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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

After Dark, January 3, 2012

The Two Words
A holiday and a biography bring out the past
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I am writing this in the waning hours of 2011, when huge numbers of Québécois (including me, my SO and our dog) gather around the electronic fireplace and watch TV. The TV has a theme: the past year. It's not nostaligia so much as a call to reflection.

I was struck by how much Jobs' (adoptive) father - an unsophisticated man - enabled Jobs' mad vision

For me, as an avowed neurotic, this time of year is a sinkhole of regret and fear of the future mixed with a heady excitement about what the NICE things the upcoming year might be. I also think of those I've lost. Bring into this fine mess whatever I might be reading. In the new Steve Jobs biography, I was struck by how much Jobs' (adoptive) father - an unsophisticated man - enabled Jobs' mad vision, encouraged him and saw that glimmer of genius in his son. He probably didn't understand the strange new world Steve was building, but he was there in the garage with Jobs and The Woz making the Apple I.

When my mother, my artistic guardian, died when I was 13, my father - a career soldier - took me to the opera (often falling asleep) and brought me to my first serious play and many after. But he also did one wondrous thing: we lived way off in a tiny village outside Quebec City and my father would announce, "The Cartier (a rep cinema house in the city) is showing A Man For All Seasons. You're going." And he'd drive me into town and later pick me up after the movie. He did that for West Side Story, Taming of The Shrew, and a slew of other movies he felt I should see. Each of them fed into my artistic vocabulary. I know for a fact he thought I was nuts for wanting to be in theatre, but he was at the opening night of my first play when it was finally produced in Montreal.

Mary Campbell was an English teacher at my highschool who helped me form the drama club...

Also at the opening night was Mary Campbell. When I was struck by the theatre bug (by that play my dad took me too) Mary Campbell was an English teacher at my highschool who helped me form the drama club and, later, would teach the optional theatre class the province allowed into the curriculum. Years later I got an email from another teacher from my highschool years and asked him about Mary, wanting to contact her to thank her with all of my heart. Mary had died, in her young 50s, of breast cancer and I was disconsolate.

Mary's death reminded me to thank my father. It was near the end of his life and he could barely speak from a Parkinson's stutter. But he was happy to hear the words. Just two.

We say those words - just two - too rarely. The people who deserve them - the ones who held the ladder - leave us quickly - too often. We all have our theatre mentors (mine, as I've written is Henry Woolf). Thank them. Now. But also thank the husbands, wives, children, parents, highschool teachers and friends who allow this magnificent folly that is theatre.

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