Woman of the Month Before – Jane Heyman

Written by Dolly on June 6th, 2012

Jane Heyman

Here’s a little bit about her:
Jane Heyman has worked in professional theatre in Canada and England as a director, stage manager, actor, and acting teacher for over 45 years. Based in Vancouver, Jane helped found WestCoast Actors and the Women in VIEW Festival as well as co-founding (with Joy Coghill) Vancouver’s Performing Arts Lodge (PAL). From 1985 to 2005, she taught acting and was the Associate Director for Studio 58, the professional theatre training program at Langara College.

Favourite productions include The Crucible, Summerfolk, Diana of Dobsons, King Lear, As You Like It, Fanshen (Studio 58); Homechild, Road to Mecca (Arts Club Theatre); Lear (with Joy Coghill & Pat Armstrong for the Women in VIEW Festival); St Joan of the Stockyards (Tamahnous Theatre).

She was an elected member of Canadian Actors’ Equity National Council for many years, served as the President of the Board of PAL Vancouver and currently sits on the boards of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, The PAL Studio Theatre and PAL Canada. Jane is a recipient of the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association Larry McCance Award, the Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance Jessie Richardson Career Achievement Award, the UBCP Sam Payne Award, as well as a Jessie Richardson directing award for her production of Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard.

And here’s how she answered my 6 questions about creativity:

What does it mean to you to be creative?
It took a very long time for me to be comfortable with saying that I was “creative” or that I was an “artist”. I thought of myself as merely an interpreter and, in my mind, that didn’t qualify. Now, I have come to see that most people are creative in some way. Some are told they aren’t and believe what they are told. Others, given the same misinformation, persisted anyway. Some of us are fortunate in that we’ve been encouraged to believe in ourselves and the value of what we imagine and do. I am one of the fortunate ones. Interestingly, I rarely think of myself as “creative” – I simply create … gardens, attractive meals and place settings, communities, places and ways for people to learn, expand their potential and tell stories in the theatre. Creativity is simultaneously how I live my life and what keeps me from ever being bored.

What triggers your creativity?
I have no idea – or too many ideas. Being told that I can’t do something usually triggers an avalanche of creativity. My daughter, especially when she was really young, was a great stimulus – she taught me very early that if I was imaginative in the way that I dealt with her and made things fun, she would respond positively and parenting became simple.

Anger is also an excellent trigger. When I feel stuck, encounter barriers, etc., I immediately start looking around and the ideas begin flowing. Working with others is a great source of my creativity. It’s in the space between people that the ideas flow for me. I am inspired by others and build on their ideas. It’s why I teach and why I direct plays rather than pursuing more solitary art forms. Fear is also a fabulous trigger for me – whenever a production or project scares me to death, I know that I have to do it!

What hinders your creativity?
Me – when I get impatient; when I surrender to fear rather than allowing it to galvanize me; when I start to second-guess myself instead of trusting my gut.

What’s the wildest journey your venturesome spirit has taken you on?
Thinking it was possible to build affordable housing for seniors in the performing arts and then co-founding (with my mentor, colleague and friend, Joy Coghill), Vancouver’s Performing Arts Lodge (PAL). From our first community visioning session to opening the doors to our pioneer residents took only 5 years. The eight-storey, 111-apartment building in Coal Harbour, crowned by a 150-seat theatre and roof garden just celebrated its sixth anniversary. For sheer audacity, nothing, even directing King Lear twice, has ever topped that. But what made (and makes) PAL work was that it happened because of the community of people who gathered around Joy and me – each with their own particular imagination and expertise. Together we built on each other and did something that many told us was impractical and impossible.

Co-founding the Women in VIEW festival was almost as wild. In both cases, the more people said “no,” the more we were forced to find creative solutions and prove them wrong!

What does being bold and provocative mean to you?
Bold and provocative are words I would use to describe others, not myself. Those words are similar to the word “courage.” The people I think of as bold, are usually the same as the ones I think of as courageous- they simply do what they do – and don’t feel they have a choice if they are going to be true to themselves. Provocative people are those who are interested in getting reactions and don’t care what they have to do to get them

What’s next for you?
Directing The Three Sisters next spring. Also, participating in the development and, I hope, eventual production of two plays that tell the stories of two people who “did the right thing” despite many obstacles and threats. Janusz Korczak, the great pedagogue, author and director of the Jewish Orphanage in Warsaw in the 1920s and ‘30s; and Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese Consul to Lithuania who wrote more than 2000 visas that saved the lives of countless Jews during World War II. I am linked to both of these stories because of my parents and grandparents. Bringing them to the stage at this point in my life is very important to me. In face of a world where social justice is being eroded, supposedly because we need a strong economy, I feel we need stories like these more than ever.

And here’s just some of what inspires Jane’s creativity:

The Charter for Compassion and Karen Armstrong, someone you should listen to.

Janusz Korczak.

Chiune Sugihara and the Sugihura Project.

Oh and Chesterman Beach!

Thank you Jane for having the distinction of being amazing and inspiring so many!

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