Thursday, May 11, 2017

RIP Georgia Collins

Calgary Sun
By Louis Hobson
May 10, 2017

A Giant of Calgary theatre passes away

With the passing of Georgie Collins on May 3 at age 91, Calgary lost one of the true pioneers of theatre in the city.

Collins spent more than five decades as part of Calgary's theatre community.

She was an actress, director, administrator and an inspiration for hundreds of fellow artists.

This year Vertigo Theatre celebrated its 40th season of mystery, murder and mayhem.

It was Collins who spearheaded the creation of a mystery theatre company back in 1976 when she was the manager of the Pleiades Theatre in Calgary Planetarium and she would lead it until 1990.

Craig Hall, the current artistic director of Vertigo Theatre says that "Georgie's legacy is felt in the more than 1.5 million theatre lovers who have passed through our doors, and it will continue to be felt in thousands more theatre loves still to come."

A memorial for Georgie Collins will be held on May 15 at 2 p.m. in McInnis and Holloway's Fish Creek Funeral Chapel at 14441 Banister Road S.E.

Stephen Hair will give the eulogy.

He says that since posting news of Collins passing and her memorial, his Facebook has been inundated with tributes from many members of the theatre community stressing it was Collins who gave them their start in theatre in Calgary and nurtured their early careers.

Kathi Kerbes sums up the sentiments of so many of her fellow artists when she calls Collins "the Grand Dame of theatre in Calgary who was both a mentor and a friend."

Actor Chris Hunt's praise that Collins "was very kind to me, and to many, back in the day. I feel blessed to have known her" is echoed by fellow actor David Lereany who says Collins was "a rock of the community. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for her generosity early in my career."

Actor, director and writer Terry Belleville feels "one just says the words Georgie Collins and immediately we laugh and smile and feel blessed taht Georgie was part of our lives. She is a very special lady."

Bob White a former artistic director of ATP says "Georgie represented the fiery spirit of the Calgary theatre scene. We'll miss that incredible laugh."

Mark Bellamy who was the fourth artistic director of Vertigo Theatre calls Collins "a force of nature in our community" and playwright Sharon Pollock says "Georgie was the star of Calgary Theatre. Larger than life but immediately approachable."

Hair who says he lost not just a dear friend and mentor but one of his soul mates recalls meeting Collins in 1973 when they were hired as part of the resident company for Alberta Theatre Projects second season at the Canmore Opera House in Heritage Park.

"I was 22 and she was 48 but we became instant friends and remained so. We continued to talk daily.

"That year, before we were in the six plays of the regular season, Georgie and I toured children's shows through out the province.

"I was immensely fortunate to meet her at the beginning of my career.

"Dr. Betty Mitchell had been Georgie's mentor and she became mine so I was indirectly mentored by the legendary Betty Mitchell.

"Before there was Theatre Calgary and ATP, Georgie was part of the vibrant theatre scene that Dr. Betty Mitchell fostered through companies like MAC14."

Hair says after working with all the professional theatre companies in Calgary, Collins took her job managing the little lecture theatre at the Planetarium.

"After a while Georgie decided not just to bring in recitals and small companies but to create a show herself.

"That show was a summer production of The Mousetrap. It was so successful, Georgie brought it back the next summer and the next and the Pleiades Mystery Theatre was born.

"Georgie always said she created Pleiades/Vertigo as theatre for Calgarians starring Calgarians something all the subsequent artistic directors have endeavoured to maintain."

Collins directed Hair in more than a dozen shows at the Pleiades before turning the artistic directorship over to him."

Collins was also active in the city's young film community from the 1970s until the 2000s.

She had cameos in such productions as Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, In Cold Blood, Lonesome Dove and How the West Was Fun.

She was the star of the 1981 low budget local horror film GhostKeeper, written and directed by Jim Makichuk which also starred Riva Spier, Murray Ord and Sheri McFadden.

COLLINS, Georgia
Born: 6/12/1925, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Died: 5/3/2017, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Georgia Collins’ westerns – actress:
Gunmoke: Return to Dodge (TV) – 1987 (Mrs. Collins)
Cowboys Don’t Cry – 1988 (Mrs. Chapman)
How the West Was Fun (TV) – 1994 (Mrs. Plaskett)
Lonesome Dove: The Series (TV) – 1994-1995 (Mrs. Hackett)
Into the West – 2005 (Hannah Wheeler)

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