GUEST COLUMN: Time spent in Sarnia Little Theatre an enjoyable stage

Norma West Linder

When I was thirty something, I thought it might be fun to take a break from writing and try my hand at acting in Little Theatre. I was right. It was fun. I made many friends in what was then called The Sarnia Drama League.

Norma West Linder

Sadly, most of those people have since passed away— Josephine Ryan, Dorothy Harris, the Lapsleys, the Taylors, the Hadleys, and Stella Wallace among them.

I treasure the memories of those thespians and the wonderful after-theatre parties we all enjoyed back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

I first met Josephine Ryan in 1962 when Director Richard Howard cast us in Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. She had a leading role, while I was merely one of the “bloody boarders.”

Richard managed to whip us into sufficient shape to be invited to perform at the regional Festival that year. He went forward to make great career strides, and was one of five Canadian directors chosen to go to Britain for further study. While there, he met Lila Kedrova, who won an Academy Award for her performance in Zorba the Greek. The next year they were married in Northern Ontario.

Decades ago, he brought her to meet me, and I have a picture of her sitting under our Christmas tree with my son Jay who was just five at the time. I found her rather shy but very likeable and was sad when I heard of her passing several years ago. Now Richard has passed away as well, after directing many plays in Sault Ste. Marie.

Stella Wallace was also very active in local theatre. Every year, she wrote and directed a children’s Christmas play that was always well received by audiences of all ages. My older daughter had a small role in one of them.

Stella and her husband had emigrated from England when Jim was offered a job as chemist at Imperial Oil. They settled happily in a house on Lake Huron in Bright’s Grove, where they raised three children.

Stella, with a passion for books, became head librarian in the library there. I found her so interesting I once wrote a profile on her for the paper. When it was published, I was embarrassed by the number of mistakes it contained—none of them mine. But she was a good sport about it.

I’ll always have fond memories of the creative people I had the pleasure of knowing when taking part in community theatre productions.

Norma West Linder is an internationally published poet and novelist in Sarnia