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R.I.P. the indomitable Susan Rubes

Sad news: Susan Douglas Rubes, a pioneer of children’s theatre who founded the Young People’s Theatre of Toronto, has died. She was 87. Rubes died in Toronto on Jan. 23, according to a release from YPT.

An actor, producer and director, Rubes founded YPT in 1966 and developed and produced numerous Canadian works for children. She ushered the theatre into its permanent home in 1977 and was its artistic director until 1979 …
Rubes led the fight to convince Toronto it needed a theatre for young people. She believed that children should be exposed to professional productions of the highest quality, including classic and contemporary works from Canada and around the world.
“It’s for children – it has to be the best,” she is quoted as saying in a history on the YPT website.
Susan Rubes changed my life, and that of several of my best friends. In 1969, as students in the drama club at Carleton University, we performed a one act play called “Interview” at the Canadian Drama League play competition, and won first prize. Susan invited our director, Bob Handforth, to direct it for a professional school tour out of Toronto, and he asked if he could bring much of his original cast with him. When Actor’s Equity, after a great deal of arm-twisting, said yes, suddenly Peter, Suzette, Lynn, Karin, Paul and I, clutching our Equity cards, were on our way to Toronto to begin rehearsals. I was 19; the others, as I enjoy pointing out, were much older. Okay, a bit older. We rented a house in the middle of Kensington Market, and spent from January to May touring southern Ontario schools in a bus, with the addition to the cast of the great Heath Lamberts, who much later was a smash on Broadway as the clock in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” 
In September ’70, I was back at Carleton picking up the pieces of my academic life when Peter and I were offered another of Susan’s tours. Another Christmas day on the way to Toronto, another winter and spring on tour. At that point, I thought, this is REALLY EASY, you get offered jobs and they pay you really well, I guess I should be an actress. To clinch the deal, I auditioned for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and was one of two Canadians accepted that year. The other was R. H. Thomson. 
It was during that difficult year at LAMDA that I began to wonder if this life was, in fact, the right one for me. But not till 1981, with the birth of my daughter, did I leave the stage to go back to university to get an MFA – in creative writing. 
I wish I’d had a chance to thank Susan – not so much for my own trajectory, which perhaps didn’t work out all that well, but for all she did in the arts for children. She was indomitable, with ferocious energy. Thank you, Susan Rubes, for all your hard work, your courage, your vision – and your faith in a bunch of green thespians from Ottawa. 
More bad news today: I was at the Y when we learned that Mayor Rob Ford would not be thrown out of office. There was gloom in the TV room of the Health Club. “How the hell did he get elected in the first place?” was the general tenor of the conversation, a question that has been asked countless times, I’m sure. The massive bulk and pea-sized brain of our own human stegosaurus will continue to loom over us all. Have mercy. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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