Brantford is mourning the loss of one of its theatre greats.
Brant Theatre Workshops’ former writer in residence, Alfred Rushton, passed away in his 71st year on Jan. 30 after a short battle with cancer.
“Alf was a prolific writer,” said Theatre Brantford artistic producer Ken Lefebvre. “We’ve certainly had other playwrights that we have (produced), but Alf was the most prolific.”
Mr. Rushton was a lifelong advocate for the arts and the written word, authoring novels and poetry as well as writing, directing, producing and acting in dozens of plays locally and across Canada.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 19, 1942, Mr. Rushton got his start writing in the 1960s working as a junior reporter at the Halifax Herald. He spent part of his career life in sales, but his true love was always the arts, said his sister Janet Rushton.
“He enjoyed doing it,” she said. “He even shaved his head one time for a play. I was completely horrified. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t ever remember him having a shaved face since high school. For him to shave it off, that’s how much he enjoyed it and how committed he was.”
He wrote many plays for CBC, including an absurdist show called The Listener early in his career, as well as many plays for Theatre Brantford and The Dufferin Players. He also wrote book reviews for the Globe and Mail.
Most recently, Theatre Brantford staged a revival of Rushton’s children’s play, The Great Wacky Far Out Adventure Show, in the gardens at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant as well as his historical production, Pearson: Peacemaker at the North Park Collegiate mini theatre in 2010.
“Alfred was always writing something original, and several of his plays were on Canadian topics,” Lefebvre said. “I think an important part of being an artist is creating new work and coming up with new ways of looking at things, and as a result, he was an artist I would turn to.”
In his personal life, Mr. Rushton was known as a kind and thoughtful friend with a great sense of humor.
“When you called him, he was always there,” Janet said. “He always had time for you whenever you needed him.”
Mr. Rushton is survived by siblings Janet, Sandra (Mitchell) and John (Irene) Rushton, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A funeral service was held for Mr. Rushton on Monday. A tree will be planted in his memory at the Beckett-Glaves Memorial Forest. Donations to the Stedman Community Hospice are appreciated.