What Is To Be Done?

Mavis Gallant

Mavis Gallant’s only play is a comedy that opens in 1942, in the heat of the battle against Fascism, when it was possible for Canadians to cheer both for Stalin and the Royal Family. At home in Montreal, Jenny, 18, takes evening courses, as there’s nothing else to do at night with the men off in Europe. She is impressed by her friend Molly’s copy of a political pamphlet written by V. I. Lenin entitled What Is To Be Done? The two young women spend their spare time on left-wing political activity in support of the Soviet Union, dreaming of the new world they’re sure will arise out of the ashes of the war. By May 1945, though, it’s all too clear that the returning veterans will take back the jobs the women have been working at, and all those dreams of a better future will be dashed. 

The play premiered at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre on November 11, 1982. Introduction by Linda Leith.

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