David FrenchDavid Benson French, playwright (b at Coley's Point, NL 18 Jan 1939, d at Toronto 4 Dec 2010). David French moved with his family from Newfoundland to Toronto when he was 6. He attended Rawlinson Public School, Harbord Collegiate Institute and then Oakwood Collegiate, followed by acting studies in Toronto and at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. He performed professionally (1960-65) before turning full time to playwriting. His earliest plays were half-hour TV dramas broadcast on CBC, beginning with "Beckons the Dark River" (1963).
His first stage play, Leaving Home (1972), produced and directed by Bill GLASSCO at Toronto's TARRAGON THEATRE, portrayed with humour and powerful emotion the generational conflict and cultural alienation within a Toronto family of transplanted Newfoundlanders. Its sequel, Of the Fields, Lately (1973), won the Jean A. Chalmers Outstanding Play Award and cemented French's position as Canada's foremost stage realist. The third play in what became "the Mercer Trilogy,"Salt-Water Moon (1984) follows the courtship of the characters who turn up as the parents in the other 2 plays. It won the Hollywood Drama-League Critics Award for Best Play in Los Angeles in 1985, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for the next year, and has remained in production on international stages. The trilogy became a tetralogy with 1949 (1989), in which the expatriate islanders gather in Toronto on the eve of Newfoundland's union with Canada. A fifth Mercer play, Soldier's Heart (2001), focuses on Newfoundlanders' experience in the Great War.
Among his other works, David French translated Chekhov's The Seagull (1977) and Strindberg's Miss Julie (2005), and wrote a murder mystery, The Silver Dagger (1993). His Jitters (1979), a backstage comedy, remains one of the most frequently produced plays in the history of Canadian theatre. Toronto's SOULPEPPER THEATRE COMPANY and Theatre Newfoundland Labrador have produced major revivals of the Mercer plays and Jitters.
David French was made an officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 2001 and received the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2002.