Friday, February 15, 2008

Janis Spence Tribute by Geoff Meeker in his Telegram Blog

Geoff Meeker dug up a profile of Janis Spence that he wrote in 1990 in the Newfoundland Signal and has reprinted it with an introduction on his Telegram Blog.

The photo above (scanned from that 1990 Signal) was taken by Geoff Meeker during that interview almost two decades ago.

Here is an excerpt:

Although she has all but pulled back from performing, Spence says she has enormous respect for actors, calling them “the most delicate, the most wonderful people in the world – and the craziest, because nothing could be crazier than pretending to be somebody else… in front of a whole crowd of people. I mean, how loony can you get?”

These days, Spence considers herself first and foremost a writer, a writer-director second, and an actor third. “I love acting… but I love writing more. It’s a question of control, of complete autonomy. I get to say what I want and there’s no interference from anybody.”

At the root of this attitude is an aversion to humiliation in any form, Spence said. “I think everywhere you work in life, (the rules) are courtesy, respect, kindness and dignity. I think good rehearsal halls with really good directors and really good companies – that’s the ultimate.” But finding those things is the exception rather than the rule, she added. “It’s as rare as anything else in life, as rare as really good doctors, lawyers and teachers… who are truly called.”

Actor-writer Cathy Jones of the Codco comedy troupe worked with Spence to create the Live Soap series in 1984 at the LSPU Hall. In an interview, Jones said Spence is a “brilliant” writer: “She always has a very good sense of what people really do and what people really say… She knows what someone would say if they went to Home Hardware and couldn’t get the thing they wanted to get… She rips through the bull and gets to what’s really going on.”

Jones said if she harbors one “secret wish”, it is to collaborate on another writing project with Spence.

Local actor-writer Greg Thomey echoed those sentiments. Thomey, who has worked with Spence on numerous projects over the last 10 years, said people jump at an opportunity to work with Spence.

“She has a great eye for the stage and a great talent for recognizing a good line, when it comes to writing… She’s a very hard worker and I think she’s becoming recognized a little more around here. I think she’s a well-kept secret. The quality of work she has produced consistently has been very high.”

Thomey said Spence always has a strong idea of what she wants to communicate with her writing: “She was always very focused. In that way, it’s no surprise to me when people talk about her… There are certain people that you are inspired by, and Janis is definitely one of them.”

To read the rest of this Profile click here.


Janis Spence was a central shaper of Rattling Books. Of special interest is her own collection of short fiction on the beach in spanish room which she also narrated.