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"RUB" 2003 Obituary


RUBIN o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-11 published
Creator of Savage God
Theatre director was a Canadian nationalist, a fan of the avant garde and a champion of playwright George Ryga. He was also seen as a kook, a dilettante and a street fighter
By Tom HAWTHORN Special to The Globe and Mail Saturday, October 11, 2003 - Page F9
John JULIANI was a provocateur in life as on stage. A man passionate about the possibilities of theatre, he roused reverence in some, antipathy in others.
His most infamous act was to challenge the Stratford Festival's newly hired artistic director to a duel. Robin PHILLIPS's offence was that he is British when Mr. JULIANI and others were certain a land as grand as Canada was capable of producing a director for its Shakespearean theatre.
What he called a "romantic gesture with tongue in cheek" earned cheers from Canadian theatre directors and sneers from much of the theatre establishment.
Mr. JULIANI, who has died at the age of 63, was an unabashed Canadian nationalist, a dedicated fan of the avant garde, an ardent defender of the right of actors to a decent living, a champion of playwright George Ryga and a tireless figure so commanding as to develop an intense loyalty among acolytes.
At the same time, he was seen as a kook, a dilettante and a street fighter. One critic called him "the Tiger Williams of Canadian theatre," his pugnacious approach earning him comparison to a notorious hockey goon. In his defence, Mr. JULIANI explained that he was merely a "true believer" with opinions on controversial subjects.
Mr. JULIANI's credits were long and varied, including spontaneous Sixties street happenings such as the staging of his own wedding as a theatrical performance and brief appearances on such 1990s television dramas as The X-Files.
From 1982 until 1997, Mr. JULIANI was executive producer of radio drama for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio in Vancouver. He helped to bring to air many celebrated productions, including the brilliant and provocative Dim Sum Diaries by playwright Mark LEIREN- YOUNG.
Mr. JULIANI also possessed a head-turning beauty, with a profile as striking as a Roman bust. Radio host Bill RICHARDSON commented on his handsomeness at a raucous memorial after his death, calling him a "hunka hunka burnin' love." Some said he had the looks and bearing of a Shakespearean king.
John Charles JULIANI was born in Montreal on March 24, 1940. Raised in a working-class neighbourhood, he attended Loyola College and was an early graduate from the fledgling National Theatre School.
He spent two seasons as an actor at Stratford before being hired as a theatre teacher at Simon Fraser University in 1966. The new university atop Burnaby Mountain east of Vancouver was a hotbed of radicalism in politics and the arts. Mr. JULIANI bristled at an imposed curriculum and so infuriated the administration that he was banned from the campus in 1969.
Mr. JULIANI was heavily influenced by the writing of Antonin Artaud, a Surrealist who championed a theatre based on the imagination. He long sought to erase the barrier between scripted text and sensory impression, between performer and audience, to mixed success.
After moving to the West Coast, Mr. JULIANI launched a series of experiments in theatre. He credited these productions to Savage God, which was less a troupe in the traditional sense than a title granted to any performance involving Mr. JULIANI. The name came from William Butler Yeats's awestruck reaction to Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi: "After us, the Savage God?"
Savage God defied explanation, though many tried and even Mr. JULIANI offered suggestions. Savage God was "an anthology of question marks," he once said. (It was, after all, the 1960s.) "Savage God is simply the Imagination," he told the Vancouver Sun, "insatiable, unrelenting, fiercely energetic, wary of categorization, fond of contradiction and inveterately iconoclastic."
In January, 1970, Mr. JULIANI married dancer Donna WONG, a ceremony conducted as a Savage God performance at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He repeated the process at the christening of his son. Ms. WONG- JULIANI would be his domestic and drama partner for more than three decades.
In 1971, the streets of Vancouver were the scene of several spontaneous and sometimes incomprehensible -- performances under the aegis of PACET ("pilot alternative complement to existing theatre.") The $18,000 project, funded by the federal government, incorporated Gestalt therapy sessions in street performances.
Theatrical events took place willy-nilly across the city, including malls, the airport, the library and Stanley Park. Admission was not charged, nor did all spectators appreciate their role as audience to avant-garde performance. A scene in which bicyclists wearing gas masks pedalled along city streets left many scratching their heads in puzzlement.
In 1974, Mr. JULIANI moved to Toronto to set up a graduate theatre-studies program at York University.
He called the program PEAK (" Performance, Example, Animation, Katharsis") and perhaps should have found an acronym for PEEK, as the instructor and his class stripped naked to protest against a lack of classroom space.
The challenge to the new Stratford artistic director in 1974 was written on a piece of parchment and delivered in London by Don RUBIN, a York colleague. Alas, Mr. RUBIN could not find a proper gauntlet and wound up ceremoniously striking Mr. PHILLIPS with a red rubber glove, an absurd note to a theatrical protest.
In 1978, Mr. JULIANI took the stage in a Toronto production of Children of Night, portraying Janusz Korczak, a doctor and teacher who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto. The critics were appalled.
Gina MALLET of the Toronto Star said Mr. JULIANI's performance sullied Dr. Korczak's memory. Jay SCOTT of The Globe and Mail, noting "the dreadfulness" of Mr. JULIANI's acting, said the production robbed the dead of their dignity.
From the stage, Mr. JULIANI challenged the Star's critic to a public debate on the aesthetics of theatre. He also wrote a letter to the editor, noting that Holocaust survivors in the audience had wholeheartedly embraced the production.
Mr. JULIANI wound up in Edmonton, where he continued to condemn the "exorbitance, elitism and museum theatre" of the establishment.
In 1982, he directed and co-wrote Latitude 55°, a feature film with just two characters -- a slick woman from the city and a Polish potato farmer -- set in a snowbound cabin. "It is filled with a passionate conviction that evaporates in pretentious pronouncements," The Globe's Carole CORBEIL wrote, "filled with truthful moments that evaporate in the desire to use every narcissistic trick in the book."
In a 1983 book examining the alternative theatre movement in Canada, author Renate USMIANI devoted most of a chapter to Mr. JULIANI, a decision that got her a scathing rebuke from a reviewer who considered him worthy of little more than a footnote.
"His works are curiosities; at best, they are worthy experiments in Artaudian theory," Boyd NEIL wrote in a Globe review. "But they are neither popular... nor influential."
Mr. JULIANI's years at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio in Vancouver were both productive and successful. Among the many projects he directed was a three-part adaptation of Margaret Laurence's The Diviners; King Lear, starring John COLICOS; a 13-part series titled, Disaster! Acts of God or Acts of Man?" and, famously, Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, with Leonard GEORGE portraying a role once assumed on stage by his late father, Chief Dan GEORGE. The surprise selection of Mr. GEORGE was typical of Mr. JULIANI's often brilliant casting.
Mr. JULIANI directed a 1989 production of The Glass Menagerie at the Vancouver Playhouse with Jennifer Phipps and Morris Panych. Globe reviewer Liam LACEY praised a production that "opens up the play like an old treasure chest, and lets in some fresh air without rearranging or disturbing the work's original grandeurs and caprices."
Four years later, Mr. JULIANI was directing a production of the mystery thriller Sleepwalker when actor Peter HAWORTH took sick shortly before opening night. The director suddenly found himself as the male lead. "Not even the most colossal egotist would want to do this," he said.
Dim Sum Diaries, a series of monologues written by Mr. LEIREN- YOUNG, received protests when aired by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio in 1991. One episode, entitled The Sequoia, in which the white vendor of a luxury home launches a tirade against the Hong Kong immigrant who cuts down two rare and spectacular trees on the property, was accused of being racist. The playwright's well-intentioned exploration of stereotyping was charged with fostering those very prejudices.
After directing Dim Sum Diaries, Mr. JULIANI urged the playwright to tackle an issue that was dividing his church. Mr. LEIREN- YOUNG remembers replying: "You're talking same-sex marriage in the Anglican church and you want a straight Jewish guy to write this?"
The resulting play, titled Articles of Faith: The Battle of St. Alban's, was staged at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver to great acclaim.
The collaborations between young playwright and veteran director succeeded in achieving Mr. JULIANI's goal of inspiring dialogue through theatre.
Mr. JULIANI had a reputation as a demanding taskmaster for novice and veteran actors alike. Rehearsals were jokingly called "Savage God Boot Camp."
He maintained a breakneck pace, both in the theatre and in the boardroom. He was artistic co-director of Opera Breve, a small company dedicated to nurturing young singers; president of the Union of British Columbia Performers (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists); and, a former national president of the Directors Guild of Canada, among many boards on which he served.
Feeling fatigued in early August, Mr. JULIANI was diagnosed with liver cancer. The end came swiftly. He died on August 21 at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
He leaves his wife of 33 years, Donna WONG- JULIANI, and a son, Alessandro JULIANI, an actor. He also leaves brothers Richard and Norman.
(Wit was long a part of the JULIANI mystique. The family pet, a canine named Beau Beau, was referred to in the family's paid obituary notice as a Savage Dog.)
For one who roused such passions, Mr. JULIANI felt that he led a conservative life. "I have always been a square," he once said.
A theatrical farewell to Mr. JULIANI attracted hundreds to St. Andrew's Wesley Church in Vancouver on Labour Day, a Monday and traditionally a quiet date on the theatre calendar. Those in attendance were encouraged to write remembrances on Post-It notes, which were then stuck to the church's pillars.
The City of Vancouver has declared next March 24, which would have been Mr. JULIANI's 64th birthday, to be Savage God Day.

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RUBIN o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-11 published
GELBER, Sylva Malka, OC, LL.D.
93 years old, Sylva Malka GELBER, whose years of activism in pre-Israel Palestine eventually propelled her to be the first director of the Canadian Department of Labour's Women's Bureau, died on December 9th, 2003, of complications from a stroke. She was 93 and lived in Ottawa.
During the heady years of pioneering in gains for women's rights and Medicare in Canada during the 1960s and 70s, she travelled the country, never shrill and always reasoned in her campaign for equality for women in the country's labour force. She took this pragmatic approach to the United Nations where she represented Canada on the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women between 1970 - 74.
A social and industrial activist at heart, she never lost her zest for a good argument on those issues which had been part of her adult life since she left her comfortable Toronto home in the early 1930s for the turmoil of Jerusalem and Palestine. There she became the first graduate of the Va'ad Leumi School of Social Work - now the Faculty of Social Work of the Hebrew University - and took on jobs incongruous with her upbringing which had included schooling at Havergal College, a private girl's school.
She worked in Palestine during the Mandate as a family counsellor, a probation officer and medical social worker at Hadassah Hospital, and then with the Palestine Department of Labour from 1942 - 48 when she returned to Canada. The adventuresome 15 years Sylva GELBER lived in the turmoil of Palestine are chronicled with affection, awe and frankness in ''No Balm in Gilead: A Personal Retrospective of Mandate Days in Palestine'' published in 1989. By the time she moved back to Canada, she could switch effortlessly among Hebrew and Arabic and English which impressed no one in bureaucratic Ottawa, but did startle the Capital's stuffy side, she often noted mischievously.
Her deep red lipstick and nail polish when paired with her fast sports cars belied the image of the traditional Ottawa civil servant she could never be, despite distinguished and proud accomplishments in promoting federal health insurance and Medicare until they became the law of the land.
Along the way, she accepted many appointments to serve Canada at International Labour Organization conferences, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations General Assembly. She was a member of the Order of Canada and was awarded honorary degrees from several universities including Queen's, Memorial, Trent, Guelph and Mount St. Vincent.
Sylva Malka GELBER was born in 1910 in Toronto to Sara (MORRIS) and Louis GELBER. Her father, a survivor of pogroms in Eastern Europe, was determined that her four brothers, all of whom attended Upper Canada College, and she, all receive worldly educations beyond their specific Jewish community. She always admired her father for this farsightedness in encouraging his children to become part of a broader society.
At the University of Toronto, she produced plays. She sang spirituals on a Toronto radio station, but her parents would have none of a show business career. She was packed off to Columbia University in New York; but even that did not satisfy her rambunctious spirit and soon she was on her way to distant Palestine.
Never domesticated as women of her day usually were, she paid little attention to her kitchen pantry when she finally settled in Ottawa; but always gregarious, she loved to entertain around the piano which she played by ear and with great gusto. Her library of records and Compact Disks, was always in use as music filled her life; and she has endowed an important annual prize through The Sylva Gelber Music Foundation, which is granted to an outstanding young Canadian musician at the early stage of his or her career.
In retirement, she energetically participated in the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and the Wednesday Luncheon Club of former cabinet ministers and civil servants, such as her neighbour, Jack PICKERSGILL, who thrashed over current political issues.
Sylva GELBER was predeceased by her four brothers, Lionel, Marvin, Arthur and Shalome Michael. She is survived by her four nieces and their husbands, Nance GELBER and Dan BJARNASON, Patty and David RUBIN, Judith GELBER and Dan PRESLEY, and Sara and Richard CHARNEY, all of Toronto; her sister-in-law, Marianne GELBER of New York; four great nephews and a great niece, Gerald and Noah RUBIN, and Adam, Andrew and Laura CHARNEY; as well as cousins Ruth JEWEL and David EISEN; David ALEXANDOR, and Ruth GELBER all of Toronto; and Ivan CHORNEY and Betsy RIGAL, both of Ottawa. At Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel, 2401 Steeles Avenue West (1 light west of Dufferin) for service on Thursday, December 11, 2003 at 12: 00 noon. Interment Beth Tzedec Memorial Park.

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