Meeting Lois Anderson, the first impression you get is of a person with a ready smile who sparkles with energy.
But on stage, she has handled every kind of role, from tragic to comic, from hoyden to seductress.
A graduate of Cariboo Hill Secondary School, she is a six-time Jessie award winner for acting, in drama and comedy, with nominations for co-producing theatre shows as well.
Anderson is currently playing the lead role of Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at Bard on the Beach, to great reviews and standing ovations.
Her Kate rants and screams, torments her sister, slaps her suitor, and eventually winds up in noholds-barred wrestling.
She makes her eventual taming believable, by the long glances she gives her suitor, and the passionate nature she displays.
The audience benefits from her clear diction, especially necessary doing Elizabethan dialogue, whose terms and turns of phrase are no longer in common use.
"There's lots of double entendres that get lost because of that," she notes.
She did take the one course given in drama at Cariboo Hill, but it was the professionalism of teacher Deirdre Heatherington that inspired and stayed with her.
"She was teaching, but she was actually acting, too, with Vancouver Opera," she said.
But Anderson wasn't bitten by the acting bug then.
She followed high school with a degree in English literature from UBC.
Then, after a fascinating spell on an archaeological dig in an Israeli desert, on the site of a fifth century Roman fort, finding coins and artifacts, she says she
had an urge to try something different, "I figured I could always come back and dig in the desert, if it didn't turn out," Coming home, she auditioned for UBC's theatre program, was accepted, eventually graduating with her masters in theatre arts.
From then on it was theatre - every kind, from street theatre, to circus and clowning, very physical and often impromptu, especially with Cirque Poule and Leaky Heaven Circus, and the former Caravan Theatre run by the parents of her husband, production manager Elia Kirby, until eventually she realized, "I craved working with text, a script, written work." That led to Bard on the Beach, and Shakespeare, for the last half-dozen years.
As well as her roles at Bard on the Beach, she's appeared with regional and independent theatre companies.
She's taught theatre at SFU, and this fall, will be teaching at UBC.
Meanwhile she and her husband raised two daughters, and took them everywhere they worked - different places in Canada, Australia and elsewhere. "They had a great quality of life, it's been exciting."
Of her students, she's noticed, "There are students who take the classes, do well, but are not really driven. However, you always benefit from a theatre class, you gain self-confidence, how to speak, and how to present yourself. Then there are the ones you see and realize - this is an actor - they are driven, because it's their passion.
It's not an easy life, especially now with all the funding cuts to the arts."
Along with the rest of the excellent cast, you can catch Lois Anderson, the shrew in the highly entertaining, The Taming of the Shrew, at Bard on the Beach, alternating with MacBeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and King John, until Sept. 22 in the tents at Vanier Beach. For information: 6047370625 or www.bardonthebeach.org.
Annie Boulanger is a long-time arts columnist with the Burnaby NOW.