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Janet Wright | 1945 - 2016

As published in the Stratford Beacon Herald Monday, November 14, 2016.

The Stratford Festival company and staff joined millions of others across the country in mourning the death of award-winning Canadian actress Janet Wright Monday in Vancouver.

Perhaps best-known for her role as Emma Leroy in the hit CTV comedy series Corner Gas, Wright, 71, was a member of the Festival company for seven seasons, shining in a number of key roles and as a director.

“Janet was an artist on an uncompromising search for the truth in all its unvarnished beauty,” artistic director Antoni Cimolino said in a media release.

Wright made her Stratford debut alongside her sisters, Susan and Anne, playing Rhéauna Bibeau in the hugely successful 1991 production of Les Belles Soeurs, directed by Marti Maraden.

She returned the following year to take on the title role in Shirley Valentine, Gilberte in Bonjour, là, Bonjour and Maria Vasilyevna in Uncle Vanya.

In the ensuing years she played Agave in The Bacchae, Joan Roberts in Fair Liberty’s Call, Queen Eleanor in King John, Gertrude in Hamlet, Mado in In the Ring, and Aemilia in The Comedy of Errors.

In 2011, she returned to Stratford after more than a decade away, giving an unforgettable performance as Ma Joad in the acclaimed production of The Grapes of Wrath and portraying a hilarious Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

She also directed Stratford Festival productions of Juno and the Paycock and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Together with her sister Susan and her first husband, Brian Richmond, Wright founded Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon in 1974. She was also a significant part of the Arts Club Theatre Company in Vancouver, where she performed in or directed more than 40 productions.

Corner Gas creator and executive producer Brent Butt said Wright "was like no other person I've ever met."

"She had a giant wit, a giant heart, and was one of the strongest human beings to ever stride around this planet,” Butt said in a media release. "She was so great to work with. When you looked at the call sheet in the morning, and saw you were doing scenes with Janet, you knew you’d be laughing that day, and probably at something terribly inappropriate.

"I truly, honestly loved her. We all did.”

The series, which ended its six-season run in 2009 and returned with a big-screen adaptation in 2014, may have brought Wright her greatest fame. But she had dozens of other television and film credits to her name. She won a 1992 Genie Award for her leading role in the film Bordertown Café and a 2003 Gemini Award for her supporting role in the TV movie Betrayed.

Wright’s life was twice touched by tragedy. In 1991 her sister Susan and her parents were killed in a house fire in Stratford. Then in 2003, her 23-year-old daughter, Rachel Davis, was killed when she stepped in to help a stranger being beaten outside a Vancouver bar.

“To lose an artist of such extraordinary gifts, a friend of so lively and passionate a spirit, would be a grievous blow under any circumstances, at any time," said Cimolino. "To lose her at the age of just 71, with the memories of her own terrible bereavements never wholly absent from our minds, is nothing short of a tragedy."

 
   
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