Joy Coghill

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Joy Coghill, O.C. (born May 13, 1926 in Findlater, Saskatchewan, died January 20, 2017)[1] was a veteran actor, teacher, director, and playwright.


Joy Coghill was born on May 13th, 1926 to Reverend George Coghill Dorothy Pollard Coghill. The family moved to Scotland where Joy’s father died in the first year of World War II, in 1939. Joy and her mother then returned to Canada and moved to Vancouver. In 1944, Joy started an education at the University of British Columbia where she studied social work. Her first appearance on the stage was at age 15 in a production of Bunty Pulls the Strings at the Vancouver Little Theatre in 1941.

She applied to the Goodman Theatre at the Art Institute of Chicago where she met her husband, John Thorne, who was studying to be a television producer at Northwestern University, just outside Chicago. In 1953 she broke new and innovative ground by founding the first Canadian professional theatre for children, Holiday Theatre, and then married John in 1955. In 1967, Holiday Theatre became associated with the Vancouver Playhouse when she became its first female artistic director. There, she commissioned such legendary plays as George Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and Grass and Wild Strawberries. She also went on to be the head of the English Acting Section at Canada's National Theatre School. During this time, Joy pursued acting full time and stared in various film and television projects where she received numerous awards. In 1987, she wrote and produced Song of This Place based on the life of Emily Carr. In 1994 she founded Western Gold, the first Canadian professional theatre for seniors. From this came the Alzheimer Project in 1998, one of the productions of Western Gold Theatre.

After retiring, she collaborated with Jane Heyman to create the Performing Arts Lodge: a building to house and support aging people in the performing arts. The Performing Arts Lodge was founded in 2001 and after some fundraising and planning, they opened their doors in May of 2006. Among its first residents were Joy Coghill and Jack Thorne. [2]


  • Song of This Place (2003)


  • 2016 UBCP/ACTRA Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award.
  • 2015 City of Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • 2010 The Gemini Humanitarian Award for 2010. This award is presented to an individual for their exceptional contributions and commitments to community and public service outside the Canadian television industry.
  • 2005 Vancouver Arts Awards, Performing Arts Category.
  • 2005 Union of British Columbia Performers John Juliani Award of Excellence.
  • 2002 Governor General's Performing Arts Award in Drama.
  • 2000 Best National News Commentary (radio) Radio Television News Directors Association for Best Regional News Commentary (radio) R.T.N.D.A.
  • 1999 Significant artistic achievement "Jessie" award to Western Gold Theatre for a "unique mandate and contribution to theatre community".
  • 1996 The Herbert Whittaker Critic's Association Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian Theatre.
  • 1995 Canadian Actors' Equity Association Life Membership for service to theatre.
  • 1991 Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for outstanding performance by an actress for The Road to Mecca with the Arts Club Theatre.
  • 1991 Province People's Choice Award, outstanding performance by an actor for The Road To Mecca.
  • 1990 The Gascon-Thomas Award from the National Theatre School.
  • 1990 Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance Award (Jessie) Community Recognition Award for "Homework and Curtains" (TouchstoneTheatre).
  • 1989 Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance Award (Jessie), for Lifetime of Service.
  • 1986 The Sam Payne Award, ACTRA
  • 1977 Silver Jubilee Medal, celebrating Queen Elizabeth's 25-year reign. Given for contributions to Canada.
  • 1967 Canada Centennial Medal
  • 1963 Canadian Drama Award
  • 196l Dominion Drama Festival Acting Award
  • 1942 Best Actress Award in the B.C. Drama Festival 2016 UBCP/ACTRA Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award. [3]