Fonds UBCA-ARC-1496 - Joy Coghill fonds

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Joy Coghill fonds

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  • Multiple media

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Physical description

5.36 m of textual records and other material.

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Biographical history

Born on May 13, 1926, in Findlater, Saskatchewan, Joy Coghill spent most of her childhood in Scotland before returning to Canada in 1939. She and her mother settled in Vancouver, where Joy attended Kitsilano High School. Coghill taught elocution in Vancouver while completing her BA in Social Work at British Columbia. Coghill first appeared on stage at 15 in a Vancouver Little Theatre production of Bunty Pulls the Strings. While attending UBC, she became deeply involved with the UBC Players Club and summer school theatre, acting, directing, and teaching under drama teacher Dr. Dorothy Somerset's guidance. She studied at the Goodman Theatre at The Art Institute of Chicago from 1947 to 1950, where she acted in and directed several productions, and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Goodman in 1950.
After graduating, Coghill worked in Vancouver, Kingston, Ontario, and Chicago, directing, acting and teaching at UBC, the Everyman Theatre, the International Players, and Goodman Theatre. While at Goodman, she was invited to help start Holiday Theatre in Vancouver. Holiday Theatre would present over one hundred plays, most of the original Canadian works geared to children. In 1967 Holiday Theatre became associated with the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Co. when Coghill became its Artistic Director. As Artistic Director of the Playhouse, Coghill brought many new and innovative projects to Vancouver. Then, in 1971, Coghill was appointed the first female Artistic Director, English Acting Section, of the National Theatre School in Montreal. Still, after two years at the National Theatre School, she began to pursue acting full time.
Joy Coghill has appeared in films, television, and theatre productions across Canada. She is, perhaps, best known for her roles in the critically-acclaimed Da Vinci's Inquest and Ma, a CBC adaptation of her previous stage appearances as Margaret "Ma" Murray, the outspoken journalist and British Columbia's first female newspaper publisher. Her theatre work includes co-producing Noye's Fludde, her prize-winning performances as Sarah Bernhardt in John Murrell's Memoir, Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (opera) and Miss Helen in The Road to Mecca. As a published playwright in both Canada and Israel, in 1987, Coghill wrote and produced Song of This Place based on Emily Carr's life. In addition, she created The Alzheimer Project in 1998, one of the productions of Western Gold Theatre, which she founded in 1994 to showcase senior talent and fight ageism in the marketplace. The staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with all over 60 actors, became the CBC documentary The Courage to Dream. Coghill was also the company's Artistic Director until 1999.
Coghill received the Order of Canada in 1991. Among many awards and accolades, she received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, the Confederation Medal, the Gascon Thomas Award, and the Herbert Whittaker Critics' Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Theatre. Upon retiring, Coghill collaborated with director Jane Heyman to found the Performing Arts Lodge in Vancouver in 2001 and created a building to house and support ageing people in the performing arts. The Performing Arts Lodge (PAL), Vancouver, opened its 111 rental units in May 2006.
Joy Coghill was married to John (Jack) Thorne, a former TV producer at the CBC, from 1955 until he died in 2013, and they had three children: Debra, Gordon, and David. She died on January 20, 2017.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of notes, manuscripts, drafts, awards, degrees, pamphlets, correspondence, notes, note-cards, scripts, programs, posters, forms, degrees, cards, certificates, artifacts, and photographs.

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Immediate source of acquisition

Joy Coghill donated the fonds in four accessions: the first one was 2009, the second in 2012, the third in 2014, and the final donation after her death in 2017.


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Availability of other formats

Additional photographs depicting the 1987 showing of “Song of this Place” can be seen on two CD-ROMs and in the collection of negatives, listed in the Photograph Series (140.1/439 – 140.1/442).

Restrictions on access

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Researchers are strongly advised to check with the University Archives regarding permission to publish or otherwise use materials from this fonds.

Finding aids

Finding Aid.
Please see the finding aid for an inventory of files.

Uploaded finding aid

Associated materials

Additional records documenting Holiday Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse may be found in the Playhouse Holiday fonds and the Margaret Rushton Theatre Collection also available at UBC Archives.


No further accruals are expected.

Accompanying material

More information is available on her personal website

Physical description

Includes 821 Photographs, 3 Audiotapes, 6 VHS, 2 DVDs and 5 CD-ROMS (2 contain photographs and 3 audiovisual materials). Artifacts include 2 masks, 2 pieces of costume and 8 pins.

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