Kathryn Shaw takes a final bow at Langara

Long time artistic director of Studio 58 retires, leaves behind legacy

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By Manav Arora

The ‘queen’ has stepped down from her throne after a 46-year reign over Studio 58 at Langara College.

Kathryn Shaw, who began as an acting instructor for the theatre program in 1974, was promoted as artistic director 10 years later. After 35 years of holding the role, she retired in December.

Recognized as one of the most influential women in B.C. in 2010 by the Vancouver Sun, Shaw left a huge mark on her students throughout the years.

“Kathryn has just, like, planted all these seeds in a garden,” said Sierra Haynes, a student in her final term at Studio 58. “She’s watched them grow, and now she’s letting somebody else start to tend that garden. But the garden is fabulous!”

Tanner Zerr, another current student of Studio 58, says he was lucky to have Shaw as teacher before she retired. Zerr said Shaw had an ability to work bad acting habits out of her students.

“She would state clearly what you needed to work on, and there was no if’s or but’s about it,” Zerr said. “It was purely based on your work.”

Shaw also founded a student-led diversity committee and started a research project aimed at creating a database of plays by BIPOC playwrights.

On her last day at work, Shaw was surprised by her students with a cape embellished with “Queen of Studio 58” on it, as well as a two hour farewell video which featured her alumni students from the 1970s until now.

“Each of them had two minutes to say whatever they wanted to say,” said Shaw, who was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005 and has won multiple awards throughout her career. “That was a very special gift.”

A new reign begins

Courtenay Dobbie, a Langara alumna and instructor in the program, takes over Studio 58 as the new artistic director.

“I am delighted she was able to take the reins from me,” Shaw said. “I have known her for over 20 years, and I think very highly of her as a theatre artist … I think she’s going to lead the studio into the future.”

Studio 58’s first production under Dobbie, TomorrowLove, premiered online Feb. 28 to March 7. It was a series of 13 individual playlets directed by Shekhar Paleja and Lauren Taylor which revolve around interpersonal relationships in the near future.

In a press release announcing Shaw’s retirement in September, Dobbie commended Shaw’s “incredible commitment to fostering young talent.”

She also thanked her for “her belief in [her] as an actor, teacher, and leader, and her astounding dedication to Studio 58 and all that she has shaped it to be.”

Dobbie promises that even though Studio 58 will miss Shaw, that the level of expertise will carry on.

“The Studio 58 graduate will remain the same: a highly skilled and creative professional responding to their world by making and participating in dynamic and inspired art.”

In this interview clip with reporter Manav Arora, Shaw reflects on her time as artistic director below:

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