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Michael Cook (playwright)

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Michael Cook
Born(1933-02-14)14 February 1933
Fulham, London, England
Died1 July 1994(1994-07-01) (aged 61)
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
OccupationTheatre reviewer and playwright
Period1971 - 1991

Michael Cook (14 February 1933 – 1 July 1994) was a Canadian playwright known for his plays set in Newfoundland.

Early life

Cook was born in Fulham, London, England. He attended boarding schools until age fifteen.[1] He served a number of years in the British Army, mostly in Asia, and attended the University of Nottingham, earning teaching qualifications.[2] He then settled in Newfoundland in 1965.[3]


Soon after arriving in Newfoundland, Cook wrote scripts for several radio dramas which were produced in St. John's;[4] Cook taught theatre arts at Memorial University of Newfoundland;[5] he reviewed plays and wrote articles about the importance of theatre in the St. John's Evening Telegram and in the Canadian Theatrical Review.[6]

Cook wrote a number of plays set in Newfoundland, beginning with was Tiln, written in 1971.[5] His best-known works were Jacob's Wake and The Head, Guts and Soundbone Dance, in which Newfoundland provides a sometimes realistic and sometimes symbolic backdrop for his poetic rendering of lives in continual conflict with natural elements.[7]

Many of Cook's plays include dialogue written in the Newfoundland dialect;[8] in spite of this, The Head, Guts and Soundbone Dance was restaged as far away as Regina, Saskatchewan in 1980.[9]

Personal life

Cook married three times, and fathered twelve children, including actor Sebastian Spence by his wife, Janis.[10] Cook retained a residence in Stratford, Ontario. While passing through St Johns on a trip to his summer home on Random Island, Cook became ill and died.[11]


  • Tiln, 1971.
  • Colour The Flesh the Colour of Dust, 1972.
  • The Head, Guts and Sound Bone Dance, 1973.
  • Jacob's Wake, 1974.
  • Quiller, 1975.
  • Therese's Creed, 1976.
  • The Fisherman's Revenge, 1976. (children's play)
  • On The Rim of the Curve, 1977.
  • The Gayden Chronicles, 1980.

Works about Michael Cook

  • Craig Walker, "Michael Cook: Elegy, Allegory and Eschatology," The Buried Astrolabe: Canadian Dramatic Imagination and Western Tradition. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001.


  1. ^ Lisa De Leon. Writers of Newfoundland and Labrador: Twentieth Century. Jesperson Press; 1 January 1985. ISBN 978-0-920502-58-7. p. 267.
  2. ^ Michael Cook entry at The Canadian Encyclopedia
  3. ^ John Robert Colombo. Canadian Literary Landmarks. Dundurn; 1 January 1984. ISBN 978-1-4597-1798-5. p. 22–.
  4. ^ Literary History of Canada: Canadian Literature in English, Volume IV (Second Edition). University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division; 15 December 1990. ISBN 978-1-4875-9116-8. p. 199–.
  5. ^ a b María Jesús Hernáez Lerena. Pathways of Creativity in Contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador. Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 18 September 2015. ISBN 978-1-4438-8333-7. p. 193–.
  6. ^ "Michael Cook - Biocritical Essay", by Malcolm Page, University of Calgary. 1994
  7. ^ Craig Stewart Walker. The Buried Astrolabe: Canadian Dramatic Imagination and Western Tradition. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP; 2001. ISBN 978-0-7735-2075-2. p. 83–.
  8. ^ Post-Colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics. Routledge; 11 September 2002. ISBN 978-1-134-87700-3. p. 179–.
  9. ^ Contemporary Canadian theatre, new world visions: a collection of essays. Simon & Pierre; 1985. ISBN 978-0-88924-152-7. p. 77.
  10. ^ "Director, actor Janis Spence dead at 61". CBC News, Feb 07, 2008
  11. ^ "Michael Cook". Heritage Newfoundland, www.heritage.nf.ca
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Michael Cook (playwright)
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