In 1953, the famous British theatre director Tyrone Guthrie became the founding director of the now much celebrated and internationally renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. On the ship that brought Guthrie to Canada, he met and befriended Alton Goodrich, the stage name of an accomplished Shakespearean actor as well as scholar of the Bard. Goodrich was from Montreal, a highly respected pediatrician and medical lecturer. He was also Alton Goldbloom.
Some 60 years after that chance encounter on the Atlantic oceanliner between the Shakespearean actor-pediatrician from Montreal and the soon-to-be founding director of the Stratford Festival from London, England, the pediatrician’s grandson has become the chair of the board of governors of the Stratford Festival of Canada.
The CJN recently met with the grandson at a restaurant near the University of Toronto, where he is a professor of psychiatry, to talk about the Stratford appointment.
David Goldbloom is a scion of a medical family that has now brought four generations of healers and physicians to the world. His dedication to restoring the health of others who are ill is widely known throughout psychiatric medicine and among his peers. His contributions to the field are legion. I mention merely some of his most recent contributions: in 1998, he was appointed inaugural physician-in-chief of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. When his five-year term expired, he was appointed the centre’s senior medical advisor, education and public affairs. He has written more than 100 scientific articles and book chapters and has edited two textbooks for use by psychiatrists. As of two weeks ago, on April 1, Goldbloom has assumed the chairmanship of the board of directors of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).
David Goldbloom is clearly a very distinguished scholar and leading practitioner of mental health. And he is very clearly quite busy. He accepts with earnest purpose the advancement of all of the causes for which he volunteers, of which chairing the board of governors of the Stratford Festival is an excellent example. It reposes very deeply in his heart.
“When I sit in the theatre, I feel great nachas. The kvell opportunities are legion and I feel part of a large family. The lights go dim. The audience disappears. You are drawn into the stage. I simply love the place and the people,” Goldbloom told The CJN with a reverence for the theatre and the company that nearly shone from his face. “As soon as I arrive on Ontario Street [in Stratford], I feel a state of transcendence and calm,” he added to emphasize the point.
In addition to Goldbloom’s medical pedigree, he has also been stamped with a multi-generational imprimatur of music and theatre. It dates back to his grandfather, Alton, his great-aunt Ellen Ballon (the Montreal-born pianist/musician prodigy of the early 20th century) and his own father, a serious musician in his own right, as well as successful doctor.
Goldbloom grew up in a house of music. He studied piano for more than a decade until his mid-teens. He also studied acting in Montreal at Dorothy Davis and Violet Walters’ school of drama. His acting “career” led him, as a teenager, to CBC television and later, during the summer, as a behind-the-scenes CBC announcer. During the exciting and heady days of his undergraduate years at Harvard University, he acted in musical comedies and immersed himself in theatre, literature and music.
“But, as an actor at university,” Goldbloom said with a self-deprecating, straight face, “I received a lot of encouragement to go into medicine.”
Years later, the arts, theatre, medicine, healing, literature, mental health activism and music permanently intertwined into his personality and character, David Goldbloom is serving the Stratford Festival. He now brings his uniquely articulate and helpful manner “to get people even more engaged” with the theatre company that his grandfather’s friend Tyrone Guthrie helped found.
“I want to bring Stratford to the world, and along the way, bring the world to Stratford,” he said. “I take immense pride in what happens on our [Stratford’s] stages.”
Using concepts that spring from his dedication to healing disorders of the mind, Goldbloom said, “Stratford gives us all the chance to explore the boundaries of the imagination because the theatre is not constrained the way real life is.”
And then using a musical figure of speech that also obviously sprang from another part of his upbringing, he concluded our conversation by effusively, proudly, saying, “Stratford plays second fiddle to no one.”