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Born on May 13, 1926 in Findlater, Saskatchewan, Joy Coghill spent most of her childhood in Scotland before returning to Canada in 1939. She and her mother settled in Vancouver where Joy attended Kitsilano High School. Coghill taught elocution in Vancouver while completing her B.A. in Social Work at the University of British Columbia. Coghill first appeared on stage at the age of 15, in a Vancouver Little Theatre production of <cite>Bunty Pulls the Strings</cite> and while attending UBC, became deeply involved with the U.B.C. Players Club and The Summer School of the Theatre, acting, directing and teaching under the guidance of drama teacher Dr. Dorothy Somerset. She studied at the Goodman Theatre at The Art Institute of Chicago from 1947 to 1950 where she acted in and directed a number of productions, and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Goodman in 1950.
After graduating, Coghill worked in Vancouver, Kingston, Ontario, and Chicago, directing, acting and teaching at UBC, the Everyman Theatre, the International Players, and Goodman Theatre. While at Goodman, she was invited to help start Holiday Theatre in Vancouver. Holiday Theatre would present over one hundred plays, most of them original Canadian works geared to children. In 1967 Holiday Theatre became associated with the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Co. when Coghill became its Artistic Director. As Artistic Director of the Playhouse, Coghill brought many new and innovative projects to Vancouver. In 1971, Coghill was appointed the first female Artistic Director, English Acting Section, of the National Theatre School in Montreal, but after two years at the National Theatre School, she began to pursue acting full time.
Joy Coghill has appeared in films, on television and in theatre productions across Canada. She is, perhaps, best-known for her roles in the critically-acclaimed <cite>Da Vinci’s Inquest</cite> and <cite>Ma</cite>, a CBC adaptation of her previous stage appearances as Margaret "Ma" Murray, the outspoken journalist and British Columbia’s first female newspaper publisher. Her theatre work includes co-producing <cite>Noye’s Fludde</cite>, her prize-winning performances as Sarah Bernhardt in John Murrell’s <cite>Memoir</cite>, Puck in the opera of <cite>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</cite> and Miss Helen in <cite>The Road to Mecca</cite>. As a published playwright in both Canada and Israel, in 1987, Coghill wrote and produced <cite>Song of This Place</cite> based on the life of Emily Carr. She created <cite>The Alzheimer Project</cite> in 1998, one of the productions of Western Gold Theatre, which she founded in 1994 to showcase senior talent and to fight ageism in the marketplace. The staging of <cite>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</cite>, with actors all over 60, became the subject of a CBC documentary <cite>The Courage to Dream</cite>. Coghill was also the company’s Artistic Director until 1999.
Joy Coghill received the Order of Canada, in 1991. She has also received, among many awards and accolades, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, the Confederation Medal, the Gascon Thomas Award, and the Herbert Whittaker Critics’ Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Theatre. Upon retiring, Coghill collaborated with director Jane Heyman to found the Performing Arts Lodge in Vancouver in 2001 and create a building to house and supporting aging people in the performing arts. The Performing Arts Lodge (PAL), Vancouver, opened the doors to its 111 rental units in May 2006. Coghill has been married to John (Jack) Thorne, a former TV producer at the CBC, since 1955 and they have three children -- Debra, Gordon and David.
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Actor; director; teacher; playwright.
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