Kathryn Shaw, the long-serving artistic director of Langara College's Studio 58, will be retiring at the end of 2020.
Shaw, who has led the celebrated Theatre Arts at Studio 58 program for 35 years, served there as an instructor for 11 years before assuming the artistic director position in 1985.
In an October 6 release, Langara College announced Shaw's retirement and revealed that her successor as artistic director will be Courtenay Dobbie, starting in January 2021. Dobbie has instructed in the Studio 58 program since 2017.
"The time has come for me to move on in my life and to allow Studio 58 to change and grow under new leadership," Shaw said in the release. "I will miss working with my colleagues, the students, and all those who have contributed to the success of Studio 58 over the years. I feel privileged to have had one of the best jobs I could imagine."
Studio 58's professional theatre training program covers all aspects of both acting and production, qualifying its select students for employment in artistic and technical positions in theatres across the country.
In a college biographical article posted on its website in 2013, Shaw wrote: "“Studio 58 is a hotbed of creativity, imagination, and spirit, from the classroom work to the incredible productions we produce in our intimate theatre. Our program makes a huge contribution to the artistic community in Vancouver and across Canada, where our graduates work not only in theatre but in film, television, commercials, voice-overs, video games, and related arts. I am so proud to be a part of this extraordinary training institution.”
The Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance awarded Shaw its Career Achievement Award in 2010, and she also won the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) bronze award for excellence in teaching that same year.
Roy Surette, who was a student of Shaw's in 1978 and now serves as artistic director of Vancouver's Touchstone Theatre, had this to say of Shaw in a college release at the time of her ACCC win: "Her sense of observation and astute ability to dissect our work was astounding. Kathryn has maintained the highest standards and yet she has embraced the ever-changing practices that keeps the theatre vibrant, current, and timely. A standing ovation is definitely in order."
Shaw, who has also directed performances for Vancouver's famed Shakespeare festival, Bard on the Beach, won election to the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005 and received the Sam Payne Award from UBCP/ACTRA (Union of British Columbia Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists) in 1996 for her “humanity, integrity, and the encouragement of new talent”. She has also won Jessie Richardson awards for directing and best production.
Successor Courtenay Dobbie, who is a graduate of Studio 58, is also the former artistic director of Caravan farm Theatre, a professional outdoor theatre company based in Armstrong, B.C.
"It is with great honour that I take on the role of artistic director at Studio 58," Dobbie said in the October 6 release. "I'd like to thank the incomparable Kathryn Shaw for her incredible commitment to fostering young talent for the past 46 years, her belief in me as an actor, teacher, and leader, and her astounding dedication to Studio 58 and all that she has shaped it to be."
Dobbie went on to address the timely challenges facing the program. "We face challenging times in the theatre world. It is my goal to work with our students, staff, and professional colleagues in the global movement to find greater equity in our industry, while innovating in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Studio 58 graduate will remain the same: a highly skilled and creative professional responding to their world by making and participating in dynamic and inspired art."
In her 2013 Langara bio, Shaw had this to say of her young charges: “My students inspire me on a daily basis. Their talent, courage, optimism, and passion constantly remind me of why I chose theatre for my profession in the first place.
"I, along with my dedicated colleagues—both staff and faculty—have built a program that offers the very best theatre education for our students. They grow not only as artists and theatre professionals but also as human beings. It is a joy to follow their successful careers in the arts and their contributions to Canadian society as individuals."