Playwright David Freeman, who died last week, made Canadian theatrical history.
The Toronto-born Freeman, who had cerebral palsy, worked as a journalist for various publications. In 1964, Maclean's published The World Of Can't, in which Freeman exposed the difficulties those with CP had to be seen as responsible members of society.
Though the CBC commissioned him to adapt the article for television, the project wasn't completed. Happily, director Bill Glassco suggested that Freeman turn the script into a stage play. The result was Creeps, which Glassco directed in 1971 for the Factory Theatre Lab, as the company was called at the time. Set in a workshop shelter in which five men with CP work at frustratingly useless tasks, the play follows their rebellion at the treatment by those in charge.
In October 1971, Glassco opened the Tarragon Theatre with a remount of Creeps. It featured, among other actors, a young John Candy. The show marked the debut of a theatre that would go on to become one of the most important producers of new Canadian works.
Acclaimed by critics and audiences, Creeps revealed the world of a shelter to people who knew nothing about the everyday life there. The play went on to win the first Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award in 1973.
Freeman's later plays included Battering Ram (1972) and You're Going To Be Alright, Jamie-Boy (1974); he was also a poet.
And in case you think Creeps is a historic work with no emotional resonance today, you should have been at the reading two years ago that celebrated the Tarragon's 40th anniversary season. Directed by Nigel Shawn Williams and performed by a multi-ethnic cast, the show proved to be as moving now as it was in the 70s.