Samuel Nathan Cohen

Samuel Nathan Cohen, theatre critic, radio and TV broadcaster (b at Sydney, NS 16 Apr 1923; d at Toronto 26 Mar 1971).

Samuel Nathan Cohen

Samuel Nathan Cohen, theatre critic, radio and TV broadcaster (b at Sydney, NS 16 Apr 1923; d at Toronto 26 Mar 1971). As Canada's only "national" theatre critic in the 1960s, travelling across the country for the Toronto Star, and as the only serious reviewer of drama in performance in Canada from 1946 to 1971, Cohen set the standards for Canadian theatre during its first quarter century of real growth following WWII.

He entered Mount Allison University at 16; his erudition and radical editing of the university newspaper fascinated and enraged the authorities. After studying law briefly at the University of Toronto, he returned to the Maritimes to edit the mine union paper Glace Bay Gazette for 2 years. In the mid-1940s he wrote for communist newspapers in Toronto, began writing play reviews and attracted the attention of Mavor MOORE, who recommended him as a regular theatre critic for CBC Radio.

Cohen broke with the effusive praise and uncritical approach that marked current criticism in Canada and forced the country to differentiate between amateur and professional performances for the first time. He enraged Canadians by mercilessly attacking plays, playwrights and performers, while cheering on promising new talents and theatres. Cohen also edited CBC radio scripts and was host of CBC-TV's first successful discussion program, "Fighting Words." He was a colourful and controversial personality, both loved and hated for his profound integrity; his untimely death at the age of 47 was a blow to a Canadian theatre just entering its adolescence. The renaissance of alternative theatres and playwrights across Canada in the 1970s owed much to his critical acumen and standards. Since the 1970s, a Nathan Cohen Award for excellence in Playwriting for Children has been presented in Canada and since 1982 the Canadian Theatre Critics Association has awarded the Nathan Cohen Award for Art Criticism, worth $500.

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