A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire

As I mentioned before, I wanted Le Hibou to be more than a coffee house featuring out of town performers with a sprinkling of occasional folk singers and chansonniers. I wanted it to be a small mecca of different forms of art. Hence, I had theatre (French and English), children’s theatre, films, even painting and sculpture exhibits, fashion shows, and dance performances. The selection of plays were eclectic, from London and Paris and Off-Broadway, such as Entertaining Mr Sloane, The Knack, The day the whores came out to play tennis, or classics like A Streetcar Named Desire, and even original local authors, including Vision of an Unseemly Youth by John Palmer.

I was quite fortunate to attract young and not-so-young innovative directors such as Tim Bond, John Palmer, Gilles Provost (who directed plays in French or English), Jean Herbiet, who was head of the French theatre at the University of Ottawa and then became head of French theatre at the NAC. I also managed to direct a few plays in the new venue. I had already directed Victims of Duty by Eugene Ionesco and The Maids by Jean Genet as well as others on Bank Street.

The Day the Whores Came Out to Play Tennis
The day the whores came out to play tennis

There was an amusing incident when I directed The day the whores came out to play tennis. We had posters all over Ottawa—with a provocative design by Doug Peaker—and, of course, ads in the newspaper. Somehow the advertising caught the eye of Ottawa Police morality detectives. They came and stood in the back of Le Hibou for the duration of the play, waiting for something scandalous—I don’t know what, since there were no scandalous scenes. At the conclusion of the play, the detectives sheepishly said that the play was okay, but some words—the abominable swear words—should be cleaned up. I thanked them for the approval and comments, and they left. One actress was terrified—”What if they come back and arrest us?” I tried to reassure her, stating that they would not do that, even though I secretly relished the thought of such an incident occurring. It would have been great publicity! I advised her that if she didn’t feel comfortable with the words, she could just change them, which she did the following night. And of course the police never did show up—to the great dismay of a film crew who waited all evening.

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