with former instructor John Lucas
This article was written by MJ Turner and first published on July 27, 2016 in the Fall 2016 Calendar.
John Lucas describes himself as “an actor who happens to sing and dance.” Having had one foot in theatre and the other in academia all his life has made him feel like “the illegitimate offspring of Northrop Frye and Daffy Duck,” he says, adding matter-of-factly that he actually knew Northrop Frye.
His great loves in life are theatre, music and cooking.
He still finds time to teach regularly through Continuing Studies at UVic. His courses have been varied—fine art, movies and even automobile design— and he has never repeated one, always coming up with something new drawn from a seemingly inexhaustible energy for the arts in general.
He describes Continuing Studies as a kind of “old professors’ heaven”—stimulating, fun, never boring. “Only boring people are bored, he adds.
This fall, Lucas is teaching a course on Andrew Wyeth, one of the most popular and beloved American artists of the twentieth century and, according to Lucas, one of the most controversial: an artist whose work is either loved or reviled, particularly in any discussion of modern art. Next spring, he has plans for a course on Cole Porter.
No stranger to learning new things at any stage in life, Lucas earned a degree in art history in his 40s. As well as working in theatre, he was head of the English department at Dawson College in Montreal. He says that his studies in art history revolutionized both his teaching and directing.
Growing up, he was surrounded by art—his father was an art dealer and historian. The family spent 10 years living in Paris, another formative experience for Lucas. “There was no junk food for me as a child,” he says without regret. Over the past 50 years he has mastered the art of French and Italian cooking. In true European style he still shops for fresh ingredients each day and creates meals from scratch.
John started his professional career as an actor at the age of 22 in a tour of the northeastern U.S. as Simon Bliss in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. By 24 he was directing. Over the years Lucas has directed 26 productions of Shakespeare plays as well as many other types of work, such as Joe Pintauro’s The Raft of the Medusa—the first AIDS-themed play produced by a main-stage company—in Montréal at the Centaur Theatre.
Talking to John in his beautiful garden—an ongoing project of artistic expression—nestled at the edge of Victoria, one realizes that there can be very few, if any, dull moments in this man’s life.
Music has been a constant thread too. Lucas was a church soloist at the age of eight and, two years later, made his radio debut in the U.S., on a show called “Let’s Pretend.” With obvious delight he can still sing the theme song flawlessly.
At the beginning of our interview he was just finishing a coaching session at the grand piano with one of his music students, an already accomplished musician but like Lucas, someone for whom good, even very good, is never quite good enough.
- Posted July 28, 2016