The Marks Brothers

The Canadian Kings of Repertoire

Susan McNichol: Former Curator of the Perth Museum


Original Marks Brothers Poster - now in the third floor exhibit at the Perth Museum.                                                         From left to right: Back - Joseph, Thomas, Robert, Alex, Earnest : Front - John, McIntyre

There is a long and unique history of theatre in this town dating back to the mid 19th century. The era of the fabulous Marks Brothers is one of the most exciting stories in our colourful past. They have been called "the most remarkable theatrical family in Canadian history. The dazzling Marks Brothers were the greatest impresario performers of our small town stage in the era before the nickelodeon." (Maclean’s Magazine, 1958.)

The Marks Brothers troupes performed all over Canada and the United States for fifty years from the 1870's to the 1920's. They delighted audiences in many remote towns and villages, most of them starved for entertainment, with their flamboyant performances and lavish scenery.


[M40] Dec 27, 1923, Toronto - The Marks Bros Dramatic company presenting 'The Sleeping Beauty', an old English pantomime

[M4] May A.Bell Marks - who starred in 'The Sleeping Beauty' was given a warm welcome by her many Toronto friends.  She is certainly an outstanding feature (review in Toronto Paper).  She was an established New York actress when she married Robert W. Marks.



Each year, after 40 weeks on the road, they would return to their home base, a farm on the shore of Christie Lake, close to Perth. There they would rehearse, relax and plan the next seasons’ performances. The silk-hatted Marks Brothers were larger than life and when they came home to Perth everyday existence would suddenly become more exciting.


Interior view of the Balderson Theatre in Perth Ontario (constructed 1914-1915) - 12 Gore Street East, where the Marks Brothers performed when in Perth.  Today it is a Home Furniture store.



By the mid-1920s, vaudeville acts and roadshows were declining in popularity and with the last performance of the Marks Brothers Dramatic Company, came the end of an era. But the Marks Brothers have never been forgotten in Perth. Over the years, several local theatre groups have dusted off the old scripts taken from the Perth Museum archives, and held Marks Brothers revivals.

[M6] Tom Marks as 'Jiggs' from 'Bringing up Father


In 1982, Theatre-on-the-Tay presented "The Duke’s Daughter", the first of three plays. The Marks Brothers revival continued the next year with their performance of "Dolores, the Ranch Queen" and in 1984 came "Dora Thorn". In the fall of 2000, the theatre group Barndoor Productions put on the Marks Brothers play "The Wolf" a melodrama of the Hudson Bay Company. In 2001 Natural Heritage Inc. published a richly illustrated book about the Marks Brothers by Michael Taylor.

To learn more about the Marks Brothers and other people from Perth’s past, be sure and visit the Perth Museum.




Read excerpt about the Marks Brothers in “The History of North American Theater: From Pre-Columbian Times to the Present. By Felicia Hardison Londré and Daniel J. Watermeier”

 

Read more about the fabulous Marks Brothers in "The Canadian Kings of Repertoire" - Michael V. Taylor


Excerpt from book