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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.

“I sense the gathering of relatives like a thundering herd across the prairie — all intending to come and stay with me.”

Rabe recalls frequently moving around Canada as a child before her family settled in Vancouver, where she did most of her schooling and became active in drama studies. She says she always had an affinity for Australia.

“It’s curious, you know, I still recall the first project I did at primary school when I was about eight. I chose to do a project about Australia.”

Rabe is married to Australian theatre director Roger Hodgman, a former director of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, where she performed as a student. When Hodgman decided to return to Australia in 1982 as head of drama at the Victoria College of the Arts in Melbourne, he invited Rabe along. “Roger had seduced me with a number of really interesting Australian movies that were out at that time says Rabe, who is now an Australian citizen.

“It’s a dazzling country,” she says. “I knew when I’d graduated in Canada that I would have to go somewhere to gain work. Most Canadian actors head to the United States. I just travelled that much further.”

DENNIS PASSA | Canadian Press

Source: The Vancouver Sun | 22 April 2000

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