A Tribute to an Inspirational Couple
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – poet Robert Frost.
They met at Ithaca College in New York, married and came to Calgary in 1960 with their four children. Quenten Doolittle worked at the University of Calgary teaching strings and theory and Joyce Doolittle taught for 24 years at the University’s drama department. She was instrumental in creating the MAC 14 theatre on 1st. street S.W, which moved to larger space on 9th avenue and evolved into Theatre Calgary.
Joyce discovered an old brick building on the west side of Calgary – an old water pumping station slated for demolition. She started a petition and saved the building, turning into a home for young actors called Pumphouse Theatre. She was honoured for her work by having one of the theatres named for her.
Both Quenten and Joyce grew to become icons of culture, music, theatre and art in Calgary.
“I taught theatre for children and playwriting. I wanted this place to be a theatre for young actors, and it has turned into a great place for kids,” reflected Joyce. “A great many Calgary actors and playwrights got their start here.”
Pumphouse hosted a evening for Joyce and Quenten to display their latest creative works – paintings. Quenten is a composer with a long history as principal violist with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He successfully married his love of music with his art, creating a large volume of work including a series called the fifth element, a collection of four paintings that envision the four elements, combined with musical notes from his compositions. “The fifth element,” he explains, ” is the performer.”
“Exploring a new art form was terrifying,” laughs Joyce. “But I soon discovered that art doesn’t have to be Rembrandt.”
Joyce is particularly grateful to have found a complete art studio in her new home at United’s Garrison Green. “I’ve seen places where they say ‘we’ve always done it this way’, or ‘you have to do it that way’. Here, you don’t have to do it like that. We have the freedom to express ourselves. I have the time now to work in the art studio where we both can try new things.”
Quenten treated the audience to a solo viola composition. He performed the composition earlier for Garrison Green residents. You can watch the video here.
Eugene Stickland, who won this year’s W.O. Mitchell award for his novel the Piano Teacher, has known the Doolittles for many years. He acted as MC for the evening, and interviewed them in front of the audience about their lives, and the theatre and arts scene in Calgary.
Eugene wrote a play – Queen Lear – especially for Joyce on her 80th birthday.
“Urban Curvz Theatre produced it right here and it was the only time Joyce acted in a major role in the theatre named after her,” said Eugene.
Proudest moments? “My life was so busy then,” said Quenten. “Four children, the CPO. How did we do it? But we did.”
“For me, there are many of those moments,” said Joyce. “I was so proud when Quenten played one of his compositions at Carnegie Hall. And playing Queen Lear in Eugene’s play. That was another big moment for me. For new actors I would say, don’t be afraid to try new things. Calgary is such a terrific city. We fell in love with it immediately when we arrived here in 1960. It’s such an open-hearted city and a thriving place for actors.”
Have a question about United Active Living’s unique approach to aging?
Contact us! We are happy to help!
Tell us what you think. Join the conversation by commenting below!
Did you like this article? Sign up for our weekly blog using the form above!