uniforms and caps.

      C.L.D.L. (her voice comes clearly from the wings): We call eight witnesses from Kingston Penitentiary, —Tim Buck, Tom Ewen, Matthew Popovich, Tom Cacic, Malcolm Bruce, Sam Carr, John Boychuk, Tom Hill.

      BUCK (leaning forward slightly): Workers of Canada!

      ALL: The Eight speak --

      EWEN: from their cells.

      POPOVICH: --where they lie rotting.

      CACIC: Because they led the Canadian working class,


    • ACT V
      (pp. 40-53)

      The scene is the same as Act III. —the Workers’ Court, with one exception, a bench at rear of stage, between Prisoners’ Box und the Witness Stand. After giving their evidence, the various witnesses take a seat on this bench. When the curtain goes up, all are in their respective places —the Judge and Co-Judges on the raised dais; the Clerk at his table; the C.L.D.L. at her desk; Guard X sitting in the Prisoners’ Box, and Capitalism, the Defense Attorney, is on his feet, just beginning to address the court.

      CAPITALISM (bombastically, and at the same time cringingly to...

    • ACT VI
      (pp. 53-56)

      The curtain rises slowly on a street scene. The raised Judges’ dais, draped in red, is at the rear centre of stage. A painted banner covers almost the entire backdrop and depicts a crowd of workers, bearing banners. The three Worker Judges are in their places on the dais. To the right and left of Judges’ dais are levels, grouped on these are workers. The Clerk of the Court and his table and chair are missing in this scene, as is also the Witness Stand. At the extreme right, front, is the C.L.D.L., sitting at her desk. Near centre front...

    (pp. 57-92)
  7. Explanatory Notes
    (pp. 93-102)
  8. Textual Notes
    (pp. 103-106)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 107-110)