The Estate of Carol Bolt

(1941–2000). Carol Johnson was born in Winnipeg, grew up in British Columbia, and spent a year in Britain and Israel after graduating from the University of British Columbia in 1961. On her return to Canada, she and a few friends started a small theatre in Montreal, where she began writing children's plays. When it closed, she moved to Toronto in 1964 and married David Bolt.

In the late sixties and early seventies Bolt developed her scripts through the Collective Creation process with George Luscombe's Toronto Workshop Productions and Paul Thompson's Theatre Passe Muraille. Her early plays for adults—Buffalo jump (1972), Gabe (1973), and Red Emma (1974), all developed collectively—offered a political re-interpretation of historical events, but Bolt rejects the ‘documentary’ label for them because of their theatricality. Essentially their dramatic strength lies in their colourful characters and their ‘montage’ of swiftly changing scenes, while idealism, heroism, and comic parody shade their historical actuality and political messages. While Buffalo jump explores the conflict between ‘Red Evans’ and Prime Minister R. B. Bennett during the 1935 unemployed workers' trek to Ottawa, and Gabe studies the relevance of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont to their modern descendants, Red Emma examines the nature of revolutionary commitment in the person of Emma Goldman, turn-of-the-century Russian-born American anarchist who had a colourful life before she died in Toronto in 1940. Emma's belief in women's emancipation signals a change in Bolt's work at this time. In Shelter (1975), a satirical rendition of the involvement of five Saskatchewan women with the contemporary political process, her earlier emphasis on myth and heroism gives way to more naturalistic presentation and rounded character development.

Although her work since Shelter continued to be influenced by the unusual juxtapositions and comic characterization learned from Luscombe and the Theatre Passe Muraille, Bolt preferred to write independently, concentrating on ‘trying to make the form of a play more powerful’. Her most successful play, One night stand (1977), started from the formal challenge of creating a thriller with a small cast: a casual encounter between boy and girl moves from situation comedy to a terrifying psychological exposé. Bolt's adaptation of One night stand as a television film won three Canadian Film Awards in 1978. Escape entertainment (1981), about making and reviewing Canadian films, pushed the absurdist juxtaposition of art and nature even further. Its exaggerated comic characters; its multi-dimensional use of film, set, and soundstage; its stripping away of verbal clichés; and its pervasive conflict between romantic visions and real-life experiences—were all characteristics of Bolt's work up to that point. ‘Love or money’, premièred at the Blythe Summer Festival in 1981, has not been published.

In addition to her plays for adults, Bolt wrote several innovative children's scripts: My best friend is twelve feet high (1972), Cyclone Jack (1972), Tangleflags (1974), Maurice (1974), and Finding Bumble (1975). She also wrote widely for radio and television, to which areas she turned almost exclusively in the 1980 s and 1990 s.

[Biography provided by, courtesy of the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature]