Actor and director Janet Wright. Photo courtesy Bell Media.
Actor and director Janet Wright. Photo courtesy Bell Media.

Vancouver’s theatre community is in mourning after the loss of theatre, film and television artist, Janet Wright at age 71.

Update (24 Nov): there will be a celebration of life for Janet Wright on Sunday, December 11 at 2:00pm at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street). No RSVP is required. Doors at 1pm. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that guests consider making a donation to the Rachel Davis Foundation.

The Gemini and Genie Award-winning actress may be best known for her role as Emma Leroy on the television sitcom Corner Gas, but had deep roots in the Vancouver theatre community.

In a statement, Arts Club Theatre Company’s artistic managing director Bill Millerd recounted Wright’s long history with the company.

“She was a powerful actor and inspired director who created intelligent and challenging theatre for our audiences,” says Millerd. “We will miss her immense talent, her caustic wit, and her incredible strength in facing tragedy. Our love and condolences go out to the Wright family.”

Wright’s career at the Arts Club began in 1967, when she performed in a production of The Odd Couple. What followed was a nearly 50-year career as an actor and director of more than thirty Arts Club productions.

Crystal Balint, who performed in Wright’s The Mountaintop said in the press statement: “She was a force, a true artist and a gift to our community. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to work with her.”

Vancouver-based director Chelsea Haberlin, who served as Wright’s assistant director on a number of productions, called her a “real badass”.

“She was fierce and uncompromising. She paved the way for future generations of women to be leaders in theatre and to do so as their true, honest selves. I don’t think Janet knew how to be anything but supremely honest. She was hilarious and led a rehearsal room full of heated debate and hysterical laughter. I was very fortunate to have her as a mentor and she will be deeply missed.”

Actor Robert Moloney, a longtime collaborator, remembers her as one of the fiercest, yet most sensitive and compassionate artists he has worked with.

“She had deep intuitive instincts for what great theatre and great performance is. She did not suffer fools or lazy artists. She pushed me constantly to go beyond the limits of what I thought I was capable of. She made me a better person and a better actor, and for that she has my deepest gratitude and sincerest love. She was a theatre giant. We have lost a champion.”

Wright also built a national theatre career as one of the co-founders of Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon and seven years at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. In 2004 she began playing the mother to comedian Brent Butt’s character on Corner Gas.

“Janet was like no other person I’ve ever met.  She had a giant wit, a giant heart, and was one of the strongest human beings to ever stride around this planet,” said Brent Butt, creator and executive producer of Corner Gas in a Bell Media statement.

Vancouver Presents!