Arts icon Mavor Moore dies at 87

Cultural icon Mavor Moore, the noted actor, writer, director, producer, critic and teacher who founded a host of Canadian artistic institutions, has died in Victoria. He was 87.

Cultural icon Mavor Moore, the noted actor, writer, director, producer, critic and teacher who founded a host of Canadian artistic institutions, has died in Victoria. He was 87.

Mavor Moore, shown in 1958, was a major influence in the development of the arts in Canada. He has died at 87. ((Herb Nott/CBC Still Photo Collection))

Moore, credited as a major influencein the development of the arts in Canada, died Monday after several years of failing health, family members told CBC News.

"Mavor Moore was not only a pioneer in the development of a truly Canadian theatre scene,he also devoted his time and energy to serving all Canadian artists through his leadership ofthe Canada Council and the B.C. Arts Council," Canada Council chair Karen Kain said in a statement Thursday.

"We will remember a man who played a pivotal role in making the council what it is today."

Moore,an actor who turned in dozens of performancesfor radio,stage, film and TV, was also a prolific author who wrote more than 100 plays, documentaries, musicals and librettos for stage, radio and television. His worksincluded Sunshine Town, a musical adaptation of Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, the librettos for the 1967 opera Louis Rieland 2000 operaErewhon.

He also helped joined lyricist Elaine Campbell in writing several songs for Anne of Green Gables: The Musical — Canada's longest-running stage show.

Artistic childhood

Born in Toronto in March 1919, Moore was one of three sons ofactress, director and theatre matriarch Dora Mavor Moore.

Moore's parents separated while he was a child, but under his mother's tutelage, his artistic development continued: he produced his first play at 10, began playwriting at 11 and made his acting debut on radio as a teen.

"I started working for radio as an actor in 1933, when I was 14," Moore said in an interview with CBC's Arts National in 1984.

"It was playing a boy's role in a kids' serial called The Crusoe Boys. And two of us used to go from school every afternoon and do this live on the radio five nights a week. That was marvellous money during the Depression."

He continued acting regularlyfor radio, including performances on the fledgling radio network thatsoon became the CBC.

Moore graduated from the University of Toronto and during the Second World War served as a recruitment officer in the2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Canada. He later sat on the Allied Intelligence Committees in London.

After the war, Moore returned to CBC Radio as producer for the International Service in Montreal.At the same time, he wrote and directed radio documentaries for the United Nations, three of which were honoured with Peabody Awards.

He also eventually became CBC Television's first chief producer.

Nation-wide arts, culture advocate

Mavor Moore, shown in 1999, founded or helped lead a myriad of Canadian cultural organizations, including the Charlottetown Festival, the British Columbia Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. ((Courtesy Government of B.C.))

Over the years, Moore left an indelible mark on Canada's arts and culture landscape, as heestablished, led, or consulted on the development of many cultural institutions.

In 1946, he helped his mother establish the New Play Society, whichhe managedfor many years. Among their creations was Spring Thaw, the popular annual satirical play to which Moore contributed from 1948 to 1965.

Moore founded the Charlottetown Festival, the Canadian Theatre Centre and Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre. He served as the first chairman of the Guild of Canadian Playwrights, and was afounding governor of both the Stratford Festival andthe National Theatre School.

Moore was thefirst artist to chair the Canada Council for the Arts andserved as head of music network Jeunesses Musicales Canada. Hechaired the British Columbia Arts Council and was director of the Canadian Music Council.

Cultural educator

For the past three decades,Moore turned much of his attention toward teaching. Beginning in 1970, he taught in the English and theatre departments at Toronto's York University, which named himprofessor emeritus in 1984. He then moved west, where he worked as a research professor at the University of Victoria and the University of Lethbridge.

Moore's contributions to Canadian culture were recognized in 1973 when he was named amember of the Order of Canada. He was elevated to companion in 1988.

Other accoladesMoore receivedover the yearsinclude the Canada Council's Molson Prize, ACTRA's John Drainie Award for lifetime serviceto broadcasting, a Diplôme d'honneur from the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the Order of British Columbia, the Governor General's Award for lifetime achievement in the performing arts, and honorary degrees from a host of Canadian universities.

Moore published his memoirs,Reinventing Myself, in 1994.