Joy Coghill (1926-2017)

2002 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Theatre)

A gifted actor, director, playwright, teacher and arts advocate, Joy Coghill, C.M., M.F.A., truly embodies the spirit of the performing arts in Canada. Throughout her career she has worked tirelessly to further the cause of Canadian theatre through her involvement with theatre companies, training programmes, and arts organizations of all kinds, both in Canada and internationally.

Born in Saskatchewan in 1926, Ms. Coghill has always been a pioneer and an inspiring leader, keenly interested in projects that combine different disciplines and art forms. She was the founding Artistic Director (1953) of the Holiday Theatre, Canada's first professional touring children's theatre; the first woman Artistic Director of The Vancouver Playhouse (1967–69); the first woman Artistic Director of the English section of the National Theatre School (1970–73); and most recently (1995–99), founding Artistic Director of Canada's first professional theatre company for senior performers, Western Gold Theatre (Vancouver).

On stage, she has performed roles as diverse as Sarah Bernhardt in John Murrell's Memoir, Puck in Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream, newspaperwoman Margaret “Ma” Murray in Ma! (stage and TV), and the title role in The Lear Project at Vancouver's 1996 “Women in View” festival; she has directed many productions for the Holiday Theatre (including the 1967 national tour of Eric Nicol's Beware The Quickly Who and Betty Lambert's The Riddle Machine) and The Vancouver Playhouse (A Month in the Country, Androcles and the Lion, Tiny Alice, Beau Stratagem). She collaborated with impresario Nicholas Goldschmidt on productions of Britten's opera Noye's Fludde, and with flautist Robert Cram on a duet based on poet P.K. Page's Unless The Eye Catch Fire. For film and television, she has appeared in over 50 principal and guest starring roles, including recurring roles in My Life as a Dog and the acclaimed CBC crime series Da Vinci's Inquest, and has been a regular performer on CBC Radio since the 1950s.

She has written two plays: Song of This Place (1987), a tribute to British Columbia artist Emily Carr which she also produced and performed; and Yes, a radio play. Both are slated for publication in 2003.

A passionate advocate of Canadian theatre, Ms. Coghill has commissioned, developed and produced numerous new Canadian plays (notably George Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and Grass and Wild Strawberries), developed innovative arts training programs for young people, and generously shared her time and expertise with emerging artists across the country. She is a frequent speaker and workshop leader at gerontology conferences across North America, where she is recognized as an expert on the relationship between art, creativity and health. She is currently Honorary President of PAL Vancouver, a chapter of Performing Arts Lodges of Canada dedicated to providing affordable housing and care for seniors and those in need in the performing arts.

Awards and honours include: Member of the Order of Canada, 1991; Herbert Whittaker Critics' Association Award (1996) for outstanding contribution to Canadian theatre; Life Membership, Canadian Actors' Equity Association, 1995; Confederation Medal, 1992; four Jessie Richardson Awards, including Best Actress for Miss Helen in Road to Mecca, 1991; Gascon-Thomas Award, National Theatre School of Canada, 1990; honorary degrees from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.