As much as anyone, Paul Kershaw is responsible for creating Cranbrook’s reputation as community that punches above its weight in matters theatrical.
Paul Kershaw — drama teacher, mentor, director, producer — passed away on April 13, 2023, age of 89.
Over the course of his life in Cranbrook, he brought out the thespian that is lurking within us all, introducing more people to the theatrical life and put more people on local stages than anyone. One of his students, Brent Carver, went on to become one of Canada’s greatest stage actors, inspiring many other local young people to set out on theatre careers themselves.
Upon retiring from a teaching career of more than 25 years at Mount Baker Secondary School, Paul brought his immense theatrical vision to the community at large. When the Key City Theatre was built in 1992, he immediately made it his own. His projects brought together crews and casts of dozens from all walks of life, who under his direction were able to give expression to the individual talents of stage craft, acting, and song and dance, that perhaps we didn’t know we even had.
His was a fearless ambition, that saw no limits to the magic he could bring to the stage with a cast and crew.
He often drew on first-time or inexperienced actors for important roles in his plays or musicals. At the same time, experienced and talented actors — like the late Bud Abbott, for example — considered it a privilege to be in his plays.
His productions of musicals are legendary, and still talked about today, like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “West Side Story,” “Oklahoma,” “Godspell,” and especially “Man of La Mancha” (arguably his signature production, he staged it three times).
He was equally renowned for his stagecraft, creating immense, clever, elaborate sets on his property in Gold Creek, and moving them onto the stage at Key City Theatre, every square foot of which he put to use. His skills extended into his love of building ornate rocking horses.
With the Bard in Your Own Back Yard society, he brought lavish and thoughtful productions of Shakespeare to the community.
Paul was named Cranbrook’s Citizen of the Year in 2002, but he continued mounting plays for another 15 years. His later productions — “Waiting for Godot,” “Crimes of the Heart,” and “View From The Bridge,” explored the darker or more absurd aspects of the human condition — a theme that was never far from the surface in his art.
The latter play, by Arthur Miller, and produced with Cranbrook Community Theatre, earned him CCT’s inaugural Abbott Award for Director the Year.
Born in 1933 in the Toronto area, Paul Kershaw went to College in New York State, and then teachers’ college at the University of British Columbia. While en route to Vancouver, he passed through Cranbrook for the first time, and later moved here with his first wife Carol, to become the drama and stagecraft teacher at MBSS.
Paul is survived by Sara, his wife of 21 years; sons David and Mark; foster daughter Jani; and by his siblings John, Alan and Ruth.