248 Bank Street

248 Bank Street - 2012

The new location at 248 Bank St. looked promising. One could accommodate 60 to 70 people with tables and chairs, well over 100 people with no tables, which we did when we had plays. Of course, I kept the red and white checked tablecloths, the large fat straw covered Chianti bottles and candles even though they would drip on the tablecloths and make a mess, but everybody loved them, including me. I required a stage quickly as I had already booked Tom Kines for the opening week.

Chianti bottleLuckily a long time friend and Le Hibou member Jean Guy Boutin came to the rescue and put a stage together, which of course we painted black. It had a long life as we moved it to 521 Sussex later. Lights were pretty rudimentary—two 150 watt flood lights on a clamp with an on and off switch. We used stitched together black felt and nailed it to a 1 x 2 wood frame which provided a back curtain. There was a small glass brick wall in the main room, which I kept for a while but had to remove later so people could see the stage more easily. The floor was concrete, perfect for sound and security. At about that time (1961) Harvey Glatt, owner of Treble Clef Records, approached George and I about becoming a partner.

Management, Ads & Bookings

The Courriers

We met, and George and I agreed that Harvey could become a partner of one third of Le Hibou by investing the same amount as we had: $800.00. As I had not booked the second week after Tom Kines, Harvey, who was managing The Courriers at the time, booked them for the second week. The membership fee was kept and we added a door fee. But to allow for one-time walk-ins, we charged an extra 50 cents or $l.00 according to the performer. We needed more tables and chairs, so it was off to Al’s second hand store. To create the illusion of space, I decided to paint everything black, including the tables and chairs. We set up a work party and painted all the chairs and tables black. Then we wondered, with the ceiling, wall, chairs and tables all painted black, how would patrons find their seats? The red and white tablecloths and the Chianti fiasco candles helped.

I had managed Le Hibou on Rideau Street, and continued to do so on Bank Street. With paid entertainers every week the task became more onerous. As manager, I was responsible for staffing, buying the food, hiring, paying the staff, doing the books, paying the bills, plus promotion and publicity, along with some of the bookings. In the first few years, Harvey Glatt did most of the folk bookings and I concentrated on the French chansonniers and the English and French theatre.

Over time I ended up doing most of the bookings, as Le Hibou also got into blues and jazz. Every week, press releases and ads had to be placed in the Ottawa Journal, the Ottawa Citizen and Le Droit, as well in the university student papers, The Fulcrum and The Raven. Many times, as photos arrived late, I had to deliver them to the newspapers in the evening. Luckily, the Ottawa Citizen was then on Sparks Street, and the Ottawa Journal was on Kent.

John Lee HookerThe first year we ran our newspaper ad with the headline "Le Hibou in association with Treble Clef." We did this so that we could benefit from the Treble Clef high frequency, low advertising rate. But after a year, since we advertised every week, we had a higher frequency than Treble Clef. I then removed the Treble Clef designation since I thought it created confusion, and did more advertising for Treble Clef than for Le Hibou.

We now required one extra person to tend to the door. As I was now working for the CBC, sometimes in the evening, I could no longer be there consistently, and so we needed night managers on a daily or weekly basis. Although Harvey Glatt never managed to work at Le Hibou, George Gordon Lennox, the other partner, did work the door or night manage occasionally. But when he got a job as a journalist with the Ottawa Journal, and later as an editorialist, there was less and less involvement. A few years later George accepted a job with a United Nations agency and moved to Geneva.

Coffee and Food

Espresso Machine

For our espresso and cappuccinos, we still had the little cone-shaped aluminium espresso coffee makers (from Preston Street), and of course I had to buy a few more to keep up with the demand. Later, with the help of Pietro Pace of Caffe Italia on Preston Street, I was able to purchase a real, second-hand Italian espresso coffee maker from Montreal for about $700. Le Hibou became the proud owner of the second espresso coffee machine of all Ottawa. We offered espresso, café au lait (now called "latte") and the very popular cappuccino, a café au lait, with whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon.

The coffee machine became a source of constant worry as kitchen staff, despite being warned not to make cappuccinos during a performance, seemed without exception to wait until the performer was in a ballad and, perhaps tempted by the gods, then fire up the espresso machine to froth the milk, hoping in vain to beat the odds. They thought that by just opening up the steam valve a little they could control the noise, but it never worked—the loud gurgling could always be heard, followed by a shocking blast of noise, invariably terminating in an apologetic, loudly whispered "Sorry!" emanating from the kitchen.

Van Houtte CoffeeHouse coffee came from Montreal since at that time I could not find a good source of coffee in Ottawa. I discovered a very good Mocha Java from Gerard Van Houtte in Montreal (later acquired by A L Van Houtte). It became our house coffee for the duration of my eight years at coffee house. They would send it weekly by bus, and I would pick it up at the bus depot. The staff at the depot kept suggesting that I order it more often since they loved the aroma. For the espresso of course I had a good supplier in Ottawa in Little Italy. As for the teas (Earl Grey, Assam, English breakfast tea, Lapsing Souchon, green tea, etc.), they were purchased at Peter Devine’s store on the market.

As to food, we kept to the same menu. Although Paul Mostovac could not provide his delicious cakes anymore, by a stroke of luck the best French pastry establishment in Ottawa at the time, Constantine, happened to be located a few businesses away from Le Hibou, and they quickly became our pastry supplier. The food—sandwiches of smoked meat, or ham and cheese on Rideau Bakery rye bread, or Kaiser rolls from Tatra Bakery in Hull—remained the same, but there were no more candlelit romantic meals since I was now working full-time at CBC TV as a studio director.

Venue and People

Pauline Julien

A new and larger location enhanced the scope of Le Hibou. I had always wanted Le Hibou to be more than just a venue for out-of-town performers and although I was working full time at the CBC, I had still greater ambitions for the coffee house. I wanted to feature local talent in the widest sense of the word, be they folksingers, chansonniers, actors or artists. I dreamt of a small incubator for the arts, and I think Le Hibou eventually did become just that.

Born French-Canadian in Ottawa, it was natural for me to want a bilingual coffee house or "boîte à chansons." Le Hibou soon became a showcase for French performers and French theatre. This blending of the two cultures seemed to work rather well. Indeed, I think it was the only bilingual coffee house in all of Canada at the time and thereafter. As folk was in revival mode, it was also natural to feature Canadian and local folk talent. Harvey Glatt, now a partner, brought in some of the Canadian, and later American, performers.

Sarah VaughanAt the beginning, I concentrated on the theatre (French and English), French performers, jazz, and Le Hibou’s ciné club. The first jazz group I booked was the Russ Thomas Trio, whom I met along with Brian Browne and Wyatt Ruther when I belonged to the Ottawa Jazz club, a small group of people involved in supporting Ottawa jazz artists and promoting jazz in general. Prior to Le Hibou, Jean Guy Boutin and I would be at the Circus Lounge on the second floor of the Ottawa House in Hull to hear the likes of Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff, the Al Belletto Sextet, Abbey Lincoln, or at the Standish Hall, the Gatineau Club in Hull or the Coliseum in Ottawa to catch the greats, such as Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan. On many occasions we also would be off to Montreal to catch some other great jazz artists at the Esquire Show Bar.

Claude GauthierThe first French chansonniers featured at Le Hibou were Claude Gauthier from Quebec, followed by Stephane Golmann, (French from Switzerland). They both performed in January 1962. In March 1962, the incomparable Pauline Julien performed for the first time in Ottawa. An ardent nationalist, Pauline later married Camille Laurin, the father of Bill 101, the Quebec language law. Pauline was a passionate defender of her nationalist beliefs, and as I was passionate about Canada, I was aching to have a discussion. Good sense prevailed (I probably would have lost out anyway) so the conversation never took place. She was most professional, never brought it up, and stuck to her art. I often wondered how she felt about performing in Anglo Ottawa.

Robert CharleboisRenée Claude, a marvellous singer who would become a big star in Quebec, came later and also Robert Charlebois, who performed solo then and was not yet as famous as he would later become. After the show he would always jump on the bus to go back to Montreal since he had been warned by L’institut d’Art Dramatique that if he missed any more classes he was out as a student.

Renée ClaudeWith the audacity of youth, I had delved into the world of French cuisine. Not having the means, however, to frequent such renowned great restaurants as Café Henry Burger, some friends and I established a rotating gourmet club. Each couple would invite the others and one couple would provide the gourmet meals for the others at home. Even though we had a limit as to costs everyone would always try to out-do the others by having a little special something to elicit a few oohs! and aahs!

Andre GagnonHaving thus honed my culinary skills with friends, I felt confident enough to invite visiting performers. Renée Claude was one such guest. I lived at that time in an old three-story double at Cooper St near the driveway. (It is now gone as they built a hotel on the site.) The apartment was quite big with large windows and high ceilings, and I had painted everything off-white, the big trend at my artist friends’ apartments. I had prepared escargots a l’ail, coq au vin, salad, and finished with chocolate religieuses for dessert. Renée seemed to enjoy every bit of it, although I noticed her accompanist only nibbled at the food. Later Renée explained that her pianist was always nervous before a performance and rarely ate, although it occurred to me later that maybe he thought it was terrible, and that Renée was just being polite. The accompanist was André Gagnon, not yet an international star.

There was also some unexpected publicity for Le Hibou. At this time, I graduated from the University of Ottawa, and the graduating ceremony was held at the magnificent Capitol Theatre (now unfortunately demolished). I was urged by Bill Boss (the Communications Director) to stay after the ceremony for photographs. The invitation perplexed me, as I certainly was not graduating summa cum laude. The answer to his mysterious invitation came the following day when I discovered in the Ottawa Citizen my photograph with the caption "Denis Faulkner, founder and owner of Le Hibou, graduated last night…" I realized then that in the eyes of the University and the newspaper, Le Hibou had become an important part of the Ottawa fabric.

Poetry

Poster - Poetry Readings

Another event probably helped the visibility of Le Hibou a great deal. Harry Howith, who organized the poetry readings on Rideau Street, had applied at that time for a Canada Council grant to bring in nationally-known poets for readings at Le Hibou. I was incredulous and sceptical, and did not think anything would come of it. But to my great astonishment, the Canada Council agreed to pay $700.00 for the seven poets to cover their expenses. Le Hibou was to pay for advertisements and provide the venue. I was overjoyed. To cover these costs, I charged only 50 cents. I wanted as many people to come to the readings as possible.

Irving LaytonDavid Sutherland, a friend and a CBC graphic designer, designed a poster for the event. Our first reading was with Irving Layton on January 10th in 1962. I remember well that it was a cold and bitter evening. A large crowd patiently waited outside to be let in. We squeezed in as many as we could -- 70 to 80 maybe, some standing up, but we still had as many waiting outside. I asked Irving Layton if he would agree to do a second reading, and he graciously accepted. More astonishingly, the crowd outside continued to wait, stamping their cold feet and running for coffee at the nearby restaurants to warm up.

The readings went on every Tuesday night (our regular poetry reading night at the time) till February 22. Louis DudekOthers who followed Irving Layton and were very well received included Peter Miller, John Robert Colombo, Gwendolyn MacEwen, James Reaney, Jacques Godbout (in French), and Louis Dudek. The series went quite well and the 50 cents covered our costs. What was so heart warming was the poet’s reaction to such an enthusiastic crowd. On this special and rare occasion, the poets had the chance to connect directly with their audience. The Canada Council, along with Harry Howith, who also introduced the poets, deserve a big thank you for the series.

Le Hibou’s Cine Club

Film Schedule

On November 17, 1962, the Le Hibou Ciné Club was started. At the time there were few opportunities to see film classics in Ottawa. Alan Knight, my brother-in- law, helped with research for the selection of films. 1936 BuickI was always interested in films and theatre. As a teenager, Jean Guy Boutin and I would drive quite often to Montreal to see films, plays and jazz. Since we had little money, we could not afford to stay overnight, so we would drive back in the wee hours of the morning. Jean Guy had an old 1936 Buick, which burned so much oil we had to stop every thirty miles or so, open up the trunk, take out one of the gallon containers of oil, and top up the motor.

A little later, I even tried my hand at directing some films with the help of Albert de Niverville and his Arriflex camera. I joined in with my hand-cranked Bolex. The main actor was Gerard Gravelle, who read poetry at 544 Rideau and who later played quite often in Le Hibou theatre productions. None of those films ever made it to the Oscars.

Jules and Jim - TruffaultThe films we showed at the Ciné Club were rented through Astral Films in Montreal and I would pick up the film at the bus depot. As we could not afford to buy, I rented a projector and screen from Adams and Associates. We learned very quickly to have at least two film projector bulbs since the bulb always seemed to die at the most dramatic part of the film, eliciting groans of exasperation from the audience. One time the film never arrived, and I had to rush over and pick up a film from an Ottawa classic film collector. Unfortunately, he collected only musicals, not quite what our film buffs wanted to see. The programming shown in the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday was very diverse, with films of many great directors such as Fellini, Antonioni, Kurosawa, Ichikawa, Bresson, Buňuel, Truffaut, and Polanski. The series continued well until the end of 1965.

8 1/2 - Fellini

Theatre

Poster - Do you have Prince Albert in the Can?

Now that the coffee house could accommodate more people than our old location on Rideau Street, it became feasible to include theatre in the programme, and I decided it was a good time to use the theatre training which I received from René Provost at l’Ecole d’ Arts Dramatiques de Hull, and from Harold Greenberg of Montreal (who came every weekend), who used the well-known Actors Studio method. I had acted in many plays with the St Gérard’s parish local group "Les Masques" and with René Provost’s Arts Dramatiques de Hull group. Although I was a great supporter of theatre, I must admit that I was not such good actor.

In September 1962, we inaugurated French theatre at Le Hibou. Edgard Demers, whom I had met in the French theatre group, directed "The Lesson" by Eugene Ionesco. The first week was in English, and the next week was in French with "La Leçon." Actors included Gerard Gravelle, Huguette Beaucaire-White, and Madeleine Sanscartier. As Edgard was also theatre critic for Le Droit newspaper, Le Hibou always received very good promotion from Le Droit—well earned, I would add.

Mayor Charlotte WhittonIn December 1962, I produced and directed "Too Many Guys for One Doll," an original musical satire on municipal affairs and Charlotte Whitton, Ottawa mayor during the early 1960s. The script was authored by "Isabel Edward," a pen name for Penny Faulkner, my wife at the time, whose first name was Isabella, while my second name is Edward. The music was composed by the remarkable Julian Leigh, who also accompanied the actors on piano.

The satire was set in medieval times, larded with feminist barbs, and featured "Lotti Lollard" jousting with her male councillors and a rogue building developer, "Champ de Lot" (Campeau), played by Charles Gravelle, whom I met at l’Ecole d’Arts Dramatiques de Hull. Lotti (Charlotte Whitton) was played with great verve and enthusiasm by the incomparable Elsa Pickthorne. The city councillors were played by Tom Dunleavy, Maurice Bigras (also from l’Ecole) and Peter Hodgson. Peter (a regular from Rideau Street who later took the stage name of “Sneezy Waters”) was somewhat reluctant as he had never been in a play before. I convinced him by telling him he was already half way there, since he was a folksinger familiar with the stage.

"Too Many Guys for One Doll" was extremely well received, with a packed house for the duration of the two-week run. I was pleased, as it was the first play that I directed at Le Hibou. Only other bookings prevented a longer run. Charlotte Whitton of course came, and she adored the play, thanked Elsa profusely, and said that Elsa would have made a wonderful mayor. Later in 1964, I pursued my foray in theatre but this time instead of directing musicals, I turned to avant garde, in part because I was more interested in contemporary theatre and in part because Ottawa did not produce any such theatre. (The National Arts Centre was not yet up and running.) So the first avant-garde play I did was "The Maids" by Jean Genet with a cast that included Marilyn Nixon, Pierrette Vachon (another former graduate from l’Ecole d’Arts Dramatiques de Hull) and Sheila McCook.

Luba GoyIn 1965 I directed "Victims of Duty," by Eugene Ionesco with cast of Gerard Gravelle (now a television host for Radio Canada), Taunia Gravelle (a radio announcer), Noel Almay, Elizabeth Langley (a professional dancer), Robert Whelan (a local poet) and Jean Honeywell. In 1965 I directed "Three Actors and Their Drama" and The Blind Man, both by Michel de Guelderode with a cast including Luba Goy (later with the Royal Canadian Air Farce), Bill Walther, and Don Grant. On the same bill was "Play Without Words" by Samuel Beckett with Luba Goy and Johni Keyworth.

Later in June 1963 the same group (Penny as writer, Julian Leigh as composer and myself) reassembled and put on another musical satire, this time based on John Diefenbaker, entitled "Do You Have Prince Albert in the Can?" (At one time, Prince Albert tobacco was sold in cans. Diefenbaker was born and lived in Prince Albert.) The name was somewhat obscure—perhaps we should have called it simply "Dief the Chief." In any case, it proved not as popular as "Too Many Guys for one Doll." Maybe because of the fact that Dief’s popularity was on the way down, a satire on him lost its punch. The actors were Joe O’Brien, George Tremblay (a CBC co-worker), Ken Wilson and Nika Rylski. I also directed "The Day the Whores Came Out to Play Tennis" in 1966. More on that later.

Can you name this Noreen Young puppet?Having children, I was very interested in having children’s theatre on a regular basis at Le Hibou on Saturday afternoon. The Little Owl Children’s Theatre was established with George Bloom at the helm in February 1964. This went on for about a month until Noreen Young Puppets with Fred Little began to perform regularly. I had met Noreen Young when I was studio director on a CBC children’s show called "Jack in the Box" (Jack Pearse was the host) where Noreen’s puppets were featured on a regular basis. The Noreen Young Puppet Show regularly attracted a dedicated audience. I know my two children enjoyed it very much, although I had to keep an eye on them. My son, Stephane, loved to get into the smoked meat, and Nadine, my daughter, loved the black forest cake.

Chansonniers and Blues Artists

Reverend Gary Davis

In the first few years Harvey Glatt did the folk artist bookings, and it was only later that I became more involved, especially with the folk and blues bookings. The first blues artist that I booked in 1963 was Reverend Gary Davis, at the suggestion of Bill Hawkins. Bill even offered to put him up at his house, which he did. Tex LecorThe Reverend Gary Davis was blind, always jovial (in contrast to some of his blues songs) and constantly sported a cigar in his mouth as well as an apron of ashes on the front of his sweater.

In 1962 we had the French chansonniers Raoul Roy, Tex Lecor, Jacques Labrecque, and Claude Gauthier (who returned many times, and became a good friend as well). That year, I brought in the first international singer/songwriter Stephane Golmann (booked through the Guy Latraverse agency in Montreal). Pierre Letourneau also came, as well the soon-to-be celebrated Claude Leveillée.

Claude LeveilléeClaude was shy then and as he accompanied himself on piano, he would ask us to turn the piano around so that he had his back to the audience. He had a small mirror so that he could see the audience. Later he dropped that habit and became quite relaxed in front of an audience. I met Claude many years later at a Radio Canada studio, and we talked about Le Hibou. He recalled, “God, was it dark in there with its black walls and ceiling.” Another singer/composer from France was Pierre Dudan. "Un café au lait au lit" was one of his big hits that made it to Le Hibou. Michel Choquette also became a regular performer and a good friend. I always enjoyed him as his songs were remarkably unique and many were quite funny.

Hootenanny Night

Sandy Crawley

We continued the poetry readings for a while, but we had lost the intimate atmosphere of 544 Rideau Street and fewer people came. And what was informal on Rideau—the impromptu singing—became more formal on Bank. David WiffenThat’s when I instituted the Hootenanny. At first, it ran Sunday nights. Then I shifted it to Monday since it permitted us to have the weekend performer for one extra night. Monday was a slow night in any case. We held many Hootenannies over the years. There was a minimal charge at the door, and the coordinator received half of the door take. The same applied to our regular performers. There was always a base fee of $150.00 to $200.00 per week or 60% of the door receipts, whichever was highest. Performers generally always received more than the base.

Many of the old guard from Rideau Street took on the role of Hootenanny Coordinator, including Nev Wells, Peter Hodgson, his brother John, Bill Hawkins, and later David Wiffen. Sandy Crawley probably did it the longest, though I could not understand why, since some of the performers were very bad. The coordinator would set up the list of performers and set equal audience time for each performer. However, some performers, intoxicated by the chance to perform in front of a captive audience, would prolong their stay. Countless times I witnessed the coordinator jumping on stage at the end of a long, never-ending song, urging the audience to "give him a big hand," which they did probably out of great relief more than anything else.

Dance

Elizabeth Langley

We even had dance at Le Hibou. Elizabeth Langley, a professional dancer from Australia had befriended Penny, and even lived in our third-floor flat for a while at the Cartier Street house we rented after we moved from Cooper Street. She also worked occasionally as night manager.

Elizabeth LangleyIn February 1964, she gave a lecture and performance on modern dance, which was quite appreciated. Elizabeth had immigrated to Canada, while her brother had moved to Christ Church, New Zealand to open a café. She liked Le Hibou, as it reminded her of her brother’s café. Years later while doing documentaries for the CBC in New Zealand, I visited his café, and it really was very much the same as Le Hibou on Bank Street—the stairs leading straight up to the long rectangular room (without the black paint), the espresso coffee maker, the warm cordial atmosphere—very much the same, but on two different continents.

Volkswagen and Chac Mool

Denis, Penny, Stephane

One summer, Penny, Stephane, Alan Knight, and I took a five-week trip to Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador in a converted Volkswagen van. We slept in the van, while Alan bravely slept outside in a pup tent. Along the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, Penny met an itinerant cloth seller. We bought quite a few pieces of fabric and Penny, who spoke fluent Spanish, arranged to have him send beautiful hand-woven cloth back to Canada on a regular basis. Family CamperSince he could not read or write, everything was arranged through a translator and sent by him to Ottawa, which I in turn picked up at the customs office. It was quite long and laborious at customs, since they (as many functionaries seem to do) always had a lengthy discussion about the cloth itself: was it a finished product or was it just cloth? The designation made a big difference on the custom fee. From what I have heard, it is still the same at customs.

To accommodate the shawls, tablecloths, and other items that Penny sold at Le Hibou on Saturday during the day, we had a large trunk built on wheels that stood upright so that it would open and its contents could be displayed on shelves. When not in use we would just close it, lock it, and store it in a corner. At first only the cloth was sold, then Penny started to make dresses using the material. Thus started the Chac Mool Boutique. The boutique retained a connection with Le Hibou since we had numerous fashion shows at our new location on Sussex.

Chac-Mool Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican stone statue.

Bearded Owner Charged!

Entertaining Mr. Sloane!

Bearded Owner Charged - Ottawa CitizenWhile on Bank Street, I was charged by the City of Ottawa for operating a public hall without a licence. Some neighbour, obviously not a fan of good music, complained about the noise. So I was charged, perhaps because, as the newspaper reporting seemed to think important, I was a “bearded man”. Usefully, my partner Harvey Glatt had a friend Arnie Goldberg who was a lawyer. He took on the case. The plaintiff was at court on the appointed day. Arnie very cleverly remanded the case, and then he remanded, and remanded, and remanded until one day the plaintiff was not there, so the judge promptly threw the case out. Le Hibou won the case, but we lost on fees.

In November, 1966, Le Hibou presented "Entertaining Mr Sloane," a riotous farce which had been a hit the previous year on the London, England stage. Besides the usual advertisement, Penny and I wondered how we could publicise it in a different way. We came up with the idea of using a prop from the play, a coffin that several people carried very solemnly up and down the Sparks Street Mall hoping to catch attention and also get a picture in the paper. Penny’s task was to call the newspaper from a phone booth and asked them what was happening—a clever idea in theory, but in practice it backfired since the answer from the reporter was, “Well, it's coming up to Remembrance Day, so it likely has something to do with that.”

On another occasion we decided to use a walking sandwich board, but who would do it? We approached my brother-in-law, Alan, who was about sixteen years of age and over six feet tall, and he reluctantly agreed. But he did it his way, in his inimitable fashion. He walked slowly up and down the Sparks Street Mall with the sandwich board on his back and front, reading a book, smoking a corn cob pipe, and donning a flat straw hat, oblivious to startled passers-by. His odd demeanour and sandwich board caught the eye of an Ottawa Citizen photographer (the Citizen was located on Sparks Street then) and next day, to our great delight, his photo, sandwich board and all, appeared in the newspaper. So, for the play, "The Duchess of Malfi,” a modern version of a gay Jacobean drama, we were able to attract attention and perhaps a few more spectators.

Move to Sussex

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

One impediment to profit, so I thought, was the size of the coffee house. The stage and backstage took a lot of space, and we could only accommodate 60 to 65 people. With a larger venue, things, I thought, would be different. It would also have been different for our performers since we really did not have a space for either a dressing room or a backstage room. For a play it was worse as the stage and backstage took a lot of space. In the front, we had a small kitchen and an even smaller room for storage (when we had plays, we stuffed tables there). So to accommodate performers we kept a space for them in the back near the door. It was not private, and while artists like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, or Ian and Sylvia, did not mind chitchatting with fans, others were more reserved. Ian and SylviaFor those who wanted refuge between sets, it was the kitchen. Obviously the room was too small, and the fees for a solo artist had increased.

For theatre, it was worse. We also needed extra space not only for the stage but for the off-stage actors who needed space either on the side or back of the stage. This would really cut in on seating space and of course reduce revenues at the door. For the plays I had retrieved discarded black drapes which were called “limbo” at the CBC. Many were torn or no longer had a matching section. We stitched them together with black thread, and I don’t think anybody noticed the mismatch. We had by now acquired a few regular stage lights and one rheostat capable of dimming the lights. The low ceiling was a nightmare for the lighting director, who had to sit among the audience to control the lights. The brush with the law concerning a noise complaint was also a constant concern. We kept the back door closed, but was the previous complainant ready to strike again?

NCC Architect John LeaningIt was time to look for another venue. I started researching possible sites, preferably in a commercial area in the centre town area. But no site looked promising. I then called John Leaning, Chief Architect with the National Capital Commission, whom I had met when I wrote The Fulcrum article on the proposed twenty-five-year plan for the new campus. A week later John called to say that he might have a place for Le Hibou.