Playwright befriended writers and students

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By Kevin Ritchie

Carol Bolt was in the midst of reviving a classic.

Last March, when Stephanie Jones told Bolt that Essential Players, her Toronto-based theatre company, was interested in reproducing One Night Stand, Bolt’s 1977 hit play about sexual politics, the pioneering playwright instantly took to the idea.

As they worked together in Victoria, B.C., the bond between them grew. The two friends spent one of their few days off walking along the coast.

“We went to look for whales but we never found any,” Jones said. “But we found the ocean. We just sat on a bench and talked — a younger woman and an older woman sitting, talking about life.”

Although much of the play had to be reworked when Bolt took ill and was forced to return to Toronto, friends say Carol Bolt will be remembered for her time spent working with, teaching and caring for young writers.

Carol Bolt, playwright and part-time Ryerson instructor, died Nov. 28 of liver cancer. She was 59.

She leaves behind her husband, actor David Bolt, and her son, Alexander.

She also leaves behind a legacy of humorous, politically minded plays, including Red Emma, about American feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman, and Famous, a story about the media inspired by the Paul Bernardo murder trials.

“They told me I couldn’t write about it so I went home and wrote about it,” Bolt told fellow playwright Paul Ledoux of her inspiration for the play.

Although she could get stubborn and fiery when arguing politics, Ledoux said she never lost her sense of humour. He said Bolt was the kind of person who made a point of meeting everyone in the room.

“She would take in [young playwrights], take them out for dinner,” said Ken Gass, artistic director at the Factory Theatre. “She never lost sight of what it was like to be just starting out.”

Bolt became a household name in the theatre community in the mid-1970s after receiving critical acclaim for her Canadian plays at a time when American and British shows were all the rage.

Her mainstream success led to a lucrative spell in which she wrote for children’s television and radio shows such as Fraggle Rock and The Edison Twins.

Bolt also wrote children’s plays for the Young People’s Theatre, taught at the National Theatre School in Montreal and the continuing education program at Ryerson.

“I inherited Carol,” said Ann Ireland, an instructor who has coordinated Ryerson’s writing courses for the past four years.

Ireland said she often heard from students in Bolt’s playwriting class that their teacher was generous with her time and knowledge.

Bolt was working on a play about the Canadian literary scene, The Lives of Poets, at the time of her death. Although it will remain unfinished, the revamped version of One Night Stand opens March 8 at the Theatre Passe Muraille at 16 Ryerson Ave. in Toronto.

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