An 'unusual brilliance': Acclaimed Calgary playwright Sharon Pollock dies at 85

At one level, acclaimed Calgary playwright Sharon Pollock’s enterprise playing cards prominently featured the picture of a dragon.

What did that symbolize? For those who ask her eldest daughter, Jennifer, dragons have robust, scaly exteriors with hidden elements you won’t ever get to know.

However in some depictions, dragons are additionally pleasant and dependable, and all the time otherworldly. And, in fact, dragons can fly.

Pollock, who was the previous creative director of Theatre Calgary and who twice gained the Governor Basic Award for Drama, died on April 22. She was 85.

A ferocious reader — she used to learn one or two books a day, Jennifer mentioned — Pollock was fascinated by homicide mysteries and plenty of of her performs have been of the style.

Amongst her most well-known was Blood Relations, primarily based on the story of Lizzie Borden, for which she took dwelling her first Governor Basic Award. 

Theatre Calgary referred to as Pollock a “large” and a “fierce, daring and groundbreaking artist” whose work helped form the Canadian panorama. 

“Sharon can have an enduring impression on theatre on the whole. Particularly, all the pieces that she stood for as an artist, as a girl, as a feminist, and as a human being comes by in her work,” mentioned Stafford Arima, creative director of Theatre Calgary. “Her voice will resonate for generations to return.”

A love for individuals and animals

Kim Wealthy-Kuny mentioned she first met Pollock when she was working the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton in 1977. As a shy, quiet youngster, Wealthy-Kuny was awestruck when she was delivered to the household dwelling with Pollock’s son.

The home was crammed with individuals — actors, administrators, producers, playwrights, cats, canine and birds. However Pollock, seeing Wealthy-Kuny’s trepidation, sat down and talked with the 17-year-old and made her really feel like she mattered.

“She was surrounded by individuals and having enormous conversations,” Wealthy-Kuny mentioned. “And I are available in and he or she simply drops all the pieces.

“She’ll look you within the eye, and he or she’s actually, actually concerned about what you need to say.”

Kim Wealthy-Kuny was married to Pollock’s son, Kirk, for 14 years. She mentioned Pollock by no means handled her with something however love, kindness and respect. (Submitted by Kim Wealthy-Kuny)

The home was actually filled with animals. Jennifer mentioned her mother would rescue cats, and a few nontraditional pets finally discovered their technique to stay within the household dwelling.

“There was a squirrel that lived in the home for a while. My mother had a rat,” she mentioned. “I imply, the rat tales are very well-known.”

As Jennifer tells it, Pollock was doing a play in Nova Scotia. For some purpose, her mom was given a rat, whom she promptly named Ratty.

On the finish of the manufacturing, Pollock would carry the rat together with her to the theatre and put it inside her shirt. Because the legend goes, actors have been terrified to see a rat tail or a rat head sometimes flick out of Pollock’s clothes. 

Finally, after a lot pleading from the solid, Pollock agreed to not carry the rat to manufacturing any longer. 

‘Like magic’

Jamie Dunsdon, creative director with Verb Theatre, very nervously referred to as Pollock in 2010 to ask her if she would take into account performing in a full-length, one-woman musical referred to as Marg Szkaluba (Pissy’s Spouse).

At 74, Pollock mentioned sure instantly. On opening evening, she had the play phrase good — however ran right into a glitch in the midst of a monologue in act one.

“She by chance jumped to a monologue in act two, as a result of the road she was presupposed to say was similar to the one in act two,” she mentioned. “She realized instantly what she had carried out — that she had skipped greater than half the play.”

As a substitute of going again to behave one and correcting the error, she went by the remainder of the play and pieced in all the present in bits and items, placing the play again collectively in a unique order.

“By the top of it, and I do not assume the viewers had a clue what had occurred, she had carried out all the present in a unique order, and the story made sense, and it was nonetheless shifting and significant,” she mentioned. “It was like magic.

“It speaks to her mastery of the craft, and the way audiences expertise tales on stage stay. And I will always remember it.”

Sharon Pollock acted in her play Blood Relations at Theatre Calgary in 1981. The play, which relies on the story of Lizzie Borden, earned Pollock a Governor Basic Award for Drama. (Submitted by Theatre Calgary)

A couple of months in the past, Jennifer and her sisters have been gathered round their mom, involved about doing what she wished on the finish.

Over a pair weeks, Pollock stored repeating her remaining want: she mentioned she simply wished to go off into the woods and die.

“‘Mother, I wish to make it easier to, however this does not look like a plan that I can get behind,'” Jennifer advised her mother on the time, crying.

Her sisters left to enter the kitchen, leaving Jennifer together with her mother. The temper was tense. After a few minute, Pollock rolled her eyes and spoke up.

“It is a metaphor,” Pollock mentioned. Jennifer burst out laughing. It was a second consultant of her mom’s “unusual brilliance,” Jennifer mentioned.

Sharon Pollock’s remaining play for Theatre Calgary was referred to as Blow Wind Excessive Water, which premiered in 2017. (Submitted by Theatre Calgary)

One of many final issues Jennifer remembers speaking to Pollock about was being a great mom. She advised her that being a great mother means youngsters undertake your values — and loving animals is a worth shared by every of her youngsters and grandchildren.

Over the past couple months of her life, Pollock had only one canine — a pet named Putty, who has a valve defect in his coronary heart.

It was anticipated that Putty would solely stay a yr. However Putty was given coronary heart treatment and noticed a specialist. It grew to become not possible to separate the canine from Pollock.

When Pollock died, Putty grew to become extraordinarily anxious. Putty was introduced to Pollock’s bedside and was lifted onto the mattress so he might lick her face. Then, he sat on the underside of the mattress.

And once they took him down from the mattress, he wasn’t anxious anymore. 

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