Friday, April 11, 2014


Hey guys……..I wanted to share something kinda personal this week…..
Excuse the somewhat sombre feeling of this post.
I found out this week that someone who meant a lot to me years ago, had past away.
I met Sylvie Boulanger (Lovett) when we worked together in Grand Bend painting for the Huron Country Playhouse. She was the head of the paint department, and I weaselled my way into her shop for 2 years!!!
Now here's the thing…..we hadn't actually spoken in well over a decade -- although we had the occasional Facebook update….we were no longer close friends. STILL….the news of her death really saddened me, and got me thinking.
First I thought about her poor family and loved ones - she was taken FAR to early, 51 is way too young… my heart goes out to them!
And then I got to thinking about me! (yup THAT SELFISH! ;-)
It is amazing how a person can affect the course of someone else's life in such a huge way.
I am sure I never told Sylvie that without her support at the beginning of my career, I would not have turned out to be the painter - or the person - that I am today.
So I want to dedicate this post to her. I want to believe that she is looking down today…..or that maybe she is surfing and enjoying the "Heaven internet" (it seems possible!)….… this is for her...
I want her to know that her friendship and the lessons she taught me had a long lasting impression.
The following photos are some photos from those good ole days…..

PICTURE IT… is 1996, a young apple cheeked boy from London starts working at the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. The money is terrible, but thankfully it includes lodging…..
This is the cabin I lived in for 2 summers (right beside Sylvie).
They really should have been condemned!!!
It was so drafty that on cold nights a candle would flicker INSIDE!
SEE…who says I can't 'rough it'??
Let it be known…...the showers…..that were inside the theatre…..were used exclusively by the "tech's" were DISGUSTING too…..they actually had mushrooms growing in them. MMMMM good times!
Here we are in the Men's bathroom…the shower stalls!
I had made a BIG sign telling others to not be dicks…….
…..and use as little of the limited amount of hot water as they could!
At HCP we put on 5-7 shows during the summer…including 2 BIG musicals, a farce and a straight play….it was a tall order, given the fact that we also RAN the backstage during the shows…...
The great thing about this place for me…..was although we worked 9am-9pm days….6 days a week…..for WAY LESS than minimum wage, I had the opportunity to create a LOT of scenery…..and learn a lot on the job…..Here are some of my faves….

"Me and My Girl"
This was a HUGE revolving set piece with a TONNE of stone like faux painting!
There was a lot of stone work…and a little stoned work too….….there….I said it.
"Me and My Girl"
Kitchen tile drop cloth (40' x 20')
These puppies are HUGE and we painted them on the floor with brushes on broom handles!
Thanks HCP from my chiropractor!
It was trial by fire……I had never painted SO MUCH scenery SO FAST….we were one of the ONLY small time theatres at the time still doing drop cloths! (A drop cloth is that HUGE cloth scenery that flys in and helps set the scene.)

"Me and My Girl"
Bar drop cloth (2 of the 40' x 20' cut drops) 
"Me and My Girl"
The marbled inside of the GIANT turning set piece!!

Not sure WHAT this show was…..but I remember Sylvie and I worked until 5am doing the painted wood plank floor…..and then were back in at 9am….VERY GRUMPY!!
I became an EXPECT woodgrainer in those years.
So good…..that for the opening of a show booth Sylvie and I made vests that we had wood grained!
They were very fetching…..and stiff like wood…which made them hard for dancing in….but we managed!
Sometimes I still wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night thinking about woodgraining!

This was "The Hound of the Baskervilles" LONG before Cumberbatch!!!
Look at all the wood….and fake stucco, and brick…..
The biggest show I painted there was probably "The Wizard of Oz". We had 6 weeks and 18 drop cloths! PLUS all the truck units! (the truck units are the big set pieces that roll on and off stage)

"Wizard of Oz"….Wicked Witches castle set and a painted drop!!
"Wizard of Oz"….Munchkinland had 2 drops and a truck unit!
"Wizard of Oz"
Stacked drops…..4 of them….
foreground trees, mid ground trees, background mountains and then the painted sky curtain!
"Wizard of Oz" The Haunted forest - made of 2 drops…..

"Wizard of Oz"….Kansas forest
That is all the photos I could find easily……it really was quite a time in my life!
Yes……it was a million years ago….but it taught me so much:
1.) The meaning of working HARD
2.) How to be collaborative with other people
3.) How to drink beer….cheap beer.
4.) To be okay being a nerd!! Although it would take many years before I would understand this!
5.) How to paint! I had never taken fine art, so it was a learning curve!
Oh I am sure there are a million other things I learned in those years…..but you get the idea.

I really cannot thank Sylvie enough for letting me in her shop! 
Her open heart, and her willingness to teach me was an incredible blessing! 
She was a good friend….and we spent MANY hours painting together, singing together and dancing together in the paint shop. She was almost as silly as me, and I was glad to have her friendship!
Oh…..we also spent a lot of time drinking together, rollerblading together, and even watching the stars and the sunsets together!!
I will always have a place in my heart for her. She helped shape the course my life would take, and that is a BIG thing in retrospect.
Geez…...I guess she has taught me one more thing……
If there is someone out there that YOU know changed your life for the better…..someone that made you a better person in some way…..go NOW and send them an email or give them a call. Everyone wants to know that they will leave the world having touched someone.
Thanks for that last lesson my old friend!

 We miss you Sylvie.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice Rob. Sorry for your sadness, but nice that you found a lesson in there, and had a trip through your memories. Amazing paintings. Now, I am waiting for my email..