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Joyce Campion | 1923 - 2014

Joyce Campion

CAMPION, Joyce - The death of Joyce Elaine Campion occurred on September 3, 2014 at Hillside Manor in Stratford, Ontario. She was the daughter of the late Canon J.R. and Ethel Campion. She was predeceased by her brother Canon B.H. Campion. Joyce is survived by her sister-in-law Ann, niece Jennifer (Douglas), nephew Peter (Rebecca), great-nephews Nicolas, Peter and Felix and great-niece Cressida. Born in Ballycastle Northern Ireland in 1923, Joyce had a notable career in the theatre which began in Ireland and England and continued on in Canada and the U.S. She spent 10 seasons at the Shaw Festival and 19 seasons at the Stratford Festival.

Among the many recognitions for her work were the prestigious Dora award for her performance in Michael Tremblays’ Bonjour, la, Bonjour and a Gemini nomination for her work in television’s Street Legal. Her last performance, at the age of 86, was at the Stratford Festival as Anfisa in the Three Sisters. Joyce considered herself a working actor and was unceasingly generous to her colleagues. She never retired and considered herself an actor to the end. Warmly loved and highly admired she will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Her family wishes to thank special friends Marti, Dan, Anne, Sadie, Robin, Ann and numerous others for their love and support.

A Memorial Service will be held at St. James Anglican Church, 41 Mornington Street, Stratford on October 27th at 11:00 a.m. If desired, memorial donations in her memory can be made to The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and may be made through the funeral home. 519.271.7411

There will be a memorial service for Joyce in Stratford on Monday Oct. 27th at St. James Church,
41 Mornington St. at Huron, at 11 am with her nephew Peter from Ireland giving the service.

Reception to follow.

In Toronto, there will be a Celebration of Life at the Tarragon Theatre on Sunday Nov. 9th,
with bar opening at 6:30 pm and the celebration beginning at 7 pm.

Article below by Ann Baggley, as published in start, January, 2012.

At 88 years of age, actress Joyce Campion does not consider herself retired. She is simply out of work. “I'm up for grabs!” she says cheerfully, seated on her sofa, surrounded by framed theatre posters, collected plays and books of Irish poetry.

Theatre and the joy of make-believe have been with Joyce since she was a child back in Ireland. “I think I was always being an actor because I was (always) pretending to be someone else. I liked being Robin Hood. I loved being with bows and arrows and things. My mother made me a lovely costume of it. She used to do all my sewing for me and for herself. I always had nice clothes."

Born in Balleycastle, Ireland in 1923, Joyce grew up close to Dublin. Her father was a clergyman with the Church of Ireland, her mother had “a lovely contralto (voice), and (was) a very nice lady,” and her brother Brian was her ally in play acting, just a year and a half younger than she.

Joyce studied acting in Dublin and worked at summer theatres for a short time before she volunteered for the ATS, the woman's branch of the British Army during World War II. “I thought it was my duty to go and help.” Joyce learned to drive for the British Army and drove anything and everything from ambulances (without patients in them) to trucks and jeeps, shuttling officers “to wherever it was they had to go.”

While in the ATS, Joyce answered the call of duty again and went to give blood. “I was sent in to the doctor, and there he was! He was more handsome than any man I'd ever seen in my life. And he smiles at me and he says, 'Oh get out of here,' (he had this great English accent!) ' skinny little thing! You need every drop of blood you've got!'" Joyce laughs and sighs, “I'd thought I'd met Mr. Right!”

Joyce arrived in Canada in the early 1960's, following the death of her father. She came along with her mother and Brian, who had become a clergyman and had an offer to come to Canada. Joyce headed to Toronto and began a career in performance that has spanned almost 50 years. Her career includes 19 seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, many seasons with the Shaw Festival, shows at Toronto Free Theatre, CanStage, NAC, Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas, regional theatres across Canada, as well as television and film roles. Joyce received a Dora Award for her performance in Bonjour la Bonjour at the St. Lawrence Centre and a Gemini nomination for her role in Street Legal (CTV).

Joyce's obvious success hasn't been without some struggles. After performing a one-woman show she wrote called Irish Coffee (a collection of Irish songs and poems) she went home to have supper and found that all she had left in her fridge was one egg and one potato. So, in her characteristic pragmatic fashion, she made an omelette, boiled the potato, and then the telephone rang. It was director John Wood, phoning to offer her a role in a play he was directing. Thank goodness – she'd eat again!

Of the hundreds of productions that Joyce has done, some of her favourites have been here in Stratford. One of them is the 2002 production of My Fair Lady in which Joyce played Mrs. Higgins. “I loved doing 'My Fair Lady' with Colm Feore. He's a very nice man to work with. And I got to know a lot of the musical people, because you don't, unless you are in (the show). I loved doing that.” Another favourite is the 2005 production of Fallen Angels, in which she played Saunders, the maid. “They called me the show stealer!” Joyce beams. “I love making people laugh. I say, 'If I can make one person laugh every day, my living has not been in vain!'”

No worries there! As someone who has always taken great pride in taking care of herself, Joyce is now spouting the virtues of 'Laughing Yoga' and how important it is to 'start with a laugh everyday'. One afternoon with Joyce provides a person with a week's worth of laughing. During our interview, she keeps me in stitches as she shares her very frank musings on aging. “People call them the Golden Years. I call them the Rusty Years!”

Performing is everything to Joyce. While she is acting, “I'm not me, and I don't have to think of myself. I think that's why I feel much better, doing a show. Because you're not yourself, your somebody else. And then you get to understand people. And that's why actors, when I first got to (theatre),were so much nicer than the people in the outside world. And understanding that is a great help.” “It's like family,” I reply. Joyce nods her head. “You can be rude to your family because they love you,” she laughs, “so you don't have to be perfect with them.”

With a room full of memories around her, Joyce stays in the present by doing Tai Chi and walking into town on a regular basis – although up until a few years ago, her bicycle was her preferred mode of transportation. She also recites poetry by heart (audio clip at left) and is working on another one-woman show, hoping to incorporate some of those deeply ingrained words. This, and some of that 'Laughing Yoga.' As Joyce says, “You have to make yourself laugh, or you'll drop dead!”

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