An ‘Extraordinary Journey’

Pamela Rabe is a star in Australia and now, Jamie Portman reports, the Canadian actress is coming home and bringing Virginia Woolf with her.


When Pamela Rabe left Vancouver for Australia in 1982, she knew she was embarking on “a great adventure.” But she still didn’t know whether she would make it as an actress. Today, she is one of Australia’s most acclaimed performers — with some 50 plays, six films and eight television productions to her credit. She has a devoted national following Down Under: teenage girls adore her and send her letters and wait at the stage door with flowers.

Yet in the land of her birth, she remains an unknown — a situation the Shaw Festival plans to remedy this summer when she reprises one of her greatest Australian successes, a one-woman version of Virginia Woolf’s classic A Room Of One’s Own, at the intimate Court House Theatre. For Rabe, it is as though the wheel has come full circle.

“What has happened is amazing, actually,” she says in an interview. “I count my lucky stars. It’s been an extraordinary journey.”

Rabe was born in Oakville, an hour away from the Shaw Festival, but was raised on the West Coast. She attended the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School and had roles in several productions at the Playhouse itself.

She also fell in love with Australian-born director Roger Hodgman, who was head of the school and later artistic director of the Playhouse. When Hodgman returned to Australia in 1982, she went with him. A year later they married.

Pamela Rabe 2000 (more…)

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On the boards, up from down under

BRISBANE, Australia — After 18 years in Australia, during which she has established herself as one of the country’s best actors, Pamela Rabe is coming home to Canada to “connect the dots.”

Rabe, who was born near Toronto and raised in Vancouver, came to Australia in 1982 as a 22-year-old just graduated from drama school. She has since worked in almost 50 stage productions, eight TV series and six movies, including ‘The Well‘ for which she won the Australian Film Institute’s best actress award in 1996.

For the next few weeks, Rabe will be in Brisbane in Martin McDonagh’s award-winning play ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane‘. On May 14, the morning after the curtain comes down on Leenane, Rabe, 40, flies back to Canada to spend four months at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake, Ont. She will be in George Bernard Shaw’s ‘The Apple Cart‘, directed by her former tutor Christopher Newton, and also in the one-woman play ‘A Room of One’s Own‘, based on the Virginia Woolf novel. Rabe won the Sydney Critics Circle best actress award last year for Room.

Pamela Rabe

She’s excited about returning to Canada for the longest period since she left as a young woman. “It’s going to be an odd cultural connection, but it will really join up all the dots for me.” she told the local newspaper. “I’ve got seven brothers and sisters and a mother waiting there for me. (more…)

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Rabe Reviews: The Age Feb 2000

Pamela Rabe is one of our most celebrated actors, yet worries that the roles will dry up. But, as Robin Usher reports, her final curtain is likely to be a long, hectic way off.

For actors, the worry never stops. National acclaim and universal respect do not bring the job security and settled home life that other professionals take for granted. Pamela Rabe is one of Australia’s most gifted actors who has made her mark in all mediums — film, television and theatre — with work lined up 12 months ahead. But the future is still uncertain.

Her latest concern, now that she is home in Melbourne after a year away, is that work will disappear as she approaches middle age.
“I’m the sort of person who will worry about anything,” she says. “Now I’m waiting for the roles to start drying up. The dry season will start pretty soon — it’s the nature of things. I just hope I’ve got the resources to get through it.
“If you do (survive), there’s no one else left because the attrition rate is huge once people hit their 40s, men included. There’s just not enough work and people decide to go and get a life.”
Judging on appearances alone, her concern is ridiculous. At 40, Rabe’s striking beauty is undiminished, while she is renowned for her razor-sharp intelligence. She is wearing a full-length, white linen dress in the late summer heat, accompanied by sandals and sunglasses.
Two years ago at the Cannes Film Festival, men chased after her in the streets to beg her husband, former Melbourne Theatre Company artistic director Roger Hodgman, to let her go with them. The story is told by Samantha Lang, director of the film The Well, in which Rabe starred.
“Pamela played Hester in the film, a frumpy, dowdy character,” Lang says. This meant that when Pamela appeared in the press tents no one knew who she was because she seemed different — beautiful and commanding.” (more…)

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Rabe Reviews

It’s hard to imagine Pamela Rabe as Goldilocks. Blonde and precious. When you think of the parts she has played over the past few years, those are not the Pamela Rabe | Photo by Julian Kingmacharacteristics that spring to mind. Strong, yes. Passionate, yes. Committed even. But blonde and precious?

But Goldilocks was a seminal role. Her first lead, she says. And if she were a smartarse, she would say it was what turned her on to acting.It was the dress, you see. In Canada in the early ’60s, her sister Jacqueline got “the greatest frock in the world” to wear to their uncle’s wedding. She was going to be the flower girl, but that didn’t stop young Pamela from coveting the dress. When she landed the role of Goldilocks at kindergarten she also wangled the dress to wear. It was her first lead. Before her hair changed color, of course. And long before she came to Australia. (more…)

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