We are pleased to share this lovely profile of Jane Burpee, a regular performer with Sarasvàti Productions. Thank you to Andrea Geary for allowing us to publish it on our blog.
Burpee’s love of theatre helps others
By Andrea Geary
Jane Burpee is one of those tireless people who successfully take on many roles; on the stage and in life. She is very proud of her newest role – that of grandmother to daughter Susie’s baby, Alice.
Burpee is public education coordinator with the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. Working three and a half days a week, she offers workshops to provide information and insight into how people live with schizophrenia. She also offers consultation and runs Name That Feeling, a support group for children who have a family member with a mental illness.
She grew up in a rural area ofSomerset,England. After training as an occupational therapist, in 1967 Burpee saw an advertisement recruiting staff for the newly-openedWinnipegRehabilitationHospital. There were not many qualified occupational therapists inWinnipegat that time, so the hospital was looking for staff members in other countries.
“I never ever thought that I’d stay,” she said, after signing on for a one-year term. But she enjoyed the hospital’s informal work environment where all staff members’ opinions were valued, andManitoba’s natural beauty appealed to her as well.
Four years later she married Alan, then took time off work when her children David (Ace) and Susie were young. Ace is now long-time host ofWinnipeg’s Hot-103’s morning show and Susie is a well-known contemporary dancer and choreographer living inToronto.
The family moved to Cook’s Creek in 1975. “I grew up in the country inEngland, and Alan grew up in the country inNew Brunswick,” Burpee said. While the community has grown considerably over the years, she still enjoys living outside the city. She is involved in many community activities including serving on the board of theCooksCreekHeritageMuseum, directing theOakbankUnitedChurch’s children’s choir and volunteering at the Selkirk Support Centre andRobinson Place, a supported living facility. She was nominated for a 2011 YM/YWCA Women of Distinction award in the Education, Training and Mentoring category.
Burpee has appeared in musical theatre and dramatic productions over the past few decades. Her love of acting dates back to the 1960’s when she joined a community theatre group that performed eight plays a year. After her move toWinnipeg, she first joined a musical theatre company, then helped form A Bunch of Grapes in 1969. This group’s final performance is being held on Nov. 11 at2 p.m.in the Crescent/Fort Rouge United Church.
After taking acting classes in the 1980’s, her first performances were with theUniversityofManitoba’s Black Hole Theatre. She has performed in two Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre productions and recalls being very unsure of herself at her first MTC audition.
A regular performer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and with Winnipeg’s Sarasvàti Productions, Burpee recently took the role of the mother in Magpie during FemFest. On Oct. 28, she presented a monologue as Eleanor Roosevelt in the Women’s History Month Monologues.
She is able to combine her love of acting with her work at the Schizophrenia Society where she is a member of the Exploring Drama Company, an ensemble that gives people with mental illness the opportunity to display their creativity. “It’s a way that people can laugh; can get out of themselves.”
In addition to her involvement in the drama group, Burpee uses her dramatic skills while acting in a short one-woman play, One in Five, which she created. Designed to raise audiences’ awareness and understanding of the effects of living with a mental illness, she has performed acrossManitoba during the past six years. Money raised through the play is donated to the Schizophrenia Society.
“I do have a passion for theatre,” she said, adding that at 68, she is enjoying her work with the Schizophrenia Society and her part-time acting career.