Born in Montreal on February 25, 1949, Susan McNicoll worked as a reporter for the Ottawa Journal for five years in the 1970s. Inspiring by newspaper clippings kept by her father, Floyd Caza, she received a Canada Council grant for a project she initially called Everyman: Canadian Theatre History (1945-1953). After many years of research and interviewing theatre personnel from that little-documented post-war period, she compiled an invaluable national summary called The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History, 1945-1953. It contains many splendid photos from that era, with B.C.-related chapters on the touring company Everyman Theatre; Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park; Totem Theatre and Island Theatre (Bowen Island), York Theatre and the Vancouver Stage Society.

"From the day I decided to write The Opening Act," she writes, "or it decided I was going to write it, this book took thirty-four years to be published. How the book came to be written is a story in itself. My father, Floyd Caza, was a professional actor from 1946 to 1952, ironically almost the exact time frame of my book. Only days after dad's death at 55, I was sitting on the floor of their living room going through his papers when five yellowed newspaper clippings dropped out onto the floor. It is still a marvel to me that those few pieces of paper actually evolved into this book. There was a small bio on dad and four reviews from plays he appeared in with the Everyman Theatre and the Ottawa Stage Society, circa 1946-48. I thought perhaps they were amateur productions but I looked at the names from the reviews and was stunned to see actors that I recognized well - Christopher Plummer, Arthur Hill, Ted Follows and Murray Westgate. I was immediately intrigued because I knew they were all professional actors. Dad had never talked much about his time in the theatre. He did not seem to think it was a big deal. It took his death for me to find out that it actually was. It happened in a split second as I sat there on the floor with the clippings in my hand. All these fireworks went off in my head and I KNEW instantly not only was there a book in there somewhere, I was going to be the one to do it. That is how The Opening Act was born."

Her non-fiction summary Jack the Ripper describes the murders of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. At least three other women are presumed to have been victims of Jack the Ripper.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953


BOOKS:

The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History, 1945-1953 (Ronsdale Press, 2012) $24.95 978-1-55380-113-9
Toronto Murders (Lorimer Publishing, 2009)
Jack the Ripper (Altitude Publishing, 2005)
Ontario Murders (Altitude Publishing, 2004;
republished: Lorimer Publishing, 2009)
British Columbia Murders (Altitude
Publishing, 2003; republished Heritage House,
2009)

[BCBW 2012] "Theatre"