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At one point, acclaimed Calgary playwright Sharon Pollock's business cards prominently featured the image of a dragon.
What did that symbolize? If you ask her eldest daughter, Jennifer, dragons have tough, scaly exteriors with hidden parts you might not ever get to know.
But in some depictions, dragons are also friendly and loyal, and always otherworldly. And, of course, dragons can fly.
Pollock, who was the former artistic director of Theatre Calgary and who twice won the Governor General Award for Drama, died on April 22. She was 85.
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A ferocious reader — she used to read one or two books a day, Jennifer said — Pollock was fascinated by murder mysteries and many of her plays were of the genre.
Among her most famous was Blood Relations, based on the story of Lizzie Borden, for which she took home her first Governor General Award.
Theatre Calgary called Pollock a "giant" and a "fierce, bold and groundbreaking artist" whose work helped shape the Canadian landscape.
"Sharon will have a lasting impression on theatre in general. Specifically, everything that she stood for as an artist, as a woman, as a feminist, and as a human being comes through in her work," said Stafford Arima, artistic director of Theatre Calgary. "Her voice will resonate for generations to come."
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A love for people and animals
Kim Rich-Kuny said she first met Pollock when she was running the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton in 1977. As a shy, quiet child, Rich-Kuny was awestruck when she was brought to the family home with Pollock's son.
The house was filled with people — actors, directors, producers, playwrights, cats, dogs and birds. But Pollock, seeing Rich-Kuny's trepidation, sat down and talked with the 17-year-old and made her feel like she mattered.
"She was surrounded by people and having huge conversations," Rich-Kuny said. "And I come in and she just drops everything.
"She'll look you in the eye, and she's truly, truly interested in what you have to say."
The house was certainly full of animals. Jennifer said her mom would rescue cats, and some nontraditional pets eventually found their way to live in the family home.
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"There was a squirrel that lived in the house for some time. My mom had a rat," she said. "I mean, the rat stories are very famous."
As Jennifer tells it, Pollock was doing a play in Nova Scotia. For some reason, her mother was given a rat, whom she promptly named Ratty.
At the end of the production, Pollock would bring the rat with her to the theatre and put it inside her blouse. As the legend goes, actors were terrified to see a rat tail or a rat head occasionally flick out of Pollock's clothing.
Eventually, after much pleading from the cast, Pollock agreed not to bring the rat to production any longer.
Jamie Dunsdon, artistic director with Verb Theatre, very nervously called Pollock in 2010 to ask her if she would consider acting in a full-length, one-woman musical called Marg Szkaluba (Pissy's Wife).
At 74, Pollock said yes immediately. On opening night, she had the play word perfect — but ran into a glitch in the middle of a monologue in act one.
"She accidentally jumped to a monologue in act two, because the line she was supposed to say was very similar to the one in act two," she said. "She realized immediately what she had done — that she had skipped more than half the play."
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Instead of going back to act one and correcting the mistake, she went through the rest of the play and pieced in the entire show in bits and pieces, putting the play back together in a different order.
"By the end of it, and I don't think the audience had a clue what had happened, she had done the entire show in a different order, and the story made sense, and it was still moving and meaningful," she said. "It was like magic.
"It speaks to her mastery of the craft, and how audiences experience stories on stage live. And I'll never forget it."
A few months ago, Jennifer and her sisters were gathered around their mother, concerned about doing what she wanted at the end.
Over a couple weeks, Pollock kept repeating her final wish: she said she just wanted to go off into the woods and die.
"'Mom, I want to help you, but this doesn't seem like a plan that I can get behind,'" Jennifer told her mom at the time, crying.
Her sisters left to go into the kitchen, leaving Jennifer with her mom. The mood was tense. After about a minute, Pollock rolled her eyes and spoke up.
"It's a metaphor," Pollock said. Jennifer burst out laughing. It was a moment representative of her mother's "uncommon brilliance," Jennifer said.
One of the last things Jennifer remembers talking to Pollock about was being a good mother. She told her that being a good mom means kids adopt your values — and loving animals is a value shared by each of her children and grandchildren.
Over the last couple months of her life, Pollock had just one dog — a puppy named Putty, who has a valve defect in his heart.
It was expected that Putty would only live a year. But Putty was given heart medication and saw a specialist. It became impossible to separate the dog from Pollock.
When Pollock died, Putty became extremely anxious. Putty was brought to Pollock's bedside and was lifted onto the bed so he could lick her face. Then, he sat on the bottom of the bed.
And when they took him down from the bed, he wasn't anxious anymore.
'Blood Quantum,' 'Schitt's Creek' top Canadian Screen Award nominations .
TORONTO — This year's leading Canadian Screen Awards nominees are a film featuring the walking dead and several series fans wish they could revive. The zombie feature "Blood Quantum" is up for a leading 10 film awards at the awards show in May, while the now-defunct global smash "Schitt's Creek" is tops on the TV side with 21 nominations for its sixth and final season. Montreal-based Jeff Barnaby wrote and directed "Blood Quantum," which isThe zombie feature "Blood Quantum" is up for a leading 10 film awards at the awards show in May, while the now-defunct global smash "Schitt's Creek" is tops on the TV side with 21 nominations for its sixth and final season.