Peggy Green

(1921 – 1990)

Peggy Green was the first Manitoba theatre producer to pay Manitoban actors, beginning with John Hirsch’s A Box of Smiles, which Green directed for the Junior League Children’s Theatre’s 1951-52 season. The Actor’s Guild, the company she created in 1952, signaled a seismic shift from amateur to professional theatre with its ongoing payment of artists, and laid the groundwork for Rainbow Stage (1954) and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (1958).

Peggy Jarman Green McIntyre was born in England in 1921 and moved with her family to Winnipeg in 1929. Soon, the Winnipeg Tribune reported that nine-year-old Peggy Jarman was appearing in A Doll’s House at the amateur Winnipeg Little Theatre. By the age of 15, she had returned to England, studying theatre at the prestigious Old Vic. When war broke out, the Old Vic made her a tour stage manager because London theatres had closed, and male theatre workers had been called up. She left embattled England only when her parents insisted that the teenager return to the relative safety of Winnipeg. By then, she was a professional, and brought new expectations with her.

John Hirsch described what set her apart: “Peggy Green was a much better director, because she was a trained person, ... She paid attention to voice, and movement, and pace, and all those things, and she was a very forceful personality, … and very well organized. ... And above all, again, she was forever thinking that there was going to be eventually a way of making a living at that. I mean it was a professional approach, and it had a hell of a lot to do with what she produced, and I learned a great deal from her.”

So did actress Helene Winston: “Here we were, working for the (amateur) Little Theatre,... Oh, how wonderful if we could act all the time. If only we could just spend our lives doing it… … And I guess Peggy Green had the courage to go out on a limb. I don’t know how financially it was arranged or anything, but all of a sudden we had a company.” Winston had planned to go to Mexico with her husband in 1952 but decided that she would rather stay in Manitoba and work with this ground-breaking professional company. “$40 a week. It was a very generous salary. … The nucleus of the people were paid, you see. … Now Peggy, she worked day and night on those things.”

Green’s contemporaries recognized her accomplishments and celebrated them. In January of 1954, she was named one of the Winnipeg Tribune’s 12 Women of the Year. By December of the same year, she became only the third Manitoban to win the national Dominion Drama Award, a tribute to her “courage and devotion as well as her artistic abilities.”

In 1956, Green met dancer Patrick McIntyre while she was stage-managing the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s first American tour. They married, and moved to England, where they raised three children. Green died in 1990.

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