Memorial For Vancouver Alternative Theatre Pioneer Jackie Crossland

Vancouver alternative theatre pioneer Jackie Crossland (right, with Nora D Randall) will be remembered on Sunday, June 17th, from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Firehall Art Centre. 

Jackie died of cancer on May 30, only a month after her diagnosis. During that month her chosen family of friends surrounded her partner, Nora D Randall, and her long-time friend, Polly Bak, with love, kindness, wisdom, and practical support.

The nurses, aides, therapists, food workers, and doctors of the BC Cancer Agency provided caring and knowledgeable medical attention in line with Jackie’s wishes. In the end, Jackie had a room with a view.

She was surrounded by love and beauty, the two most important things to her.

Jackie was born in Barrie, Ontario, in 1943, to Ruby Spooner, who died in childbirth, and Jack Crossland. She grew up in Port Arthur and Fort William (Thunder Bay). When she was sixteen, she left home and school and got a job.

A few years later she married Joseph Menendez. and they moved to Vancouver, BC, and lived in the West End. Jackie was working as a nanny in West Vancouver when she decided to get her GED because she wanted to work at the Hudson’s Bay Company. 

One of her teachers encouraged her to go on to university. She enrolled at Simon Fraser University when it opened in the early 1970s and became involved in  extracurricular theatre projects.

After graduating, she acted, wrote and directed for several theatre companies in Vancouver and Toronto, including the Vancouver Playhouse, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Tamahnous Theatre, and Savage God. She had a speaking role in Robert Altman’s film McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and she played a recurring character (Nurse Bea Cross) in The Beachcombers TV series, among many other film and TV credits.

Jackie then began to do theatre with street kids. This work led to her becoming the administrator of Low Cost Labour, where she made many friends who remained important to her for the rest of her life. After Low Cost, she opened her own arts administration business, Crossland Consulting. From there she became an administrator for Headlines Theatre, Public Dreams and Tamahnous Theatre.

Throughout these years, Jackie was also a visual artist who created acrylic paintings, collages, and tile mosaics. The grunt gallery hosted a one-woman show of her work in the late 1980s.

In 1988, Jackie and Nora D Randall fell in love and started their life partnership, also the theatre and storytelling company Random Acts. Together they wrote, produced, and directed stories about lesbians and working women that were presented in festivals in Canada and the United States. Collateral Damage and The House of Agnes, were picked as Best of the Vancouver Fringe. Jackie and Nora also toured the province and told stories at many labour gatherings.

After retiring from Headlines Theatre in 2008, Jackie returned to painting as her major artistic expression, with a particular interest in making and trading art cards. She also took a course in watercolour, which became her passion until the end of her life.

She is deeply missed.


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