Barry Pearson (MA 1968 - Drama)
On Emrys Jones and the Drama Department
Ahhh, Emrys Jones. He had a son who died, and I think he took me up instead. I arrived at U of S when I was 17, had 5 courses, and only two of them were my passion: Drama and French. I thought Emrys was a god. You're right, he built the dramatic art for all of Saskatoon, with very little of a place to work, but he made it go, and he mentored a lot of theatrical people who succeeded in their lives: artists, authors, directors, and almost every theatrical endeavour.
He was Welsh, and even shorter than I was, but all of us looked up to him seriously when he spoke to us, a brilliant professor. In my second year, I went to Edmonton which had a bigger theatrical course, and I learned a lot there, even to direct a one-act play. But two years later I came back to U. of S. and Emrys, who boosted me higher up -- M.A. in Drama. I owe him a great deal of my success in life, and no doubt many other students feel the same as well.
- Barry Pearson
Richard Epp (BA - Honours 1971 – Drama)
THE GREYSTONE IN ITS PRIME by Richard Epp
When I attended the University of Saskatchewan ‘68 through ’71, the Hangar Building housed the Departments of Art and Drama. As one walked through the building from the northwest entrance, the heady smell of oils and canvas gave way to a deodorizing cleanser from the men’s washroom with its distinctive urinal trough. To the south, the lobby shared its wet carpet and winter coats, and from the scene shop came the pungent aroma of a hot pot of sizing glue. The place had a lot of character.
The Hangar was a sanctuary for visual artists, actors and directors, scenic artists, and playwrights living and dead, a second home to drama students and a familiar gathering place for the public who supported artists in development. It had its problems – flooding, cruel winter winds, the imminent threat of fire, not to mention its antique lighting control system or its lash lines holding sandbags perilously above the deck. But its spirit was indestructible.
Outside, there was no marquee to announce what was playing and there didn’t need to be. The University community knew where and when to arrive and they supported whatever was offered, eager to be entertained, to be moved to laughter or tears, to learn, and to share in the unique experience that was the Greystone, not only for the main season of plays but also for the Friday Noon Show, jammed with the brown-bag crowd who enthusiastically applauded the scenes and entertainments the performers were serving up.
Over the years, the Hangar absorbed the voices of those who inhabited it: Emrys Jones drifting routinely from a lecture on Nikolai Evreinov to recall the student days of Frances Hyland, or Walter Mills, pipe in the corner of his mouth, directing Private Lives from the rear of the Greystone or that gentle caretaker, known simply as Ralph, who greeted each one of us as family; the laughter of the lobby and the voices of actors rebounding off the wallboard of the intimate theatres. Season after season, as performers and audience came and went, the ceilings, pillars, draperies became permeated with pear-shaped tones and distracted soliloquies. Some whispered there were ghosts here. Certainly, there were spirits.
Long after the building had been dismantled and its footprint paved over with a parking lot, I returned to the site, hardly expecting to find any tangible remembrance there, but I was pleasantly surprised. At one corner of the lot hung a small marquee cleverly disguised as a traffic caution with the words “No Exit” inscribed. Ah yes, I thought, the departed are playing Sartre tonight. A difficult play, not for everyone and yet, in the spirit of the Greystone, I could sense a ghostly audience taking their seats as house lights went to half, awaiting a great show.
Richard Epp, BA 1970, Honours in Drama 1971, is a member of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, the Playwrights Guild of Canada and Professor Emeritus of Dramatic Arts, University of Lethbridge. He lives with his wife, Gwenyth in Victoria, BC.
May 4, 2021