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February 7, 2013

Volunteer Profile – Don Kendal

How long have you been at the Young Centre and tell us a little bit about what you do?

I began volunteering as an usher when I retired in June 2011. For the most part, volunteers are there to welcome patrons, hand out playbills, assist people in finding their seats, and remind people not to place things (especially drinks!) on the ledge in the balcony of the Baillie. It is hardly an arduous task which allows me to see all of the plays over-and-over-again. I often took my breaks between afternoon and evening performances in the then only partially organized reference library. Clearly, nothing was being done with the collection, so I volunteered to take it on. Since then I have totally re-catalogued and re-organized the collection, and turned the William Hutt Library into one which encourages members of the Young Centre community to borrow books. The collection holds about 4300 books of plays, drama criticism, theatre history and poetry – all of which has been donated by many supporters from within the theatre community. It is the largest collection of theatrical books west of the Don, east of Parliament and south of Front!

What has your job consisted of lately?

We have always had two large separate collections of books donated by the Mavor Moore estate and by Albert Schultz. Lately I have created a third special collection by gathering together copies of all of the plays performed by Soulpepper since its founding in 1998. Believe it or not, there have been over 120 different plays, and we have copies of almost all of them. Lately, I have been scouring used book stores trying to find the few others needed to complete that collection. I am happy to say that there are only a handful of plays still needed. One of my favourite tasks is assisting people in their search for plays. I have discovered that the George Brown students have rather voracious appetites for plays and monologues they can perform.

What kinds of shows/productions/events have you been involved in outside of work?

None at all. I have no artistic talent whatsoever. But I love being part of the audience, especially when plays are performed by Canada’s best actors! I have always loved seeing live theatre, opera, dance and concert performances. There is an immediacy, a vibrancy, to live performances I find missing from filmed or recorded ones. When I was much younger, I often accompanied my Uncle Harold (after whom the Harold Awards were named) to small theatre productions around Toronto. I learned two things from that experience: 1) to love small theatre and to support it by being part of the audience; and 2) to be quiet and let the actors perform.

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?

I read – mostly fiction, some poetry and many, many plays. So I have a self-serving interest volunteering as the Young Centre librarian.

What do you love about being a part of the staff at Soulpepper/Young Centre?

The Young Centre, George Brown Theatre School and Soulpepper make up a vibrant, creative theatrical community. The actors, the technical staff, the Front-of-House and box office personnel are among the friendliest, most welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. So too are the audience members who support theatre in Toronto. It’s like being part of a family. I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to make a small contribution to the students, the staff and the company.