Former York theatre professor dies at 86

Former York theatre instructor Marion André, a Holocaust survivor who was the uncompromising founding artistic director of the Saidye Bronfman Theatre Centre in Montreal, died May 9 in Toronto following a lengthy battle with Lewy Body dementia, reported The Gazette (Montreal) May 12. He was 86.  “He was a brilliant man, serious in his work and in his life,” said Marian Gold, who succeeded him as the theatre’s artistic director and who is writing a history of the Saidye Bronfman centre.

Marian Andrzej Czerniecki was born in Le Havre, France, on Jan. 12, 1920, where his Polish-born, Jewish parents were studying pharmacy. André grew up in Lvov, Poland, and briefly studied law before enrolling in theatre arts at the State Academy. With the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, the family was scattered, and he lost his father and sister in the Holocaust. André escaped arrest by living as a Christian in Warsaw, where he was active in the Polish underground. He was caught, spent time as a prisoner of war, escaped, and made it to England. There, he learned through the Red Cross that his mother had survived.

After the war, he worked in The Hague as cultural attaché to the Polish embassy. In 1957, he and his mother emigrated to Montreal, where he changed his name to André. In 1967, he was named the Saidye Bronfman Theatre’s first artistic director. Always intense, André quit the job five years later following a celebrated row with the centre’s board of directors over his production of Robert Shaw’s provocative play The Man in the Glass Booth.

Based on the trial of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann, the production upset Holocaust survivors in Montreal. Bowing to public pressure, the board cancelled the show the day it was scheduled to open. Andre quit. “I have nothing but deep feelings of compassion for the victims of Nazi oppression. I know their pain,” he said at the time, “But I also know, no one has an exclusive monopoly on suffering.  Theatre must not fear controversy, but consider it a necessary ingredient of its existence. I have a profound feeling of revulsion when intimidation is used, or when any group goes to extremes to have its own views prevail.”

Uneasy about rising Quebec nationalism and the political climate in Montreal, André moved to Toronto in 1972 to teach at York University. In 1973, he founded Theatre Plus at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre, where for the next 13 years he mounted 40 productions.

André is survived by his third wife, Ina, a dancer, who he married in 1970, and by an extended family that includes four children. There will be no funeral but a memorial bench will be placed on the banks of the Avon River in Stratford, Ont.

She rides winning combo

Winnipeg-born jockey and York alumna Chantal Sutherland (BA ‘99) is all over the news stands these days. But it’s her photogenic good looks rather than her riding ability that is attracting most of the attention, reported the Winnipeg Free Press May 12. The 30-year-old rider and part-time model was the subject of a four-page spread in the April edition of Vogue magazine. It included a shot of her riding a horse at Florida’s Gulfstream Park wearing nothing but her boots and underwear. She was also recently featured in People magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful People issue, right alongside the likes of actresses Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman. The one-page feature included a provocative photo of Sutherland clad in riding pants and a sports bra, pulling on her boots. She is currently riding at Belmont Park just outside New York City, but is best known on this side of the border as a two-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top apprentice jockey.

Sutherland won Sovereign Awards in 2001 and 2002 while riding at Woodbine, but elected shortly afterward to move her tack to New York, in part because of rampant male chauvinism – and an assault – she said she endured in the Toronto track’s jockey’s room. Her difficulties with her male counterparts at Woodbine were the subject of a story in the New York Times last year, but she first spoke of them publicly in a major profile in the Free Press in December 2002. “It was sexual harassment, plain and simple,” Sutherland said. “I’d love to tell the whole world what it’s like to be a woman in racing, but I’ve got to work with these guys again next year.”

York professor’s film on same-sex marriage premiers this week

The Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival presents the world premiere of Nancy Nicol‘s The End Of Second Class on May 20, 12:15pm at the Royal Ontario Museum, reported the Toronto Sun May 12. The documentary traces the debate on same sex marriage in Canada up to the passage of equal marriage legislation on July 20, 2005. The story is told from the perspective of three couples from BC, Ontario and Quebec and the lawyers and activists who sought to uphold their rights under the Charter of Rights. Nicol is a professor in York’s Department of Visual Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Gapka in the City Idol running

Susan Gapka, a student in York’s Faculty of Arts and a member of York’s Senate, has made the first cut in the City Idol competition, reported contest sponsor Xtra, May 11. The City Idol competition – where audience members eliminate wannabe city election candidates, leaving a surviving contestant who wins an election campaign run by the City Idol team – has made its first cut, whittling 82 aspiring politicians down to 46.

Lessons from the MBA trenches

I am a worrier, wrote Richard Bloom in his latest column on life as an MBA student at York’s Schulich School of Business in The Globe and Mail May 12. And last summer, after I quit my job at the Globe to pursue my MBA, I worried about lots of things, including the possible impact of the move on my career. But I needn’t have worried. For while the move has indeed affected everything from my aspirations to my marketable skills, the effects have all been positive. Now that Year One of my MBA program is over, I can reflect on the myriad career-related lessons that have come from my studies in and out of the classroom.

One of Bloom’s lessons was: Managers make decisions, analysts sit and analyze. That’s what one professor, a part-time teacher and full-time executive, said during a lecture on how to tackle case studies. “Make an informed decision and move on,” he said, adding that managers often don’t have time to sit back for long and weigh all the pros and cons of each alternative. If you are well-prepared and have thorough industry knowledge, you’ll likely be able to successfully handle the outcome, positive or negative, of any decision, he added.

Listen to your gut, Bloom concluded. One year down, one to go. And my instinct tells me that my gut will continue to serve me well for years to come. No worries.

On air

  • Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, spoke about Canada’s proposed drug plan on Windsor’s CKLW radio May 11.
  • Bernie Wolf, professor of economics in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about international investing and the Indian Auto Sector Roundtable, on ROB-TV, May 9.