COMMUNIQUE ... editors: Beverley Cairns & Patricia Reimer

 

 

PROFILE

Winter 2015


Colin Fox: Actor, Writer, Narrator


Colin and his wife Carol came from country living in 2008 to an historic brick house in Elora, "Hollis House", opposite St John's Church. Colin began engaging with The Elora Festival in the 90's performing with guest artists and the Festival Orchestra in several concerts, and, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of composer Benjamin Britten, he appeared as a narrator in The Company of Heaven, in which Britten's music is interspersed with the spoken word. We look forward to his participation with the summer festival again this season, 2015.


Colin's distinguished acting career has spanned fifty years.


Following his stint at the U.of Western Ontario, Colin entered the National Theatre School. Soon after graduating, in 1966 Colin was acting on the Stratford Festival stage. He had six words to say as a 'disreputable and filthy soldier' in Henry VI. He also played in Henry V, working hard in understudy roles as well, and winning the Tyrone Guthrie Award that year. He returned to Stratford in 1982 to do four plays. And in 1989, Colin returned to Stratford to play the Festival's founder himself in the one man show Guthrie on Guthrie by Margaret Dale, which was later heard on CBC Radio 2 and is now available on CD. And in taking a page from Guthrie's book, Colin said: "I realized that in Shakespeare you have to think on the line, whereas in TV, you can pause to think before speaking. This is a big difference for an actor".


In his early career, while a student of the New Play Society under Dora Mavor Moore. Colin had also been working with CBC radio, first as a replacement announcer and then acting in dramas by icons of radio like Lister Sinclair and Andrew Allen in the 60s. Finally he made a choice between radio as a broadcaster and an acting career which would include stage, film and emerging TV work.

His many roles have been rewarded with accolades. Outstanding among others are:The Canadian Film Award, (now known as the Genie) in1971 for his portrayal of Lord Durham; a Juno Award, 1994 for best children's audio book album Tchaikovsky Discovers America; a Gemini Award, 2009 for the animated series Atomic Betty.

With many credits in TV, he may best be known through the Nero Wolfe Series, in which Colin played the Swiss Chef, Fritz Brenner and as Dr. Anton Hendricks in the popular series PSI Factor, Chronicles of the Paranormal.

While living in New York in the 1980s, Colin appeared on and off-Broadway. Though he has appeared in over 60 films and many TV series, he prefers the live stage, where reality is not simply natural, but must be enhanced through dramatic action and quality voice projection.


Music has played an unexpectedly large part in Colin's professional life. His first encounter with music, as an actor, was in 1974 with the Toronto Symphony, when Seiji Ozawa performed a little known dramatic monologue Lelio, by Berlioz which is rarely staged but complements his Symphonie Fantastique. Colin can't read music and claims he has no singing voice, but his natural sense of timing helps him feel the music. Ozawa was adamant that the narrator appear onstage in costume of the period. Thus bedecked, Colin watched closely for Ozawa to give him a cue signaling when the narrator was to come in, his voice miked to be heard above the orchestra. One section dictated that he dramatically face the orchestra and berate them! In 1974 he performed Lelio in Boston, again Ozawa conducting.


Enjoying such challenges, since then Colin has performed frequently with music. He performed Tennyson's Enoch Arden with pianist Anton Kuerti, played all the characters in l'Histoire du Soldat; In Carnival of the Animals, he was narrator with the piano duo Anagnoson and Kinton; and the tortured husband in Tolstoy's the Kreutzer Sonata, which he edited and performed with the Penderecki String Quartet; he also edited and read the letters of Brahms and Dvorak in Giants in Music, Friends in Letters with the Gryphon Trio.


This immersion in music and stage led to Colin's own original editing and scripting of a show that played across Canada from 2009 to 2012, a total of 50 performances including a presentation at The Elora Festival. Entitled The Schumann Letters, this "music as theatre" play was distilled from thousands of letters and diary entries written by Schumann and his beloved Clara before they were married in 1821. The action opens dramatically, the piano playing Traumerei in shadow, during which Colin enters into a solo light and recounts the failed suicide attempt of Schumann two years before his death, then flashes back to the couple's early days, when Clara was underage and her father opposed their relationship. The play culminates triumphantly in their marriage with the longer shadow of Schumann's madness still in the background.. Text of the play was interspersed with Schumann's music by concert pianist Michael Kim and his songs by soprano Susan Gilmour Bailey in an original genre which prompted violinist James Ennis to comment: "the concept was fresh and the delivery impeccable." This new musical concept was hailed as brilliant.

Colin hopes to take up writing and performing of a sequel to The Schumann Letters which would concentrate on Clara, encompassing the two years Schumann spent in an asylum after the suicide attempt, his death, and the subsequent life of Clara as an eminent touring concert pianist and mother of seven children, Clara's relation to Brahms, the narrative enriched by selected letters and Clara's own musical compositions . In his current creative undertaking, Colin continues the trend of being adaptor, this time of a new translation in partnership with classical guitarist, Simon Wynberg, of Platero and I, a series of lyric prose poems, the work of 1956 Nobel Prize winner Juan Ramon Jiminez which was set to music by Mario Castel-Nuovo. Colin credits his wife Carol for her inspiration and support in bringing Platero to a recording format. Carol is the producer for this CD which he and Simon have worked on for eight years.. Colin reads these tales from 1914 of Platero the donkey through the eyes of his rider, unpretentious but profound stories, full of symbolism. Release of the CD by ATMA Classique of Montreal is expected in the fall of 2015. Platero is a "small,shaggy and soft'' little Spanish donkey through whose existence Jiminez reflects on the simple joys of life. Colin and Carol, who think the tales beautiful, unusual, and of wide appeal, have visited the town of Moquer in Andalusia, Southern Spain where Platero is said to have lived and be buried. Colin has already performed Platero and I in a benefit concert at the Donkey Sancturay in Puslinch, and also at Chamberfest in Ottawa and in St. Catherine's at the Primavera Festival.

Colin Fox will be speaking on July 5 in our EAC 30th anniversary lecture series. We will learn more about his distinguished acting career of 50 years and his recent days spent in Venice as prelude to his opening appearance with this summer's Elora Festival. Unusually successful in a difficult and highly competitive profession, Colin is always approachable: a very modest neighbour up the street. Though widely travelled, he and Carol find Elora a stimulating place to call home, with a richness of life, and many desirable atributes.

Interview by Beverley Cairns



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The newsletter of the Elora Arts Council is published four times a year. It is distributed by mail to EAC members. It is also available at information offices, libraries and numerous galleries and stores throughout the area.

The Communique has been in constant publication since the founding of the Elora Arts Council in 1985.

Featured in each issue is the Profile of a local artist, musician, performer, or craftsperson in the Centre Wellington area.

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