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Dyba, Kenneth.

Calgary, Detselig Enterprises, c1986. 186pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-920490-63-8. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Louise Griffith

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

Betty Mitchells is a valuable addition to the growing list of books about theatre in Canada. The author is one of Mitchell's former drama students at Western Canada High School in Calgary. From the many interviews he taped of her tales of her past life and her memories and theories of theatre, he presents a vivid, almost autobiographical picture of Dr. Betty Mitchell, the great lady of Western Canadian theatre.

She relates details of her early life on a ranch near Calgary and at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Referring to the journal she used for her master's thesis in drama at Iowa State University, she tells of her year of study and travel in the United States. There are revealing reviews of the plays she saw in New York and elsewhere and frank comments about the theatre schools she visited there and in the West. Incidents are amusingly told and her theories about acting and directing are sensible and valid. The chapter, "Home Again," recounts how she put her new knowledge into practice at Western Canada High School and Workshop 14, a group of her graduates and others who brought theatre to Calgary with great distinction. Triumphs and problems of her later years until her death in 1976 are told briefly. The book concludes with a number of tributes written by some of her "children" (former students) and friends, including Laurence Olivier, and a list of the plays she directed.

Many theatre buffs will enjoy reading the gossip about play productions, including Othello and Our Town, and some Western Canadians who she knew. All who have directed plays, especially in schools, will appreciate her account of problems with principals and janitors. They will also gain a great deal of valuable inspiration and advice from the many comments on directing throughout the book. Betty Mitchell made a significant contribution to Canadian theatre and it is good that Kenneth Dyba taped her memories and consulted so many of her ex-pupils so that her ideas and the records of her achievements could be put in permanent form.

School, public, and university librarians will want to purchase this for their collections. Many Western Canadians will also want a copy of this record of life in the West for their own perusal. Congratulations to Dyba and those who assisted him.

Louise Griffith, Agincourt, Ont.
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