Farewells

Brent Carver
1951-2020

Brent Carver was born on November 17, 1951, in Cranbrook, BC. This past November, he would have turned 69 years old. It doesn’t seem possible. Brent was the sprite, the visionary, the whisper who touched your best self and steered you in the right direction. He was ageless and timeless. He could sneak up behind you and gently nudge you elsewhere, without you realizing what had happened.

He was a genius.

Laura Burton is a musician of great range and talent who worked with Brent all his life on concerts, shows and on his album. She said, “He was all humour, vulnerability, spontaneity, music, playfulness, kindness, generosity, curiosity, authenticity, imagination – and ALL love. It is hard to imagine a world without him.”

Louise Guinand was Brent’s lighting designer: “A man of so many worlds…in many ways, a superhero. He had strength; he could lift a thousand hearts with one breath.  And invisibility; he could disappear while standing centre stage. He was a magical friend; a moment with him could change the world around you. One year he appeared, walking out of the fog, as I stood pregnant and distressed by the flat tire on my car. Brent, the unlikely mechanic, proceeded to change the tire, singing the while, and then continued along his way like some mystical creature.”

Kelly McEvenue is an Alexander coach of the greatest sensitivity and intuition. She and Brent were longstanding, close friends – I suspect partly because she could always make him laugh! “He never stopped training or seeking a deeper understanding of his acting craft. He was ever the curious student with a Zen mind, a beginner’s mind. I learned about ‘practice’ from Brent.”

The night I heard Brent Carver had died I went to YouTube, entered his name, and found The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in which he played Ichabod Crane. And what an Ichabod! Vain, surly, proud, contemptuous, educated, silly – and vulnerable. I will never see another Ichabod to match it!

And then I wept.

Martha Henry

Joyce Doolittle
1928-2020

Joyce remembers one of her teachers at Ithaca College saying, “Here’s the little girl who wants to do all the parts.” Pause the tape – then the familiar wry smile and the signature voice continues, “…and I was. And I did…in many ways.”

With the passing of Joyce Doolittle at age 91 on March 6, 2020, Calgary lost a powerful and beloved force in local theatre for six decades and Canada lost a pioneer of theatre for young audiences.

Known professionally as a teacher, writer, editor, director, actor and mentor, Joyce’s energetic and international community continues to feel the loss. Her students at the University of Calgary speak of her being a force of nature, an inspiration and a life-long supporter of their careers; many of which began either on stage or behind the scenes in the theatre named after Joyce in Calgary’s Pumphouse Theatres.

Joyce came into the role as actor in her later years with memorable performances with Theatre Calgary and various films, commercials and documentaries. She joined ACTRA in January 1983. Her daughter Lisa comments that, from the beginning, an acting career is what Joyce had always wanted. To quote biographer Elizabeth Herbert, “Joyce took her final bow on the stage in 2009 in the title role of Eugene Stickland’s Queen Lear. On the cover of the published play is Joyce, looking straight at you – holding up her crown.”

She was honoured with a life-time membership at ACTRA Calgary’s 40th Anniversary celebration in 2006. Joyce was awarded the Order of Canada in 2018 for her contributions to the development of Canadian Theatre.

Duval Lang & Sally Truss

Shirley Douglas
1934-2020

When Shirley Douglas was a little girl, she visited her father, Tommy Douglas, at work. Looking for adventure, she wandered away to explore. Eventually she found her way into the Prime Minister’s office.

It was there that she was discovered by Makenzie King. He took her to the parliamentary dining room for ice cream.

This would be the last time a Prime Minister would be in Shirley Douglas’s presence without being somewhat terrified.

Shirley Douglas was a star of stage and screen. She was an actor, an advocate and an activist.

She was fierce.

She fought the good fight. And always for those less fortunate than her.

As a young woman in California, she fought for the American civil rights movement, she fought the Vietnam war and she fought for the rights of farmers and undocumented immigrants.

At home in Canada, she fought for actors and she fought for crews. She led the charge in ACTRA’s fight for the protection of children working in our industry

She co-founded Artists for Nuclear Disarmament. She fought for and she comforted people who were dying of AIDS, at a time when too many were dying alone.

She marched for the rights of women.

And that’s the short list.

But most ferociously and most famously Shirley Douglas fought for the health and well-being of all Canadians. She was this Country’s most passionate and tireless advocate for universal health care. The Nurses had a very good friend in Shirley.

Everything about Shirley was big.

A big voice, a big heart and a laugh that could trigger an avalanche.

It was a laugh for the ages and one that is desperately missed.

For her contributions to the performing arts and in recognition of her tireless activism. Shirley Douglas was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.

She remains the mother of three. Tom, Rachel and Kiefer.

Rick Mercer

Nancy Drake
1943-2020

Nancy Drake was born in Winnipeg in January 1943 to Mary and Jack Johnston. In 1976, Nancy, then a single mother of children Keri, Adam, Amanda and Emily, returned to Winnipeg from Sydney, Nova Scotia, where she continued in her dedicated parenting role while simultaneously embarking on a luminous theatre career. 

During our 1981 run of Boiler Room Suite, Nancy and I fell in love. Our daughter, Rhea, was born in 1983. Nancy also has five beautiful grandchildren: Will, Ben, Bailey, Tim and Sarah. After a brief stay in the Grace Hospital, Nancy died on September 9, 2020.

Nancy worked in theatres across Canada as well as in several films. Her last theatre project was the one-woman show Number 12 in June 2019, which she both acted in and wrote, at the Colin Jackson Studio Theatre at the Prairie Theatre Exchange. Our daughter, Rhea, directed it to critical acclaim.

Nancy charged at life with a formidable energy and spirit. None of life’s many challenges were viewed by her as impossible to overcome. But sadly, her health challenges in her last six years did prove impossible for her to overcome. She fought valiantly, as only Nancy could.

Compassionate and big-hearted, Nancy demanded drill sergeant like precision from her students and actors. For her, “good” was never good enough. This trait won her lasting respect by the many who came under her nurturing wings. She made a difference to countless fellow travellers.

Nancy’s artistic gifts were in abundance.  She was a marvellous singer, dancer, director, actor, and teacher. Nancy also mentored successful applicants to prestigious theatre school programs as well as serving on many arts boards, including ACTRA and Equity Councils.

Nancy’s talents didn’t stop there. A true Renaissance woman, Nancy was deft at carpentry, plumbing, electrical, upholstery and painting. She was also a wonderful cook, baker and party host. People were her life. Family was her joy. I am privileged to have had her in my life.

Farewell, sweet princess. May you rest in peace

Harry Nelken

Gordon Masten
1950-2020

The Canadian theatre and film community is saddened by the passing of their fellow actor, singer and teacher, Gordon Masten, whose profound kindness defined him just as much as did his superb performances. Whenever anyone, even a stranger, seemed in need of perking up, Gord showed concern and offered comfort. He taught, directed and encouraged his students at Dawson College and was delighted when they succeeded but forgave them when they did not.

I first met Gord when his dear wife Jude  Beny and I did a two-hander with him as our director and, after that, he talked to me on the phone about films he liked or disliked or a scene he was preparing for an audition. He was by turns funny and astute: a marvelous conversationalist.

Jude and Gordon lived on a farm where their blended family often gathered to celebrate holidays as well as the highly satisfying achievements of their kids. I was pleased to see a concert given by Gord’s own band of top-notch players and singers on the farmhouse lawn during which he played his snare drum bravely and well through the pain of a bad leg. He was no coward, but I will nonetheless remember him as I know he would want me to. I will see and hear him in the role he played to perfection, I am sure, although I never saw him do it. It was the role he loved best.

Gord Masten is forever to me the all-time perfect Cowardly Lion.

Jane Gilchrist

Alex Trebek
1940-2020

This fall, we lost a proud Canadian known to millions of people around the world.

The host of Jeopardy! for almost four decades, Alex Trebek filmed more episodes of a single television game show than anyone in history – in fact, he holds the Guinness World Record for the most gameshow episodes hosted by the same presenter. But, perhaps more importantly, he remained a proud Canadian throughout his life and career. He loved to promote his home country on prime-time American television, stumping contestants with questions about Canada’s rich history and unique culture.

Alex became an officer of the Order of Canada in 2017 for his “his iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy.” He received numerous awards and honours, including the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s Icon Award, seven Daytime Emmy Awards, and stars on both Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Alex began his career with the CBC in 1961 while still completing his studies at the University of Ottawa. He started out by doing “everything, at one time replacing every announcer in every possible job,” and soon landed the role of reading CBC national radio news as well as covering a range of special events for CBC Radio and CBC Television.

Before long, Alex became a familiar face – and voice – to the thousands of Canadians who watched and listened to the many CBC quiz and variety shows that aired throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. His first hosting job was on a Canadian music program, Music Hop, in 1963. Between 1966 to 1973, he hosted a variety of other CBC programs including Reach for the Top, Vacation Time and Pick and Choose and Strategy.

Through this period Alex was also involved in CBC sports coverage, appearing on CBC Championship Curling, Sports-a-Plenty and was even shortlisted to succeed Ward Cornell as host of Hockey Night in Canada (the role ultimately went to Dave Hodge).

Following his success in the United States, Alex maintained his ties to Canada and to our union. He would often join us at ACTRA events in Los Angeles where he would enjoy catching up with everyone.

He was a true Canadian and a proud ACTRA member. He will be missed but his impact on the Canadian and international entertainment sectors will never be forgotten.

David Sparrow

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