Dwight Griffin | 1945-2017
DWIGHT GRIFFIN | 1945-2017
by Pam Chappell
Dwight died peacefully on August 22, but his spirit will live on in his family, friends, those he worked with, and those he taught. What a truly wonderful, witty, intelligent and caring man. His slightly warped humour and his interest in everyone and everything will be missed by pretty much everyone with whom he came in contact.
Dwight started in theatre in 1968 as a stage manager. He later moved into production management, then company management working at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Stratford Festival, fitting in summer stock, a season in Banff and the Toronto productions of Phantom, Lion King and The Producers. He spent 10 years teaching at Dalhousie University mentoring and training the next generation of stage managers and technicians. Although semi-retired to look after his health, he still did the occasional new play workshop and worked with me at Sugar's Mascots.
Dwight was a fantastic dad, grandpa and husband. He had so much more life to share, travels to take and books to read. The world has been a better and kinder place with him in it.
GEORGE WILLSON MERNER | 1939-2017
by Alexandra Merner
Born in Kitchener, Ontario, George was going to study law after he graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University, but fate intervened with an audition arranged by his music teacher, Edwin Fergusson, with George Lambert of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
His award-winning performance as Best Actor for Cyrano prompted his study with Gladys Shibley Mitchell. In 1970, George received his A.T.C.L. in speech and drama from Trinity College, University of London, in England.
George then embarked on an illustrious 44-year career as an actor, singer and "Entertainer Extraordinaire." As a multifaceted international artist, he displayed his versatility in over 150 stage performances, featured films, television sitcoms, radio and television dramas, voice for animations, film dubbing, and on-camera and voice-overs for commercials. Known for his mellifluous bass dramatic vocals, he entertained audiences across Canada and the United States. He also appeared before royalty and heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. His portrayal of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha prompted a critic to say, "If there ever was a category of voice called dramatic baritone, this man embodies it!"
Ted Follows | 1926-2016
TED FOLLOWS | 1926-2016
by Dan MacDonald
Our multi-talented friend quietly exited the scene in October following a lifetime of major contributions to professional theatre in Canada. Ted Follows enjoyed a very successful career as actor, producer and director of theatre, film and television. He was also known as one of the nicest persons in the biz and a man one was proud and privileged to call friend.
Born in Ottawa, Ted began his career with the Sidney Risk-founded Everyman Theatre in Vancouver in 1945. He then expanded his acting talents into film and television and spread his theatre work into producing and directing. He also assisted in the founding of several companies, such as Muskoka's Straw Hat Players, and Halifax's Neptune Theatre, where he and his first wife, Dawn Greenhalgh, helped establish it as a major East Coast company. While both pursued non-stop work throughout Canada and elsewhere, Ted and Dawn raised a theatre family of four children, Edwina, Laurence, Samantha and Megan.
Ted's legacy lives on in those he assisted, inspired and mentored in his 70-year career. Many of his productions remain highpoints of achievement for many of us - and his ever-ready smile, as he imparted his quiet words of encouragement during rehearsals, is still helping others to achieve their best.
He was a joy to work with and his contribution to cultural development in this country is immense. He died in Kitchener, just short of his 90th birthday, with his second wife, musician Susan Trethewey, at his side. He exits to much applause.
Marilyn Boyle | 1930-2016
MARILYN BOYLE | 1930-2016
by Brian Richardson
There are certain people who make an immediate impression upon you, not only with their talent, but with their offstage persona as well. Such a one was Marilyn Boyle. Marilyn left us in March 2016 in Winnipeg, taken by a bout of pneumonia at 87. She leaves a lot of friends and colleagues much saddened by her departure. But then, Marilyn made several departures in her career - albeit not of the same finality as this last one.
Marilyn started out in her home province with the Regina Little Theatre. Marilyn's singing and dancing and ability as a gifted comic actress served her well. She then departed for Winnipeg where she headlined at Rainbow Stage. Other theatre work in the 'Peg was sparse, and so, already in her 40s, she set out for the "Big Orange" - Brendan Behan's description of "The Good City."
Once she found her footing in Toronto, Marilyn worked all over the place. From the Citadel to Kawartha and many more grand theatres - as well as down the Road To Avonlea with the Wind At My Back.
Marilyn eventually retired to Winnipeg (who in this business ever fully retires?) In recognition for her dedication to her craft, ACTRA Winnipeg presented her with the Victor Cowie Lifetime Achievement Award, and Rainbow Stage ensured her place on its Wall of Fame. Though she is gone, her rich, full and reverberant laugh will linger on in the hearts of all who knew her. Raise a glass of scotch in her honour.
SUSAN COX | 1943-2016
by Allen MacInnis
An artist so complex, energizing and exasperating as Susan Cox is hard to capture in a few paragraphs. She didn't spend many years teaching actors, but her commitment to live performance was enormous. Don`t do onstage what works better on film was her mantra.
A performer, director, and writer, Susan created successes with all the big names in television, commercial theatre, the big festivals, alternative theatre - the whole gamut. But the central project in her creative life was a show she wrote and re-wrote and could never let go - Valentine Browne, A Tribute to a Superstar. This strange satire about a faux-star in our celebrity-obsessed world was wickedly funny and desperately touching. It revealed Susan's difficult relationship with her own sense of self-worth. She could careen about like a superstar on a mission, yet she often hid from the world, exiled by self-doubt and soul-wounds that wouldn't heal. She struggled with some things that other people handle easily, though she was often generous and loving.
I want to remember Susan as a mother, a role about which she was often conflicted. Yet, she did something right in that capacity. I witnessed the extraordinary compassion of her son, Simon, during Sue's final days. Everything between them was on the table: abandonment, differences, grief, pride, admiration and immense love. I watched Simon hold frightened Sue's hand, helping his mother break free of the many sorrows that often held her back. I shall never forget it.
JERRY FRANKEN | 1946-2016
by David Ferry
"An actor's actor has left the Green Room."
That was the reaction from actors, directors, designers, writers, artistic directors, board members, crew and audience members when word spread of Jerry's untimely demise from frontal temporal lobe dementia and ALS.
He was so loved and respected by many. And many of those many were fellow foot soldiers in the trenches of theatres from Regina to Montreal, Halifax to Blyth, Thunder Bay to Toronto, Stratford to Calgary, and the farthest reaches of Northern Ontario.
Michael Healey spoke of how Jerry was instrumental in The Drawer Boy's success and in saving Michael from a career in Law. Ruth Smillie, of Jerry slipping on ice in Regina after a Christmas Carol performance, breaking a leg and a local woman pulling her car over and shouting "Don't worry Mr. Scrooge, I've called an ambulance." When the chair of the Blyth Festival saw Jerry's picture in the local paper on January 16th, his first thought was "Oh good! Jerry must be coming back to the festival this season."
Most importantly, he is remembered as father of Eli, Miranda and Katelynd, in whom he, with partner Dorothy Chamberlain, instilled a very real sense of resonant humanity. His work as actor, director, mentor will be missed... but his children, and his grandsons Jakobi and Damian, are his true legacy.
In Stratford, at a small wake for Jerry, we all sang Good Night Irene. Good Night Jerry. You stay with us like the echoes of a dear old song.