N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 21, 1996
Discipline / contribution: drama - performance
Citation / biographical information:
Eric Peterson has established himself as both a leading and innovative figure in Canadian Theatre, devoted to improving its quality, extending its creative boundaries, and spreading its appeal. Mr. Peterson is a ‘man of the theatre” from Saskatchewan who has become an internationally recognized actor.Degree received: Doctor of Letters
Eric Peterson was born in 1946 in Indian Head, Saskatchewan and attended classes in the Drama Department for two years before completing his studies at the University of British Columbia. A member of a UBC generation of future theatre luminaries which also included John Gray and the late Larry Lillo, he co-founded Vancouver’s Tamahnous Theatre in 1971, long considered one of the most dynamic and innovative stages in the country. A collective, experimental group, Tamahnous produced adventurous work including versions of The Bacchae and Nijinsky, both directed by John Gray and in which Eric Peterson first received professional notice in major roles.
In 1974, Eric Peterson moved to Toronto where he joined Theatre Passe Muraille, at that time the leading collective ensemble in Canada and one of the most vigorous and creative theatre organizations in North America. Theatre Passe Muraille’s group improvisational style showcased his versatility and imagination and Eric Peterson became one of its leading performers, appearing in such legendary Passe Muraille productions as The Farm Show, The West Show, and Them Donnelly’s. He gained his highest profile during his Passe Muraille period as William Lyon Mackenzie and Lady Backwash in Rick Salutin’s 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt.
From 1976 to 1978, Eric Peterson and John Gray collaborated on the creation of what still remains Canada’s most important musical, Billy Bishop Goes to War. Billy Bishop earned Eric Peterson critical superlatives throughout Canada, Britain, and the United States. In New York he won the Clarence Derwent Award for most promising performer, as well as Best Actor nominations from London’s Society of West End Theatre, and the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists.
However, Eric Peterson is probably best known throughout Canada for the role of Leon which he played on television’s Street Legal for seven years, and for which he received the Gemini Award as Best Actor in 1988, 1989 and 1991. His small screen work also includes Nothing Sacred, Scales of Justice, and Night Heat, all for the CBC and Hitchcock, for AHF Film Productions.
Most recently, his stage work has included the Governor General’s award-winning play, Nothing Sacred, by George F. Walker, which he co-produced at the Wintergarden and Elgin Theatres in Toronto; Escape From Happiness, for which he received a Dora nomination for Best Actor; Love and Anger at the Factory Theatre; Health, again with John Gray, at the Vancouver Playhouse; and the title role in Richard Ill for Young People’s Theatre.
Eric Peterson has been associated with almost all of the major innovative theatres in Canada during their period of growth and establishment. He is an actor of great talent and professional integrity, wide accomplishment, and deep commitment to the theatre of his country.
Degree presented by: Henry Woolf, Head of Drama
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