The Children's Theatre is the dream and vision of two women. They loved the theatre and loved children and believed that when you brought the two together, you could make a difference.
Dorothy Davis came from a theatrical family. She was born in London, England – the daughter of an actress who made her theatrical debut at the age of 5 when she appeared in a comedy act with her brother at the Palladium theatre. Maybe that is when she realized the impact that drama and the theatre could have on small children.
Violet Walters was born in Ceylon – now known as Sri Lanka – and was the youngest of seven. A born dancer, she traveled the country in the late 20s as part of a dance troupe – and she was a star of the radio dramas. When she was approached by Dorothy to open the Children’s Theatre school – she didn’t want to give up her dancing so Dorothy suggested that she could do both and if the school took off – she could devote more time to it.
When they opened in 1933, the annual fee was $40 and there were less than 25 students.
By the 1950s – the school had expanded to include 5 studios around the city of Montreal with over 400 students.
The curriculum always included diction, poise, deportment, mine, body movent, theatrical make-up and acting techniques. They believed that through the teaching of poise, deportment and good diction – a child would overcome self-consciousness and would feel more self-confident.
We still believe the same thing today.
We are not about flash or making your kid a star. Our studios are in a church (with a nice stage, mind you ) and it is about technique, our method and our experience. We have a strong tradition behind us, inspired and supported by the vision of two incredible woman, who were legends in the their own right. They loved kids and believed that theatre could help bring out the best in the child.
In the mid 1980s, the CBC’s Peter Gzowski traveled to Montreal and spent a week with “the ladies.” Danusia and I are so grateful to CBC Archives, who have given us permission to share this precious link to our founders. Hopefully it will give you a better idea of what we are about and what inspires us.
Enjoy the clips: