In 1976 Robbie O’Neill received a Canada Council grant to write and produce a play about people who had rarely, if ever, been reflected on a professional Canadian stage; rural Nova Scotians. He and three young artists interviewed local people and then collectively created The Mulgrave Road Show. It focused on the culture, the politics and the decline of Mulgrave, Guysborough County, following the construction of the Canso Causeway, which joined Cape Breton to the mainland. In 1978 Mulgrave Road Co-op Theatre* was formally registered, with a goal of achieving democracy in the workplace. The focus eventually shifted from collective creation toward developing new playwrights; and the stories expanded geographically.
MRT has produced dozens of world premieres and several national and international tours. Many scripts originating at MRT have gone on to be produced at theatres throughout the country. The company has made an enormous contribution to the growth of Canadian theatre and the development of some of Atlantic Canada’s most respected playwrights.
Emmy Alcorn has served as artistic director for 23 years.
*In 1994, the theatre’s two governing bodies, a co-op and a society, were dissolved and a foundation was formed. It is now simply Mulgrave Road Theatre (MRT).
Where did Mulgrave Road Theatre get its name?
It was inspired by a poem written by Charles Tory Bruce, a Canadian poet, journalist and fiction writer born in Guysborough. His poetry collection, The Mulgrave Road, won the Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry in 1951
If they stay they stay, if they go they go;
On the Mulgrave Road it’s a choice you make.
There’s an ax in the stump and a fork in the row
Or a bag to pick and a train to take.