2014/2015 Season

Inside The Unplugging: Diana Belshaw

We’ve partnered up with Factory to bring audiences the Toronto debut of The Unplugging by Yvette Nolan (March 14 – April 5, 2015), and over the next few weeks, we’re introducing readers to key players in this production and partnership.

The Unplugging Cast
L-R: Diana Belshaw, Allegra Fulton, Umed Amin in rehearsal with Stage Manager AJ Laflamme.

Today we take a look at the first of our three cast members: theatre veteran Diana Belshaw.  Award-winning community leader,1  editor2, and founder of the Theatre Ontario Showcase,3 Belshaw is currently Head of Acting at Humber College.

It’s no small matter that Belshaw has taken on the role of Elena in this production of Yvette Nolan’s The Unplugging; it’s been fifteen years since Belshaw has graced the stage.

So what was it about this production that made her return from such a long hiatus?

“…this is a truly beautiful play which speaks to things we all understand and sorrow for.”

“How often do you get to work with a team of powerful women on a play by a woman who understands the complexity of being ‘other’?

“I rarely read or see plays which understand grace and forgiveness so deeply and personally; this is a truly beautiful play which speaks to things we all understand and sorrow for.” says Belshaw. “And it’s funny!”

Belshaw and Fulton on break from rehearsal.

Nolan’s story of two aging Indigenous women making a new life for themselves is particularly relevant for Belshaw who recently discovered her own Indigenous heritage.

“To lose family, community, and culture resonates for me; my own Indigenous heritage (Maori) lay unacknowledged in my family until recently. Perhaps this is my chance to share Elena’s journey and learn from her courage and grace.”

Following The Unplugging, Belshaw will return to Humber. “[Teaching is] my great passion – working with and guiding young artists find their voices to create work which reflects THEIR world,” says Belshaw. “Training actors is the most fulfilling job in the world.”


Getting Unplugged with Diana

What advice would you give to someone
who wants to do what you do?
Find out what you are most passionate about in the world around you – art isn’t about yourself. And then find teachers, mentors and above all your tribe of artists who will challenge you and drive you to doing what you want to do.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Do what you’re most afraid of doing and
stay away from cheap choices.

Who/what inspires you?
People who actually give themselves
to make the world a better place.

What was your first job in theatre?
Well, when I was five I played Toto in The Wizard of Oz at school but my first actual earning money job was a six month tour of Northern BC with Holiday Playhouse Theatre, doing plays in elementary, middle and high schools, the hardest work I’ve ever done –
it sent me off to theatre school to learn how to act better!

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
The gap between the institutional structures and artists – where are the young voices and most especially the voices of artists of colour and other marginalized communities in our mainstream theatres? And how can all our incredible young artists actually make a living and gain the respect of a culture which only seems
to celebrate superficial success.

What ability would you like to steal from another artist?

What are you reading right now?
It changes constantly – I read endlessly – from embarrassing junk
to mysteries to literature to works of non-fiction.
I just finished Mãn by Kim Thuy and
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

Where is your favorite place to be?

What is one of your pet peeves?
Bad spelling.
Being called ‘Miss’ by students.

Who is one of your heroes?
Shirley Douglas for not just working to save the world but every single person she meets.  She certainly saved my sanity
at a tough time in my life!

The one word your best friend would use to describe you?
I hope ‘loyal’ but I suspect ‘pig-headed’.

 2011 Maggie Bassett Award, 2004 Harold Award

2 Editor, Canadian Theatre Review 160: Acting Training in English-Speaking Canada

3 Humber College

Select Credits: That Summer (Blyth Festival); King Lear (two productions for Necessary Angel); Albertine in Five Times (Tarragon), ‘D’ Street and Broadway (Factory), De Beaux Gestes et Beautiful Deeds (Théâtre du P’tit Bonheur).