Day 55 - Robert (3rd person I approached)
February 24, 2014 - When I first approached Robert to ask if he would talk with me, I clearly didn’t do a good job of describing this project. Robert looked at me and asked “What makes you think I’m strange?”
Robert was born in Kingston, Ontario, and raised in St Catherines. He is the youngest of three children. “I never lived with my siblings though. My sister, who is my half sister, is 19 years older than I am, and lives in the United States. My mother and her father ended their relationship. Then my mother met my father and had a child out of wedlock. It was during the war, and times were different then, and my mother gave him up for adoption. I didn’t know until years later, at the time of my fathers death, that my Aunt had adopted that child. My brother, who I knew to be my cousin, was in my life all along. We just didn’t know we were brothers, and not cousins. He went to get a marriage license, and when the lineage was determined, that’s how he found out. He kept that a secret for years. My mother told me many years later. We’re close, and we keep in touch. He’s served three missions in Afghanistan. He also came to my mothers funeral. It’s certainly quite the story, that’s for sure. The stuff of Oprah.”
Robert attended Niagara College and graduated from the Theatre program. “It really wasn’t an acting program, it was more the technical side of theatre. Building the sets, hanging the light’s, running the sound board. But we also were expected to act because they produced shows. We did 28 shows in my first year. I had one and only one professional stint as an actor. In the play “The Mirror Man” I was the man, my college room mate was also in it, and an actress just starting out at the time played the witch. Her name was Fiona Reid, who went on to become a much celebrated Canadian stage, film, and television actress. Acting wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
We spent some time taking about theatre in general, and the various programs and great institutions of Canadian theatre such as the Banff Centre, in Alberta. Robert has worked in them all, designing and building sets, technical direction, all aspects of the work of theatre. A life in the arts. He now lives In Canmore, Alberta, and was here in Vancouver to support Vancouver Opera with their production of Don Giovanni, which opens next week. “I’m retired now, but it’s fun to keep involved and be able to still keep working.” He is married with two daughters, one who works at McGill University, and the other, an actress.
Robert’s 40 plus years in theatre have taken him from coast, to coast, to coast. He told me a story about being in the Maritimes for work some years back. “I was asked where I was from and when I said St Catherines Ontario, the reply I got back was ‘Oh, you’re one of those uppity Canadians then.’“ #notastranger