Arts & Culture

Ron Reed’s path to theatrical success

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:25 PST, Wed March 4, 2020

Last Updated: 1:44 PDT, Fri March 20, 2020

A career in theatre is often considered to be a risky and unreliable choice, but a longtime Richmond resident still chose to follow his dream.

Ron Reed’s lifelong love for the theatre has led him to his current role as artistic director at Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre.

“I fell in love with theatre in Grade 8 when I went to see my first professional play, Great Expectations. My friends and I subscribed (to Theatre Calgary’s season),” he says.

Reed and his chum took the bus every six weeks to watch Theatre Calgary’s matinee. At 13, they were much younger than the average theatre subscriber. Reed points out how unusual that is by saying that Pacific Theatre has no Grade 8 subscribers. 

In high school, Reed participated in all the theatre he could. 

“When I graduated and first wanted to go into acting, my parents didn’t really like that idea,” he says. 

They told him that as an actor, he wouldn’t earn any money. Reed says that in their eyes, “It was the worst and most depressing future for me.”

His father was a sales rep who sold small engines, and his mother worked part time at the school library. 

“There’s no theatre in my family tree,” says Reed.

Eager to please his parents, and with a sense of social justice and a clear need for a sensible career, he set off on a path to become a lawyer. 

Reed’s undergraduate studies earned him a general arts degree.

“After about four years, I realized I was progressively unhappy,” he adds.

Instead of law school, he looked into becoming a minister and moved from Calgary to Vancouver. He later realized that, when working with youth in church, all the projects he undertook were related to acting.

The longer Reed stayed away from theatre, the more dispirited he became. His parents told him, “We hope we didn’t keep you from doing what you love.”

So he completed a Masters in Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts. Then, at the age of 27, he returned to Vancouver and started Pacific Theatre. That was 36 years ago.

Pacific Theatre’s plays tell stories that explore the essence of human beings and interpersonal connection.

 “I have a tremendous passion for justice. That’s why I was going to be a lawyer. Injustice just makes me feel irate, this sense of rage,” says Reed. 

Their upcoming play, Best of Enemies, is a perfect example. Reed describes it as “a bare knuckle battle between an activist and the head of the KKK.”

Although the play deals with serious matters, Reed says when he first read it, he found himself laughing on every page. 

“These characters are so smart. There is no caution about what they say, especially the activist. She has no interest in saying the nice thing. The reactions are funny in a very challenging way,” he says. 

Reed’s goal for the year ahead is to produce more plays that challenge, illuminate and entertain. He hopes to find more sponsors and donors for the upcoming season so he can give the people of the Lower Mainland access to even more of what Pacific Theatre has become known for. 

While Reed acts, directs and administers a theatre company—and loves all aspects—he says, “I’m really happiest when I’m acting in plays.”

Pacific Theatre’s production of Best of Enemies runs from Feb. 28 through March 21. For tickets, visit pacifictheatre.org or call 604-731-5518.

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