Alan Filewod

Through his mentorship over decades as a beloved professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph; through his institutional and editorial service, as president of CATR from 1991 to 1994 and as an editor and co-editor of Canadian Theatre Review from 1988 to 2002; and through his ground-breaking and influential scholarship, Alan Filewod has shaped the study of drama, theatre, and performance in the lands known as Canada.

As one of the country’s most prolific and respected theatre and performance historians, Alan has shaped performance historiography and theatre history methodologies in Canada and has made foundational contributions to our understandings of political theatre history. To offer just the highlights: His formative work on documentary theatre, Collective Encounters: Documentary Theatre in English Canada (1987) draws substantially on his experience as dramaturg with the Mummers Troupe of Newfoundland in the 1970s. The book, which analyzes key examples of collective and documentary theatre in Canada, serves as a valuable history of Canadian theatre practice in the 1970s and 1980s and remains a key text in the field. Alan’s 2002 book Performing Canada: The Nation Enacted in the Imagined Theatre frames Canadian theatre history in relation to critical theory and performance studies, providing a historiographical method for analyzing a wide range of performative acts and situating them within overarching political, historical, and social contexts. His 2012 monograph Committing Theatre is a monumental work, synthesizing decades of research and engagement, and providing a comprehensive survey of the history of political theatre in Canada, as well as a framework for situating political intervention via performance.

Alan is also a rigorous editor, contributing to the field through his long term as Editor (and Co-editor) of Canadian Theatre Review, and through his publication of play anthologies and essay collections. He is particularly known for his scholarly edition of Eight Men Speak (2013), which brought to light an important but overlooked piece of the history of worker’s theatre in Canada. His most recent anthology of plays, Reliving the Trenches: Memory Plays by Veterans of the Great War (2021) likewise makes available previously unpublished dramatic works, adding to both to the history of modernist drama in Canada and to our understanding of the experiences and impacts of war on Canadian soldiers.

Over his decades as a passionate, dedicated faculty member in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, Alan served as advisor to generations of PhD and Master’s students as well as on graduate committees. His mentorship is characterized by his enthusiasm for students’ questions, his encouragement of the pursuit of loose threads and rabbit holes in student research, and his commitment to fostering scholarly curiosity and commitment above all else. Alan is a fierce advocate for students and early career academics and has shaped the field of theatre and performance history in Canada not only through his own influential scholarship, but also through his tireless support of emerging scholars.

Alan has twice been honoured by CATR with the Ann Saddlemyer award, for Performing Canada: The Nation Enacted in the Imagined Theatre (2003) and for Committing Theatre (2012). He is also forever immortalized as a character in Optative Theatre’s Sinking Neptune (2006). These honours represent just the tip of the iceberg in establishing the esteem Alan has rightly earned in the community of theatre makers and scholars in the lands known as Canada. The quintessential distinguished scholar, we see Alan as a richly deserving candidate for this year’s inaugural CATR Distinguished Scholar Associateship.