Born May 8, 1929 in Burnaby, B.C. Died January 6, 2005 in Vancouver, B.C. John passed away in Vancouver General Hospital at the age of 75. He was hospitalized only briefly but had been struggling with ill health for some time. John is survived by his sister Anna, nephews Marc, David and Michael, nieces Dawn, Lynn and Maggie, and many close friends. He was predeceased by his brothers Peter and David. John was a man who made important and varied contributions to the cultural life of Vancouver. He was indeed a Renaissance Man of the Arts in the scope of his interests and accomplishments. He was a member of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame with his star on Granville Street’s Theatre Row. After graduating from Burnaby North High School, John attended the University of British Columbia and graduated with a B.A. in Honours English in 1953.
During his university years, he was active in the Players Club and in the musical society, Mussoc, both as an actor and director. John was also a classical pianist, who performed in concert and for the CBC as a soloist and as part of a duo piano team with Colin Slim. He wrote a Critic-on-the-Hearth column for the Ubyssey and composed music for such varied productions as The Ascent of F6 and the first Varsity Review. He even managed to find time to perform for the University Music Department and to give private lessons in both voice and piano. He completed Teacher’s Training in 1955 and taught for three years at Lord Byng High School. After leaving Lord Byng John was granted a Canada Council Fellowship to pursue a Doctorate of Fine Arts at Yale University School of Drama. He completed his dissertation on the Plays of Lillian Hellman and received his Doctorate in 1962. He joined the faculty of the Department of Theatre at the University of British Columbia in 1961 and later became the Head of the Department of Theatre, a position he held for more than twenty years.
During those years he directed plays for the Freddy Wood Theatre, The Vancouver Playhouse and many other companies. Well-remembered productions included The Three Sisters; Hamlet (with his brother Peter in the title role; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf; Rodger’s and Hart’s The Boys from Syracuse; Pinter’s No Man’s Land; the terrifying Marat/Sade; and the opera Albert Herring. He also acted in many plays, including The Front Page, Tartuffe and the North American premiere of Waiting for Godot.
During these years John was a teacher of unusual knowledge and vitality, a mock-stern witty taskmaster, as many of the graduates of the UBC Department of Theatre would attest. John had a wide range of interests which he pursued with unmatched vigour. He amassed exhaustive collections of Broadway musical recordings and film videos ranging from early Hollywood up to the latest DVD. John shared his passion for his favourite authors with his many friends, often introducing them to such delights as the comic eccentricities of E.F. Benson, the heart-rending novels of Barbara Pym, and latterly the darkly set pieces of Alan Bennett. His favourite author was Evelyn Waugh; his favourite playwright as a director was Harold Pinter. Travel; plants; Art history; opera (a lifelong passion); gourmet cooking; bridge; learning Italian; Internetting; the history of the movies. John was a man who lived life to the full, and oh, how he will be missed.
A memorial gathering will be held in the Frederick Wood Theatre at UBC on February 6, 2005, at 1 P.M. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a performing arts group of your choice.
Published on January 14, 2005