From Community Players Theatre Library to the Bleviss Family Library
The library of the National Theatre School of Canada (NTS) started out in Montreal as
the Community Players Theatre Library, established back in 1940 as an affiliate to
the Montreal Repertory Theatre (MRT) thanks to a very small sum of money that had been
left in trust "for some theatrical purpose".
The Community Players of Montreal has been an amateur theatre group originally founded
by Professor F. E. Lloyd of McGill University, T.T. Stoker, and Brooke Claxton who
later became Canada's Minister of Defence. They had started in Montreal in 1921 and
operated until 1924 when they disbanded for lack of appropriate quarters. Community Players of Montreal
has been the first notable theatre group envisioning theatre on
a community wide scale in Montreal, a movement that should be more firmly and
successfully established with the founding of the Montreal Repertory Theatre
on November 23, 1929.
The three founding members of the library trusteeship were interior decorator and theatre
designer Louis Mulligan and librarians Beatrice Munro Brown and Marie Stehle. The
nucleus of the library came from the private collections of Louis Mulligan and
Martha Allan, founder of MRT, and many donations from various other MRT members
have contributed to the growth of the collection. It also had been considerably
enriched by the prestigious Walker Collection of photographs, prints and playbills,
which had been donated by C.P. Walker, a one-time manager of Her Majesty's Theatre.
Yet, on March 5, 1952 at 1:15 a.m. in the morning, fate struck and the entire
building of the MRT Playhouse on Guy Street was set on fire due to the maniacal
urgings of a policeman on nocturnal duty. Two of the twelve tenants living in
the building died in the blaze and MRT with its then 22-year old library burnt
down to the ground.
Like a Phoenix re-emerging out of the ashes, the library right away built up a
new collection thanks to a very generous donation of plays sent by the French Government,
by the New York Public Library as well as by the Samuel French Canada Inc. At the same
time, gifts of money came in from many institutions and individuals. The library found
a new home in the new MRT building on Closse Street and its collection comprised again
several thousand items when MRT finally had to abandon its activities in 1962. By then,
the library had already been moved the previous year into the Canadian Legion Building
at 1191 Mountain Street, the first premises of the newly established National Theatre
School of Canada on November 2nd, 1960.
In 1962, it finally became an official affiliate of the NTS and, thanks to a
now more regular budget and the leadership of the professional head librarian,
Beatrice Asya De-Vreeze, it started its ascend to new heights, followed by
Wolfgang Noethlichs since 1989.
Today, seventy years after its founding, the library has developed into the most
comprehensive documentation centre for the theatre arts in Canada. Renamed to
Bleviss Family Library in February 2008, it is more than ever firmly embedded
into Canada's only major – national and bilingual – theatre training centre.