Fonds RBSC-ARC-1764 - Beverley Simons fonds

rbsc_arc_1764_4_05_01 rbsc_arc_1764_4_05_02 rbsc_arc_1764_4_05_03 rbsc_arc_1764_4_05_04 rbsc_arc_1764_4_05_05

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Beverley Simons fonds

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  • Multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of fonds.

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  • 1950-2013 (Creation)
    Simons, Beverley

Physical description area

Physical description

8.06 m of textual records and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Beverley Simons, née Rosen, was born on March 31, 1938 in Flin Flon, Manitoba. When Simons was twelve, her family moved to Vancouver and then, finally, Edmonton. As a child, she studied piano, and at the age of 16, she was offered full scholarships to the Juilliard School, Conservatoire de Paris, and the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1956, also at the age of 16, Simons won a national writing contest for high school students for her verse drama Twisted Roots.

In 1956, Simons began studying English literature at McGill University. She was involved in the founding of the McGill University Players’ Club. In 1958, Simons transferred to the University of British Columbia. She graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in English and Theatre. Simons continued to write in this period; in 1958, she accepted a scholarship to study creative writing at the Banff School of Fine Arts, where she produced her first full-length play, My Torah, My Tree, an exploration of her Jewish heritage. Simons also acted, starring in The Lark, which was produced by Vancouver Little Theatre and written by Jean Anouilh.

On August 24, 1958, Simons married Sidney B. Simons, a criminal lawyer. In 1959, after her graduation, Simons and her husband spent two years travelling through Europe. Simons began work on a new play during this time, The Elephant and the Jewish Question. Simons completed this play on her return to Vancouver in 1961 and began writing another entitled Green Lawn Rest Home. From 1961-1965, Simons’ three children were born, and she produced three film scripts that had been commissioned by C.B.C. TV: Encounter, If I Turn around Quick, and The Canary. The Canary was the only film that was produced.

In 1967, Simons was awarded a Canada Council ‘B’ grant, which enabled her to commence work on Crabdance, the play she is best known for. Simons used grant money to fund a trip to Japan, Hong Kong, and India, where she engaged with local dramatic conventions. In 1969, Crabdance was produced by A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle, Washington. In 1972, it was produced at the Playhouse Theatre Company in Vancouver, British Columbia. In this period, Simons also completed four one-act plays, Preparing, Prologue, Triangle, and The Crusader. In 1975, Talonbooks, a Vancouver-based publisher, released two volumes of Simons’ dramatic works: Crabdance and the collected one-act plays (in a volume entitled Preparing).

In 1976, Simons published a new play entitled Leela Means to Play in an issue of Canadian Theatre Review dedicated entirely to her work (issue nine). This play was chosen for workshop production the following year at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, Connecticut, but it was never produced. At this point, few of Simons’ plays had been produced, so she transitioned into writing prose.

In the following years, Simons began work on a trilogy of fiction novels entitled Da Vinci’s Light. A short excerpt from one of these novels was published in 1985 (Vancouver Fiction Book). Some of Simons’ short fiction pieces were published in Vancouver-based magazines, including PRISM international and the best of blewointment. Simons also contributed an essay on world drama to the program series for Expo ’86 in Vancouver. In addition, Simons wrote manuscripts for several children’s books. In 1991, she was awarded a Canada Council ‘A’ grant. From this point, she returned to creating film scripts and plays, most notably the play Now You See It. Although Simons worked on many projects throughout the 1990s and 2000s, none of her new literary works were produced or published. Crabdance, however, was produced again in 1994 at Sigma, an alternative arts festival in Bordeaux, France.

Simons gave lectures throughout her writing career, especially from 1973-1994. Simons tended to speak at universities, including Simon Fraser University (1973, 1983), University of British Columbia (1987), York University (1994), and University of Bordeaux (1994). In 1984, she was artist in residence at the University of Lethbridge. She often gave readings at these institutions as well. Finally, Simons served as jury member for various Canada Council grants from 1990-1991.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of records related to Simons’ writing career, travels, and personal life. Records span a period from Simons’ early years in university to 2012 and were created predominantly in Vancouver, British Columbia. Some records were created during Simons’ travels in England, France, Japan, Hong Kong, India, and Burma. The fonds comprises the following three series: Literary Works; Professional and Personal Records; and Travel Records.

The Literary Works series features drafts of Simons’ literary works in various genres, particularly drama (stage, radio, and film) and fiction (for children and adults). Record types include publications, drafts (typed, handwritten, and hand-annotated), outlines, notes, research materials for projects, several recordings of Simons’ works, and large poster boards Simons used for plotting one of her fiction projects.

The Professional and Personal Records series contains records related to the administration and management of Simons’ literary career, particularly her attempts to submit work to various publishers and producers, mount productions of her dramatic works, and secure adequate financial resources to sustain her writerly practice. Administrative records are frequently mixed physically with Simons’ personal correspondence to family and friends. Record types include drafts of Simons’ curriculum vitae, grant applications, professional and personal correspondence, professional photographs, and contracts.

The Travel Records series aggregates records from Simons’ three major trips: Europe from 1959-1961; Japan, Hong Kong, and India from 1967-1968; and Hong Kong, Burma, India, and Japan in 1986. Simons attended many plays, conferences, and art shows while traveling and preserved programs as a source of inspiration for her creative work. Simons also maintained correspondence with friends and family during her travels. Record types include programs, personal and professional correspondence, personal photographs, and Simons’ notes on various activities.

Notes area

Physical condition

Some records in the fonds feature rusting inorganic materials (e.g. staples and paperclips) that should be removed in the future. Additionally, some textual records on thermal fax paper should be re-copied onto a more durable medium for long-term preservation.

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was donated to UBC Rare Books and Special Collections in the spring of 2017 by Paris Simons, Beverley Simons’ son.


The original physical order of Simons’ files has been maintained in the Professional and Personal Records series, where many files are arranged chronologically. The remainder of Simons’ records have been physically re-arranged by the archivist to correspond with the intellectual order outlined in this finding aid. The archivist’s re-arrangement of Simons’ literary manuscripts was particularly intensive; the archivist attempted to aggregate materials for particular projects whenever possible. For example, all of the records related to the novel trilogy Da Vinci’s Light have been physically grouped together. The archivist did not attempt to chronologically sort project-specific materials, as many records were undated.

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Some files are restricted to protect private information.

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An accrual consisting of 30 audio cassettes, including digital versions of 22 of the cassettes, and four video files was acquired in July 2019.

Further accruals are not anticipated.

General note

Includes the following audio cassettes: RBSC-ARC-1764-SPC-1 to 107
(SPC-1 to 77 in Box 34, SPC-78 to 107 in Box 55)

Physical description

5 poster boards
11 posters
107 audio cassettes
87 photographs : b&w and col.
31 digital audio files
4 digital video files
3 videocassettes
2 audio discs
1 dictabelt record
1 bracelet
1 button


Some records in the fonds, including those created by Beverley Simons, are protected under copyright. Permission to reproduce copyrighted materials must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). See archivist for details.


The archivist has attempted to remove rusting inorganic materials from the fonds, but some undoubtedly remain.

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Description created by Gillian Dunks in June 2017.

Finding aid updated by Ashlynn Prasad in August 2019.

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Script of description


Boyd, Collin. The Canadian Encyclopedia. “Beverley Simons.” Canadian Heritage Department, 2008. (accessed June 12, 2017).

Lockitch, Amanda. “A (re)discovery of Beverley Rosen Simons: Preparing for Production.” Master’s thesis, University of British Columbia, 2005.

Raby, Gyllian. “Beverley Simons: A Critical Evaluation.” Master’s thesis, University of Calgary, 1982.

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