|PAL residents take centre stage at lodge
a windy May afternoon, Nigel Napier Andrews is standing on the 10th
floor rooftop of the Performing Arts Lodge, on The Esplanade between
Jarvis and Church Streets, looking down at the courtyard. The
building's curved design and stacked balconies, he explains, is
intended to suggest a European opera house. Appropriate for a
not-for-profit organization whose principle mandate is to provide
affordable housing and a feeling of community for Toronto's performing
artists as they age.
are actors, singers, musicians, playwrights, dancers and even a clown
living here," says Napier Andrews. "You just have to qualify as having
worked in the performing arts. A set designer or scene painter, yes. A
fine artist, no. We have to follow our criteria."
Andrews is a tall, fit 65-year-old with wavy grey hair. For years a
producer and director of variety shows at CBC, he now works as a video
producer and event planner for RBC Financial Group, where he often
employs performing artists. He looks nautical in his white shoes and
slacks, blue checked shirt and navy blazer, as befits a man who sails
an 8.2-metre (27-foot ) sloop in Lake Ontario.
had a big home in Mississauga," he says. "When my children were grown
and my wife and I split up, I wanted to live downtown, near the lake.
Now I have two bicycles, no car and easy access to sailing."
past the terraced rooftop gardens maintained by residents, he points
out forget-me-nots flourishing in a plot he co-owns with two others.
I got older, I was interested in community, companionship and a
congenial lifestyle. The question of home ownership was not an issue to
me. I knew about PAL, and one day I realized that I knew personally,
and had worked with, a third of the people living here."
idea of PAL developed in the early '80s, when a group of Toronto
performers realized the entertainment industry was growing
exponentially, most artists aren't among a country's wealthier citizens
and demographics suggested a great many would be aging in the near
show must go on, but how would many performers manage? When the
Performing Arts Lodges of Canada was incorporated as a charitable
organization in 1986, its first move was to create Supporting Cast, a
volunteer group providing performers in need of services from
transportation to medical appointments and errand-running to
why not create a building that would allow older artists to retire
comfortably by providing affordable housing and support services, when
needed? With support from trade organizations such as the Alliance of
Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), The Actors' Fund
of Canada, Actors' Equity and the musicians' union, the Performing Arts
Lodge finally opened in 1993.
the building has 205 apartments – mostly one-bedrooms and
bachelors, with a few two-bedrooms – in a mix of market-value
and subsidized rentals. The Green Room lounge has a stage, piano and
professional sound and lighting system (all donated) that sees
performances by residents and visiting artists. There's a library,
dance studio/exercise room, art studio, workshop and the Celebrity
Club, a bar that shows films on a large TV and hosts impromptu cabaret
number among the pioneers of Canadian cultural history, among them,
actor Jack Duffy (a co-star of the early `50s CBC TV hit, The Wayne and
Shuster Hour); filmmaker Don Owen (famous for his critically acclaimed
1964 movie, Nobody Waved Goodbye); actor and broadcaster Paul Soles
(among many credits, he co-hosted Take 30, a `60s-era CBC public
affairs show, with Adrienne Clarkson); actor-playwright Valerie Boyle
(celebrated for writing and starring in a play called Sophie Tucker:
Last of the Red Hot Mamas); musician Sid Dolgay (a member of the
seminal Canadian folk group, The Travellers); actor Colin Fox (best
known for playing Professor Anton Hendricks in the PSI Factor TV
series); and 96-year-old Jeannette Heller, a former Radio City
Rockette. One beloved tenant was internationally renowned operatic
contralto Maureen Forrester, but several years ago she had to be moved
to a nursing home.
to board member Patty Gail Peaker, an energetic former singer and actor
who runs Supporting Cast, Forrester was an example of how the outreach
program can help elderly tenants, until they need chronic care.
one time, she explains, PAL tried to purchase the adjacent site, the
former Old Fish Market, to create a nursing home wing but it proved too
tenant who has benefited from Supporting Cast is 56-year-old Eileen
Whitfield, (a writer and former actor, she is author of the acclaimed
Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood.) Whitfield suffers from
paralyzing migraines and at times Supporting Cast has brought groceries
to her door.
is solitary but the performing arts are a communal experience,"
explains Whitfield. "As performers get older, the idea is to support
one another, to remain in a troupe."
Hayes is an author and award-winning feature writer who has been a
renter most of his life. If you have stories or information to share
about renting, he can be reached at email@example.com.