We remember… today and always

Toni Lynne Cousineau

Toni Lynne Cousineau passed suddenly on August 20, 2021. Small of stature (space-efficient, she’d say), Toni Lynne was a huge presence in every room she entered. With the voice of an angel, she sang and acted her way through life.

Born in Montreal, Lynne moved to Edmonton as a young wife where she later had two sons. She soon booked a lead role in a musical after attending what she thought was a singing audition. From that moment, acting became her passion as much as singing had always been. In the mid-‘90s, Lynne met Larry Clisby and moved with him to Calgary where she continued balancing life as a wife, mother (of five now) and eventually, grandmother, along with a sometimes full- or sometimes part-time day job along with acting and singing gigs, which she continued up until her death. Hours before her passing, she was preparing for the Canadian National Karaoke Championships.

TLC consistently won top honours at scores of national and international singing competitions and was the first (and only) Canadian to win Talent Quest (in 2016 and 2019). TLC eventually began acting in film and television, becoming an ACTRA member in 2011. Her live theatre performances included various interactive dinner theatre events; most notably 20 years performing in Toni and Tina’s Wedding, initially as Tina’s mother and later as Celeste, the wedding singer. As huge as TLC’s talent was, her heart was even bigger. When I moved from Calgary to Vancouver during COVID, the day of cleaners and movers was hell. Worried after not having heard from me all day, TLC and her husband Larry drove 40 kms, showing up with cookies and love, to ensure I was OK. She was always as excited for your successes as she was for her own. When attending an event with TLC, towards the end of the evening I’d invariably find Larry waiting patiently for her, saying she was on her “farewell tour.” And she was. It often took an hour because she knew and loved everyone and they her. Love and miss you TLC. And I am far from alone.

Dawn Harvey

Kay Hawtrey

It’s with great sadness and regret that we announce our dear and beloved Kay Hawtrey has passed away.

Kay’s enormous talent was matched only by her generous spirit and passion for life. From her very early days playing stock in London, England, to landing the Broadway show Love and Libel, directed by Tyrone Guthrie, Kay was the consummate professional actor. In Canada, Kay graced many stages, including the Tarragon Theatre, The Grand Theatre London, and Canadian Stage. Her numerous television roles included Paul Bernard Psychiatrist, Road to Avonlea, Seeing Things and Traders. Early in her career, Kay became a favourite of casting directors in Toronto who astutely recognized her great talent. Kay also did a number of films, including cult classics Funeral Home and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Her last feature film role was playing Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Mother in Focus,which garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Kay had begun her media career in radio and well into her 80s she found great joy working in animation where she was cast as a regular on a number of series.  Kay particularly loved her role as GrandMa Bunny in Max & Ruby, which she voiced until the age of 92. She was a tireless craftswoman as an actor. Each role was a puzzle she had to figure out to make sure all the pieces fit.  She loved it and we loved the end result – watching her seamless and character-rich performances.

R.I.P. dear Kay.  You will be greatly missed by all of us who had the pleasure and honour of knowing you.

Ron Barry

Norm Macdonald

During a 1970s appearance on the Canadian talk show 90 Minutes Live, with 13-year-old Norm Macdonald in the studio audience, David Letterman told this joke: “I was on the street the other day and I saw a garbage truck, and on the back of the garbage truck there was a small sign that said, “Please do not follow too closely.” Another of life’s simple pleasures ruined by meddling bureaucracy, ladies and gentleman. Remember the old days, when dad would pile the kids in a station wagon, and we’d all go and follow a garbage truck.”

MacDonald said this moment was the inspiration for his becoming a stand-up comedian. Of course, he went on to find fame on Saturday Night Live as well as his own podcasts, web shows and movie appearances. He never left his Canadian roots or identity behind, as was evident in his laid-back and deadpan delivery. His view was that stand-ups were generally much better in Canada. “They don’t take their stand-up very seriously in America, because it’s just a springboard to something else that they’re generally not as good at.”

At the core of his humour was a gentle humanity, perhaps informed by his Christian faith. One thing is certain, he left behind a generation of adoring fans, among whom were many influential comedians in their own right.              

Jack Newman

David Macniven

I was nervous on my way to Ottawa because lobbying politicians seemed bigger than any audition I’d ever had. ACTRA did give us bullet points but there was no script. No safety net if I fell into a discussion I didn’t know how to finish. I was put on a team with two actors I’d never met and prayed one of them had done this before. 

Ten minutes into the first meeting, the politician didn’t understand what we were proposing. It was as if he had taken the meeting just to humour us. We made our point again and it was clear that he wasn’t interested. And that’s when it happened. It started as a low rumble and then levelled off into a firm and controlled tone. A single voice broke through the monotony and the room was in someone else’s control now. Now he heard us. 

This is how I met David Macniven. We became instant friends. 

The fact is, David had been fighting for you for years prior to that day and continued fighting until his untimely passing. He cared very deeply about your rights and fought tirelessly for equality. He always had time to hear your story and always had a smile for anyone who needed it. 

God speed, brother. 

Joel Keller

Joel Miller

“Let’s begin rehearsal with a break.”

Joel Miller passed away in Montreal on July 12, 2021, two days after his 80th birthday.

Born in Los Angeles, Joel came to Vancouver as a Production Stage Manager in the mid-1960s and then worked at Stratford Festival and Theatre Calgary as an Assistant Director. His mother having been born in Montreal, Joel decided to visit and found his “home.” He became Artistic Director of the English section of the National Theatre School in 1977.

After leaving NTS in 1985, Joel pursued his career as a freelance director, actor, dramaturge and pedagogue – and that was when I met him. We worked together on new play development at Playwright’s Workshop Montreal, shared the stage on several occasions until his retirement, and I had the pleasure of being directed by him many times over the years. The quote at the beginning of this encomium was one of his many classic lines.

His encyclopedic knowledge of history, politics and the theatre was a treasure trove for colleagues and students alike. But for me, and I’m sure for all who knew him, it was the sense of humour with which he shared his knowledge that gave us so much. His fantastic storytelling and acid wit always tempered with a great and humble love of humanity and wish for social justice.

Ron Lea and I called him at the hospital the evening before his 80th birthday. I will always cherish that half-hour we spoke and laughed. We asked if we could visit him and his long-time partner Diana Fajrajsl when he got out (all of us double-vaxxed) and one of the last things he said to us was, “I go home on Tuesday.” He passed away on Monday.

Perhaps the saddest thing about growing old is that not all your friends grow old along with you. Joel was one-of-a-kind in this country and we will all miss him dearly.

Harry Standjofski

Alfie Scopp

Alfie Scopp has left us.

A pioneer Canadian television, film and voice actor, contemporary and friend of Leslie Nielsen, John Vernon, Robert Goulet and all the other grads of Lorne Greene’s famed post World War II acting school in Toronto, Alfie was in everything from Howdy Doody on early TV to the film Fiddler on the Roof to CBC TV’s Wayne and Shuster specials to the iconic television series, The Littlest Hobo. His stories were legend and his friends were legion and he only left us at almost 102 years old.  He was still living in his apartment and walking his treadmill at 100.  He was a proud ACTRA and AFBS member and made sure to always cast his ballot, even in his 100th year.

I went to a lot of Jays games with him over the 30 years I knew him. We used to sit in the 500’s at the edge of right field. As we watched them play, he’d listen to the game broadcast with a tiny AM radio and beat up headphones but that didn’t stop him from commenting. Hope you finally get to sit behind home plate in heaven, Alf.

Sugith Varughese

Judy Sinclair

My cousin Judy was the life of the party at our family gatherings and always centre stage. Her father, Moray Sinclair, introduced her to the stage and radio at the age of six in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Moving to Toronto in her early 20s, Judy continued to pursue radio, film and commercials. Her performances made each production complete.

“A Judy Sinclair day, whether she was bounding into her agent’s office in one of her outrageous outfits, feathers flying behind her; whether she was breathlessly rushing onto a film set, a sound booth, a theatre stage, that was always a good day,” said her manager, Rich Caplan. “Her presence brightened everyone’s mood, every time. I don’t know a soul who didn’t appreciate her effervescence, her raw energy, her sublime ridiculousness, her keen intelligence, her genuine sensitivity, and her immense talent. Not too many people literally brighten the room simply by walking into it. Judy was one of those people. She was one-of-a-kind. We say that all the time and sometimes don’t really mean it. But Judy really was. She was the real deal. She’ll never be replaced. And she’ll never be forgotten.”

An ACTRA member for 58 years, Judy was humble and rarely spoke of her work or current projects. She was a diligent working actress committed to the industry. She had a zest for life and laughter.

She will be with us always.

Margot Durocher

Jill Snowden

Our community is a little less magical with the passing of ACTRA NL Member No. 1.

Jill Snowden’s (nee Tomline) full and adventurous life began in England in 1930 during the Great Depression. During the Second World War, she endured the Luftwaffe aerial bombings and food rationings; and missed by minutes being on a transport boat sunk by a U-Boat, with all on board killed. In the early 1950s, upon graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, the virtually penniless Jill sailed to Montreal, Canada. Lacking the money to buy a train ticket, she hitchhiked solo to Saskatchewan to be with her Canadian husband. In the mid-1960s, Jill moved to St. John’s and had substantial careers as both an actress – voice and on the stage – and as a Professor at the Memorial University Faculty of Education. Having worked for pennies on CBC Radio dramas and as an advocate for equal pay, Jill was keen to become a member of ACTRA and, on the chosen day in 1965, was the first to sign up at the newly established NL Branch. She continued acting into her late 80s, appearing in many local independent film and television productions. Jill was a striking, elegant, smart, caring, supportive, unconventional, memorable woman whose magic touched many of us. Though our lives are emptier now that her sparkle is gone, we can find comfort in the words of ACTRA NL President, Ruth Lawrence, “Jill will live on through her decades of work on the screen. It is one of the joys of our profession, to be captured in immortality.”

Wendi Smallwood

Paul Soles

My long-time friend and former partner on The CBC program Take 30 made his final exit this past spring at the age of 90. Known to generations of Canadians as a radio and television host and interviewer and a stage and screen actor, Paul was also a fervent jazz fan, a pilot and delightfully funny, on stage and off. My first inkling of Paul’s bright place in the firmament came on a trip to a tiny Inuit village perched on the edge of the Beaufort Sea in the Canadian Arctic where Judge Thomas Berger was conducting hearings into a proposed gas pipeline. I stepped off the plane to introduce myself as an interviewer from Toronto and a villager came up to me and asked, “Is Paul Soles with you?”

Paul launched himself into his broadcasting career in London, Ontario, while still in college. He won his first acting award at the Dominion Drama Festival in 1960 and his last one at the age of 88 for his role in the digital CBC series, My 90-Year-Old Roommate. In between, he performed skits on shows like This Is the Law, hosted Take 30 and Canada After Dark on TV, acted on Broadway and at the Stratford Festival where he turned in a fine performance as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and he listened to jazz and flew his beloved bi-planes at every opportunity.

For all his gifts, Paul remained resolutely modest about his accomplishments. As someone who worked alongside him though, I can testify to his great talent, his hard work and dedication, as well as to his gentle nature. Above all, he was a generous mentor, a loyal friend and a devoted son, brother, husband and father. May his star continue to guide us for many years to come.

Mary Lou Finlay

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