ArtsAlive.ca – Persuading Presence
image:Tour the Collection With guest curator Scott McKowen

Tour the Collection
With guest curator Scott McKowen

Variety Programming Posters

The last major category in the archival collection is known as “variety.” This covers the wide array of touring shows, concerts, recitals, and musicals presented at the NAC by just about every international artist you can think of over forty years. Posters for these gigs are usually supplied by the tour producers, often with a blank “imprint” area for local date, time, venue and box office information.
image:Charles Trenet World Tour image: Joan Baez image:Studio Cabaret, The National Arts Centre presents Chris Elliott: The Canadian Comedian who has been rolling them in the aisles from Newfoundland to New York City. image:The Alexandrov Red Army Chorus and Dance Ensemble image:Private Turvey's War

A 1988 world tour poster for the French singer Charles Trenet (75 years old at the time) is illustrated with a portrait drawing by Jean Cocteau. The artist and the singer were friends and colleagues, so the association is genuine. Joan Baez performed at the NAC in 1985 and the poster presents the folk singer and social activist as a thoughtful and serious artist. The poster for Chris Elliott’s NAC Studio Cabaret show in 1986 proclaims him “a genuine and talented nutcase,” and features an illustration to support the claim. (Chris Elliott has since changed his first name to Lorne.)

The 175-member Alexandrov Red Army Chorus and Dance Ensemble appeared at the NAC Opera in October 1989 just as the Berlin Wall was falling. Surely this poster illustration presenting these Russian artists as fun-loving international cultural ambassadors (a Red Army Officer with flowers issuing from his mouth!?) was a statement carefully calculated for the political climate of the day.

A cartoon showing a Canadian military officer illustrates a poster for the 1970 musical Private Turvey’s War, by Don Harron and Norman Campbell, presented at the NAC by the Charlottetown Festival.

Rounding out the Variety collection are posters for magic acts, films, rock bands, world music, young artists, older artists (Rudolph Nureyev starring in a 1989 tour of The King and I!), and comedy shows. Looking at these posters, even years later, I get an accurate sense of what these performances must have been like. Even shows I think I’m glad I missed! The London Palladium Show must have been just excruciating, but the poster makes me nostalgic for it all the same.