Sometimes it seems that my life is a series of different digressions, fascinating side roads that are way more interesting than the whatever the main road was supposed to have been.
Those side roads are braided, looping back and around themselves like Celtic knots, leading to familiar corners rounded and re-encountered when least expected.
At the moment I’m exploring a theatre cul de sac where the familiar and the new are sending me back to the very beginning of my acting career.
Wow! Look what I found online in the archives of the Banff Centre! That’s Dad (holy smokes he looks so young!) in about 1970 teaching a student… (reference #A 05 01 09, no photographer listed).
Back in 1969 when we first came to Canada from Australia we moved to Banff in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Dad was the first Artist in Residence at the Banff School of Fine Arts (now known as the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity). I was all of 8 and determined to perform my way onto the stage. I took ballet classes and enrolled in an acting class for kids. I landed a small part in a play. The director of that play and my teacher was a dynamo called Shirley Tooke.
The Banff School of Fine Arts (c 1970)
I’ve thought about Shirley many times over the years. She was the first person I had ever met who took theatre seriously. And, more to the point, she took me seriously, even though I had pigtails and could barely see over a table I was so short.
Imagine my surprise and delight when I ran into Shirley at the 40th Anniversary gala event hosted by Pine Tree Players the other night. Turns out Shirley has been working her magic, directing plays, mentoring actors, and making theatre happen here in the Bow Valley for decades! Everyone in the room had a connection to Shirley, a story about how instrumental she has been in terms of nurturing and developing all things theatrical around here!
I remember going to this production of the opera, Hansel and Gretel back in 1970. We were so lucky to be able to attend performances – ballet, modern dance, opera, music (I saw Oscar Peterson live), authors (Farley Mowat comes to mind), and theatre… And, of course, art shows. I never thought much about it at the time, but how lucky were we as kids to have access to so much art in our back yard?
It was pretty cool to see my first acting mentor from so many years ago. Though she remembered my parents (she and my dad would have crossed paths at the Banff Centre), of course Shirley didn’t remember the earnest little kid with the big dreams. But that little kid never forgot her! I’m so happy we ran into each other again and I was able to say a long overdue thank-you for the kindness, support, and enthusiasm she offered so generously.
I wish I’d had my wits about me and had someone snap a photo of us together, but I confess I was so flabbergasted it never crossed my mind to do so!