In Memoriam: Artistic Director Simon Joynes

Update:

Celebration of life for Simon Joynes, Sunday February 25th from 2-5pm, Lighthouse Festival Theatre, Port Dover
There will be something to celebrate Simon at Port Stanley Festival Theatre as well, at a later date.

 

It is with heavy hearts that we announce Simon Joynes, who has been a champion of creating Canadian Theatre, has passed peacefully at his home with his family at his side.

 

Simon has been a friend to the community of Port Stanley for over 18 years, serving as the Port Stanley Festival Theatre’s Artistic Director. Aside from his love for theatre, Simon had a passion for sailing. So, it only seemed fitting that the bulk of his professional career be here in Port Stanley. His wonderful sense of humour left our stomachs in knots with all the great laughter we shared in the office.

 

Simon was a snappy dresser, he loved to wear his plaids. He had a plaid for every occasion. His favourite musical? Forever Plaid. If plaid were a flavour of cheese, we are sure he would eat it. Yes, he also loved cheese. We don’t think there was a cheese he didn’t like. What goes well with cheese? Scotch, of course. Nothing beats a neat glass of scotch while reading plays at home with his wife and daughter and their two wonderful dogs, Ruby and Sammy. Whenever Simon brought either of them to the office, you knew you weren’t getting much done. There were always lots of treats, and belly rubs and walks along the harbour.

 

As an artist, he was what you would call in the industry, a “Triple Threat”, but he was much more than that. He was a prolific playwright, an exceptional director, and a superb actor and could carry a tune with enough Scotch in his system. He played an instrumental role in mentoring many Canadian playwrights, directors, and actors throughout his career. Simon had a passion for sharing his love for theatre with many different people in the theatre industry. Of the many artists that have come through our doors and been mentored by Simon, many have become successful in their area of expertise. The Port Stanley Festival Theatre has been and continues to be a major stepping stone for artists, thanks to Simon.

 

We ask that you raise a glass of scotch to the man who gave so much to our community, and to the Port Stanley Festival Theatre.
“May the seas lie smooth before you. May a gentle breeze forever fill your sails. May sunshine warm your face, and kindness warm your soul. And, until we meet again, may God bless you and keep you safe.”

 

-PSFT

Kind words about Simon from the theatre community…
I met Simon many many years ago, but if truth be told I can’t actually remember our first “official ” face to face moment. My first clear recognition was for a get together at Simon’s house on Ireland road for the cast of SKIN FLICK, which his spouse Dan was stage managing at Lighthouse Festival Theatre. We hit it off right away: I was struck by his sharp sense of humour, his love for good red wine, and his directness. 

He then hired me as an actor in 2010 for KNICKERS here at Port Stanley. We worked really well together; I loved his directing style: less talk more “do” { which is my preference}. I ended up choreographing the lingerie fashion show at the end of the play, and I guess that was our first collaboration as a “team”. He then hired me again the next summer for BOEING BOEING, that was the summer he also asked me if I had thought about directing, and yes, I had. So, he gave me that opportunity the next summer with SEXY LAUNDRY, I didn’t screw it up, so he generously gave me more shows to direct in the following years.

Simon trusted me but was always available for questions about anything I might be having problems with. He was a fantastic mentor, and we also became good friends. That first directing gig led to many more jobs across the country at many different theatres, I never would have had those chances if Simon had been the first AD to ” roll the dice” on me.

After a few years he asked whether or not I would like to shadow him as AD and eventually become Associate AD, I was excited and scared, but Simon assured me I was ready and that I was his first choice. That might be one of the biggest compliments I have ever received in my life, to have gained Simon’s trust and respect was/is a highlight to this date. 

We worked really well as a team. I was surprised with the trust and freedom he gave me on casting, choosing possible plays for the season, dramaturgical work, and all the day to day stuff. Don’t get me wrong he could be a task master and had no issues telling me when I was wrong, but I wanted that, I needed to learn and learn from the best I did. There isn’t enough space to describe how happy and honoured I was to be Simon’s 2nd in command, going forward it will always be Simon’s voice I hear when I am in a theatre or in rehearsal. 

-Liz Gilroy, Associate Artistic Director PSFT

 

Simon Joynes was not only one of the best directors I’ve worked with, I can also say – unreservedly – that he was my favourite. He always pushed me to do better, because he knew that’s what I wanted. To be better. 

Sometimes he was gentle, and sometimes he was… less gentle. But the goal was always the same: To serve the play, touch the audience, and be… better. I’m proud to say that Simon wrote two roles for me, one in a two-handed play for the two of us to do. We never got to do it together, sadly, but he did direct me in a production of his “Dump Guys” in Port Stanley. I love his writing. It has heart, and the unmistakable Joynes wit.

When I wrote my first play, “Our House” around six years ago, I sent it to him to have a read. The warmth, the encouragement, the support and mentorship he showed me on our first phone call about that play was overwhelming. That relationship, of guidance and love will last long after our collaboration ends. I hear his voice now. “That’s a bit long, Mur. What are you trying to say, Mur? I love it, Mur, but it can be better.” He was my friend of 32 years. I love him, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be better. For Simon.

-Murray Furrow, Actor/Playwright

 

I first met Simon when I volunteered at a retail store located in the theatre building. Let’s say that first meeting didn’t go well…I had propped open the building door to attract customers and it was letting the A/C escape…it was like the principal coming to your house!

Fast forward: I’m on the board and get to learn more about Simon: his work ethic, commitment to his staff, focus, and organizational skills. He has an eye for talent and the ability to mentor people.  I became a big fan.

For several years, Simon and other volunteers would hand out Hot Chocolate at the Dickens Day parade.  Inevitably someone would complain that we weren’t filling the cups full enough, Simon would look them in the eye and say “it’s free”, it always made me laugh and I appreciated it because I was too chicken to say that!

-Wendy Cowie, PSFT Board Chair

When Simon was named artistic director of Port Stanley Festival Theatre where I had designed sets already for several years, I knew of him. But I had no idea how much he would come to be such a part of my life as a theatre creator! I’m a better artist for Simon and his guidance. And I know others will say same.

Simon was smart. Witty. And grounded. He could direct intellectually. But he also knew how to hang a door.

He loved sailing, so I will say he was a skipper. A captain. They know their ships.

And to bring PSFT to Equity status, and through a building rebuild, into new Canadian play development, and through COVID!

He was effacing. I’m sure he’d grimace at all above.

But his legacy is great.

Eric Bunnell, Set Designer

Working with Simon was always a privilege, and a delightful experience.

He challenged me, had a fun sense of humour and he entertained us all with oodles of theatrical anecdotes. Simon was a great, creative team leader; encouraging and supportive, yet demanding of each person’s best work.

After decades of designing lights for Simon’s shows; creating and collaborating with him; all that matters is that I called him a friend and will miss him greatly, sitting four seats over, in the darkness of dress rehearsals. That empty seat will be really difficult to sit beside this summer. 

Karen Crichton, Lighting Designer

Simon played a significant role in my career and I’m very grateful for that.

Not only in his faith of me as a performer but also, and more significantly as a writer.  

The opportunities he provided through the Playwrights Festival and the many conversations we had around process and story shaped my writing. His knowledge, feedback and guidance were invaluable. Of course his friendship was the real gift.

His time, honesty, faith and care. 

Jamie Williams, Performer/Playwright/Director/Artistic Associate