Sad news in Edmonton theatre: Judy Unwin, a theatre pioneer with the public service gene, is gone

Judy Unwin and actor Jason Hardwick. Photo by Jana Hove.

By Liz Nicholls,

At the start of the new year, there’s very sad news today in Edmonton theatre. 

With the untimely death, at 76, of Judy Unwin, we’ve lost a bona fide arts pioneer, a public-spirited artist who played many roles in the proliferation of live theatre in this theatre town — as an actor, a director, an artistic director, an administrator, a board member, a fund-raiser and donor, a theatre lover and lobbyist. She was even a Fringe theatre reviewer for multiple summers.  Her contributions are many and varied — she had the public service volunteer gene — and extend beyond the stage door out into the community at large. 

From a notable Edmonton theatre family (her father Jack Unwin was an influential director), Judy grew up in the arts. She figures prominently in the early history of civic kids theatre here, and of Walterdale, our venerable community theatre. In her teens she was the ringleted ingenue of the very first Walterdale Klondike melodrama in 1965 and many thereafter, then directed them, then served on the board, then became the artistic director.

When she directed the first Edmonton production of Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God at Walterdale, she learned ASL, and retained connections to the Deaf community all her life.  She was on the board of the Varscona Theatre as it became a theatre consortium. From the start she played a big and practical part in arranging the Sterling Awards. She was someone who stepped up.

Judy was opinionated, stubborn, outspoken, and generous. She was a friend of mine. A more detailed 12thnight appreciation will follow soon. 

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