Two Remarkable Teachers
On a hot Friday afternoon in
Stratford, Cynthia Dale thinks back 20 years to high
school in Etobicoke. This is her day off from
performing. On Thursday, she played Guenevere in
Camelot and Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew,
performances she will repeat on Saturday.
Dale has two
teachers she wants to talk about, both from one of
her senior years at Michael Powers/St. Joseph.
"My English teacher, Mrs. Smart. It was my first
Canadian Lit course and it changed everything for
Dale had always
read books, but Mary Smart, her Canadian literature
class, and her introduction to works of Robertson
Davies, Margaret Atwood, Susanna Moodie, and Northrop
Frye were a turning point for Dale.
Cynthia Dale as
Guenevere in Camelot. One of Canadas
best-known performers, she has worked extensively in
television and film. She is probably best known for
as Olivia in the TV series Street Legal.
literature, Dale asserts, "has become the
backbone of my life. Now Im a voracious reader,
and Im a big Canadian Lit fan. I didnt
know anything about Canadian Lit until then."
It is only with
hindsight that Dale realizes how much the experience
meant. She learned that "books can make you
think. They can teach and humble you and inspire
you." Also, says Dale, "Mrs. Smart was the
first teacher who spoke to us like we were
Dale, who first
appeared on stage at the age of five in the chorus of
Finians Rainbow at Torontos Royal
Alexandra Theatre, has a strong commitment to staying
in Canada. "That doesnt mean I
wouldnt work elsewhere, but there is a lot to
be said for quality of life. I know it sounds
clichéd, but the land, the geography and what Canada
is and that comes out in the writing of so
many of our novelists means a lot to me."
geography teacher is her other choice.
"Elizabeth Heenan taught us about life,"
says Dale. "She was a great lady. She was
happening and current and explosive and
caring and committed. And, she happened to teach us
something about geography."
about current events. "It was the first time in
my life," reminisces Dale, "that I thought
Id have to know more than just whats on
didnt love school," Dale says, "but I
loved being in those classes and I worked really
hard, which was not my wont. Those teachers inspired
me. It wasnt learning how to write essays or
learning about drumlins, it was their passion for
what they were doing that I was infected with and
One day last
year, Dale was driving by the school on her way to
her parents home. She noticed construction
under way, so she drove onto the site, amidst the
workers. She got out of her car and took three of the
old bricks, one for herself and the others for two
years were very important to me," she says,
"and I wanted to keep a piece of them. I still
have the brick." Dale also has the whole field
of Canadian literature, and she still knows what a