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Resident Spotlight: Yvonne Adalian!

"I never considered how I might survive when I became old.”

Over one hundred residents create PAL Vancouver’s community. Today we celebrate Yvonne Adalian who moved in on opening day. Yvonne has been a lifelong trailblazer in the performing arts and continues to give back and inspire in every way she can.

Yvonne remembers performing in village pantomime as a child. “Everyone had something to offer. The butcher would dress up as the ‘Dame.’ I sometimes performed as the ‘Principal Boy.’ I toured with my family to different towns ~ it was a welcome release after the war years.”

In 1959 Yvonne arrived in Vancouver with her young husband.Canada did not have the National Theatre School then, although Joy Coghill would have been involved in making that happen. After a summer course of acting at UBC followed by performances at the Frederic Wood Theatre, I was cast in the opening production of the Vancouver Playhouse.”

Portrait of Yvonne Adalian from PAL Vancouver

She attended George Luscombe’s Toronto Workshop Theatre in 1963. “It shook the audience with sound and movement.” Yvonne joined the ensemble and immersed herself in a physically demanding creative process in the basement of 12 Alexander Street (now home to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). Performers rented rooms at a house run by actors. Work in TV and radio was flourishing. “I did a lot of excellent radio plays in Toronto then.”

“I was part of a company. I rolled up my sleeves and did it.” In 1966 Yvonne joined Neptune Theatre in Halifax and toured nationally. She will always remember a cavernous theatre in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Ladders were attached to the walls for actors to climb to the dressing rooms. A narrow catwalk hung in the air from the tops of the ladders to the elevated rooms. She could look down and see the stage below.

Yvonne moved to Haida Gwaii in the early 70s. “I directed high school students from the Haida Nation. We created a multimedia production with projections and drumming and poetry. It was like a family.”

At the Vancouver Playhouse in 1973 Yvonne was cast in Julius Caesar alongside her future PAL neighbour, David Petersen. David, a founding member of Tamanhous Theatre, shared many of Yvonne’s philosophical approaches to performance. Decades later, they created hilarious skits together at PAL.

“In theatre you had to be ready to fly to another province for work.” Yvonne returned to Toronto for a second time to direct plays for the International Brecht Festival. Fassbinder’s Blood on the Throat of a Cat was her first project. “The script was very edgy. As the director I would have a vision, but it would largely depend on what the actors brought.”

She moved west again in 1987 to be closer to her son. On Salt Spring Island Yvonne founded Graffiti Theatre and for close to two decades directed challenging plays by writers such as Wendy Lill, Morris Panych, and Jane Martin. “I taught acting classes and worked part-time in a doctor’s office. I tried being a waitress, which was a disaster. I started an interior painting company, my own housecleaning business, a dog-walking business, and modeled for artists. I never considered how I might survive when I became old.”

In 2005 Yvonne learned about PAL and she submitted her application. On opening day she was one of the first residents to move in. “Everyone was wildly enthusiastic. We invented it as we went along. We were celebrating being together at PAL.” She pitched in with the garden and library and later joined PALS Chorus and starred in in-house productions like Quartet produced by fellow resident Camilla Ross.

Recently she performed in “View From a Window” with Gina Stockdale, Bernard Cuffling, and Tom Pickett. The play was inspired by the producer’s (Marnie Perrin) elderly father asking, “When did I become invisible?” They toured seniors’ centres and theatres across the Lower Mainland.

“Now I am passionate about writing,” she says. “In theatre words are very important. I appreciate the power and magic of words. Last year there was an open house at SFU introducing all the courses for seniors. I went to a writing class and was completely turned on.”

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