Thea Borlase (1921-2015)

2001 Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts

Thea Borlase is recognized in Moncton and around the region in both linguistic communities as a woman of incredible dedication and integrity, giving selflessly of her time and her person to the advancement of creativity through the performing arts. It is largely thanks to her vision and determination that Moncton's historic Capitol Theatre, a 1920s vaudeville house restored to its former glory and re-opened in 1993, enjoys the success it does today as a first-class performing arts facility.

Born Theodora May Mitchell in London in 1921, Thea Borlase was drawn to music and drama from an early age. She served in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRENS) during World War II, and emigrated to Canada in 1946 to marry her Canadian fiancé, James Borlase. In 1952 they settled in Moncton, NB, where she raised their four children and became reacquainted with the performing arts on a volunteer basis.

Among other activities, she joined Stage Door '56, a highly successful amateur theatre company that went on to win provincial and national recognition. She collaborated with Father Clément Cormier of l'Université de Moncton to found the Moncton District Drama Council, which organized drama workshops and an annual festival of one-act plays that brought together English- and French-speaking theatre troupes from across the region. Mrs. Borlase served for three years as President of the New Brunswick Drama League, the provincial arm of the Dominion Drama Festival (later Theatre Canada). From 1982 to 1992 she was the Atlantic Regional Officer of the Canada Council for the Arts, and as such supported and advised many emerging artists, particularly on the Acadian scene.

In 1992, at the age of 71, she turned her energies to the restoration of Moncton's historic Capitol Theatre. She is one of only two original Board members still serving, but it is her involvement with the Theatre's volunteers that is truly exceptional. In preparation for the theatre's reopening in the fall of 1993, Mrs. Borlase took it upon herself to set up, train and coordinate a team of volunteers (now numbering over 200, both English- and French-speaking) to serve as ushers, ticket takers and coat-check attendants. She regularly volunteers as an usher herself, and leads guided tours of the facility.

Most recently, Mrs. Borlase helped formulate an arts and culture policy for the City of Moncton. For the annual Greater Moncton Music Festival she recruits and coordinates hundreds of volunteers at eight locations throughout the city.

In addition to her volunteer activities, Mrs. Borlase worked during the 1970s as a freelance arts broadcaster for CBC Radio, contributing regular reviews, commentaries and interviews to a variety of programs and serving as the theatre critic for both the English and French networks of CBC/Radio-Canada in Moncton. She traveled extensively to cover the arts in the province, and gave a voice to many performers.

Awards and honours include: Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation (1992); City of Moncton Centennial Award (1990); Moncton Community Volunteer Award (1990).