Ten years after a promise to 'Butch', ABcp succeeded in securing Audrey M. Ashley to write Mervyn 'Butch' Blake's illustrated biography.
The securing seemed simple, the process was demanding, but both were exhilarating: publisher Brunner, in Stratford en route, decided to go backstage to see Butch after a performance of, I think, Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
"Butch," I said, "I'm staying at the Victoria Inn for another two nights; I have not forgotten my promise of writing your biography but can't; if you can send me a writer, I promise under oath I shall publish the book."
Next day Ms. Ashley came to see me, the book was secured, as were the negotiations for a book launching at Stratford's Festival Theatre. On the day of the launch, the Festival Theatre lobby was packed: William Hutt proposed the toast, artistic director Richard Monette, and festival founder Tom Patterson, were among many to celebrate Butch and his amazing life and times. A star in the wings was ABcp's main book designer, Pete Stafford of Cambridge Pen and Design in Fredericton NB, who cajoled, rushed, phoned, rushed some more, to get the books to Stratford on time. Just.
It was only later that we noticed that the title and half title pages were missing and the spine was a bit tight; and that Butch had to sign his book on the frontispiece photograph of him as Dogberry. Well, another collector's item. The launching event in the lobby of Canada's Stratford Festival Theatre turned out to be Butch's last performance in the place where he had played in every Shakespeare play.
From Richard Monette's Preface: "In the 64 years of his professional career... he has seen theatrical fashions come and go, and has worked with everyone from Laurence Olivier to Alec Guinness. Because of this lifetime of experience in the theatre, he brings to our company not only his extraordinarily varied talents but also an invaluable kind of artistic race memory: a sense of tradition, of continuity, of kinship with the great actors of the present and the past. He truly is a man of the theatre."
From Tony van Bridge's Postlude: "I have known Butch so long that I have to think a bit before I can remember that his real name was Mervyn."