Witness to Yesterday

Each episode of this unique half-hour docu-drama series, created and directed by Arthur Voronka, had Patrick Watson interviewing an actor or actress portraying a famous historical figure, and costumed appropriately. While scripts were written for each program, occasionally some verbal exchanges would be ad-libbed, usually depending on how comfortable the guest performer was with his or her assumed role. Sandy Dennis was cast as Joan of Arc for the pilot, which turned out so well that a series was commissioned, and played on Global from January 1974 through 1975.  Some of the notable performers in Witness to Yesterday were Kate Reid as Queen Victoria, Steve Allen as George Gershwin, Donald Sutherland as Norman Bethune,  Zoe Caldwell as Catherine the Great, Alex Trebek as Mark Twain, Richard Dreyfuss as Billy the Kid, Mavor Moore as Socrates, Barry Morse as Shakespeare and then as George Bernard Shaw, Barry’s wife Sydney Sturgess as Abraham Lincoln’s widow Mary Todd Lincoln, and August Schellenberg, first as Geronimo and later as Rasputin. The series was produced by Tom Moore and Arthur Voronka. Writers included Patrick Watson, Patrick Withrow and Doug Scott. The series was produced by Look Hear Productions.   With Moses Znaimer as Executive Producer, Watson hosted The Titans (q.v.), a series with a similar format, which was sold to the CBC. In 1998, a new Witness to Yesterday series was produced for the History Channel.    Sources include: Patrick Watson:  This Hour Has Seven Decades

Written by Pip Wedge - January, 2008