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In Memory of Bruce Swerdfager | 1928 - 2007

Bruce began acting at 15 on CKCO and CFRA radio in his hometown of Ottawa and was an active member of the Ottawa Little Theatre. He was named Best Supporting Actor at the Dominion Drama Festival in 1951. While working as a typewriter salesman, he auditioned for Tyrone Guthrie and was selected as a founding company member of the Stratford Festival. He received the first Guthrie Award (along with William Hutt), which he used to travel to London, England to study theatre in 1954-55. He rose through the ranks in Stratford, becoming company manager, theatre and company manager, comptroller and ultimately general manager.

Bruce was a member of the inaugural company of the Crest Theatre in Toronto and toured Canada and the U.S. as a member of the Canadian Players. He also performed on Broadway in Tamburlaine the Great and Robertson Davies' Love and Libel. In 1979 he joined the Dallas Theatre Centre as general manager, and was appointed general manager of the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto in 1981. He returned to the Stratford Festival as an actor in 1986, playing in The Boys from Syracuse (1986) (TV) and A Winter's Tale.

As comptroller and general manager in the 1970s he took the Stratford Festival from a million-dollar deficit to a half-million-dollar surplus. His survey of all Canadian theatres for the Canada Council opened the doors for active touring across the country.

In the 1950s Bruce fought for and won the right for Canadian actors to be paid for rehearsal time, not just performances; he also won the right for stage managers to receive a minimum 8-hour break between shifts.

Reflecting, 50 years later, on his decision to leave his permanent job as a typewriter salesman to join the fledgling Stratford Festival: "Who would have thought that the Stratford Festival would outlast the typewriter?"

Copyright © 2019 PAL Stratford (a chapter of PAL Canada)
Original web design and hosting donated in memory of former PAL board member Bruce Swerdfager.
Home page header images by Marg Boemer, Lynn Boehler, Amanda Ryan.
PAL Stratford logo design courtesy of Maxine Graham.