Beloved Artistic Director Passes Away
It is with great sadness that Chemainus Theatre Festival and Western Canada Theatre announce the passing of Jeremy Tow, former artistic director for both companies, on the 14th of September, 2010.
Jeremy will be remembered as a leading contributor to the British Columbia theatre scene. He was born October 26th, 1963 in Altoona, Pennsylvania and grew up aspiring to be an opera singer. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Messiah College in Grantham, PA, and then graduated from the Actors Studio in New York. His early career included performances throughout the United States and several seasons as a repertory company member at Stage One Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jeremy’s first theatre work for the Chemainus Theatre was the direction for a beautiful production of The Diary of Anne Frank in the fall of 1995. During the subsequent three seasons at Chemainus he performed in Joytide (1996), The Odd Couple (1997), directed Mass Appeal (1998) and adapted Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1998) – Both Western Canada Theatre and the Chemainus Theatre Festival will stage his adaptation of A Christmas Carol in November of 2010.
He was appointed Artistic Director for the Chemainus Theatre in May of 1998 and quickly distinguished himself as an Artistic Director of substantial vision and a commitment to professional artists of all levels – emerging and established. During his ten seasons in Chemainus he brought inspired artistic vision to fifty-six Mainstage and twenty-three KidzPlay (Theatre for Young Audiences) productions, and led the company in a maturation process that has continued to this day. His work ethic was characterized by a gentle, yet fierce determination to find the truth and meaning in each moment and elicit that truth for the greatest impact of his audience and the actors, directors and designers. If there is one word that defines Jeremy – it is grace. And it was through grace that he created an atmosphere of possibility and trust among his colleagues, and, in doing so, guarded the spirit of creation in each work.
Jeremy had a great passion for classic literature and scripts, and regarded his direction of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Heiress, and The Miracle Worker, along with his adaptation of A Doll’s House, as personal triumphs. These works stand as truly defining works for the Chemainus Theatre Festival.
Jeremy spent much of his time as Artistic Director mentoring emerging actors and directors and developing their careers. He offered Nicola Cavendish, one of Canada’s leading stage actors, one of her first professional directing opportunity in 2001. He later engaged Sarah Rodgers, now a well established director, to develop her story telling techniques in A Child’s Christmas in Wales. He also mentored dozens of emerging designers and technicians who now work across Canada at companies like the Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, The Citadel and Bard on the Beach. Many have since returned to the Chemainus Theatre Festival stage as seasoned professionals.
While in Chemainus, Jeremy also had a strong impact on the British Columbia theatre community. He directed stunning productions of Agnes of God and A Man for all Seasons at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver - both plays received multiple Jessie Richardson Award nominations and awards due to his direction. Equally adept as an actor, he performed on stage for Bard on the Beach, Carousel Theatre and won a Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Hally in Master Harold and the Boys at Pacific Theatre in 2000.
Western Canada Theatre’s board appointed Jeremy as successor to Lifetime Artistic Producer, David Ross, in June 2008. He officially assumed the role of artistic director on July 1, 2009. The intervening year was to be a year of transition where Jeremy could complete his duties at Chemainus, allowing for a smooth transition for both companies. However, David Ross’s battle with cancer dramatically affected his health, rendering him unable to continue his portion of the transition plan. Jeremy, therefore, carried much of the artistic decision-making responsibilities for both companies. He directed the artistic and box office hit, Mesa, in January, a co-production between Western Canada Theatre and the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. He planned the 2009-2010 Season, including notable productions of No Exit, Skydive, and My Fair Lady. Also in this season, Sexy Laundry and The Foursome by Canadian playwrights Michele Riml and Norm Foster respectively, totally enthralled audiences resulting in ticket sales that doubled revenue targets. Tragically, Jeremy was diagnosed with cancer himself 6 weeks after he began his tenure and was absent for most of this highly successful season which has helped to redefine Western Canada Theatre.
A universally respected performer, director and producer, the entire Canadian Theatre community will mourn his loss. He will be remembered as a loving husband to Anita Wittenberg and doting father to Emma and Sebastian. In the challenging world of theatre, with demanding deadlines and endless hours, this is no small feat. Thus, as well as being remembered as an artist who commanded respect, he was above all else, a fine, fine human being. Even in his illness, his first concern was the well-being of everyone around him, including his family, his friends and these two companies which will bear testimony to his vision and artistry for years to come.
Jeremy passed away quietly in the company of his parents, his wife and his children in Kamloops. A memorial service is planned for Monday, September 20th, at 2:00 pm at 10th Avenue Alliance Church in Vancouver (corner of 10th and Ontario). If desired, memorial gifts for their children's Education Fund may be directed to Anita Wittenberg care of Chemainus Theatre Festival, Bag #1000 Chemainus BC VOR1K0. His friend Rev. Jyothi's Reddi's orphanage in India, Home for Children, was close to Jeremy's heart: as per Jeremy's wishes, a portion of memorial funds may be thus designated in the memo line on the cheque.