Eugene Benson

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Eugene Benson (born 1928) is a professor of English and a prolific novelist, playwright and librettist.

Life[edit]

Born in Northern Ireland, Benson obtained a masters degree from the University of Western Ontario and his Ph.D from the University of Toronto.


University Professor Emeritus, the University of Guelph, Benson is a novelist (The Bulls of Ronda; Power Game) and a playwright (The Ram, broadcast by McGill Radio; Joan of Arc’s Violin and The Gunner’s Rope, broadcast by the CBC and staged by Backdoor Theatre, Toronto, and The Doctors’ Wife, a radio play broadcast by the CBC).

He is the librettist of five operatic works: Heloise and Abelard (performed by the Canadian Opera Company); Everyman (performed by the Stratford Festival); Psycho Red (presented by The Guelph Spring Festival), music by Charles Wilson. The latter two operas were broadcast by the CBC. His operetta Earnest, the Importance of Being, music by Victor Davies, was premiered in 2008 by Toronto Operetta Theatre. The Auction: A Folk Opera (music by John Burge) was premiered by Westben Arts Festival Theatre in 2012.

Benson’s scholarly publications include J. M. Synge (1982); English-Canadian Theatre (1987), The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre (1987); the Routledge Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (1994, 2nd ed. 2005)–the latter three books with L.W.Conolly–and The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature (1997, second edition, with William Toye). He edited the anthology Encounter: Canadian Drama in Four Media (1973) and the scholarly journal Canadian Drama/L’Art dramatique canadien between 1980 and 1990.

Administrative Director and Budget Officer of the Guelph Spring Festival for many years, Benson is a former Chair of The Writers Union of Canada (1983-4), and was Founding co-President (with Margaret Atwood) of the Canadian Centre, International PEN (1984-5), and Vice-President (1985-1990).

As an activist advancing the cause of writers, Benson served as president of PEN Canada (an association of writers formed to defend freedom of expression) in 1984 and, in 1983, as chairman of the Writers' Union of Canada[1] – a position also once held by noted authors Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, June Callwood, Timothy Findley, Graeme Gibson, Susan Musgrave, Paul Quarrington and David Lewis Stein.

Now retired from the University of Guelph, Benson continues to write.[2]

He married Renate (née Niklaus), a retired languages and literature professor at University of Guelph, in 1968. Together they have two sons: Ormonde Benson, a lawyer, and Shaun Benson, an actor. Shaun has starred in the Canadian television series “The Associates”, the soap opera “General Hospital” and the movie K-19: The Widowmaker. Renate is author of German Expressionist Drama (1984).

He has written four plays broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and translations of Quebec plays with his wife Renate Benson. He edited the periodical Canadian Drama. In 2003, Benson and Bill Fraser adapted Benson’s 1980 political satire Powergame into the made-for-TV movie North of America. It is unproduced but was a finalist in a national script competition broadcast on the CBC.

Benson twice served as president of the Guelph Spring Festival, an annual music fair.

Works[edit]

  • Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (1994) re-issued in 2005
  • Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature (1997)[3]
  • Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre (1989),
  • English Canadian Drama (1987)
  • J.M. Synge biography (1980)
  • Bulls of Ronda, novel (1976)
  • Encounter: Canadian Drama in Four Media (1973)
  • Power Game: The Making of a Prime Minister. Toronto: NC, 1980.

Libretti for operas[edit]

References[edit]