The owner-director of White Rock-based online theatre and film acting school The Drama Class has been recognized with a lifetime achievement award from her peers.
Busy actor, acting instructor and industry-based bookstore owner Catherine Lough Haggquist was presented the Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award during an online ceremony for the ninth annual Union of British Columbia Performers (UBCP/ACTRA) awards on Nov. 21.
Named for the late Canadian actress, playwright and theatre director, who passed in 2009, The Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award is presented to a UBCP/ACTRA member whose work as both a performer and in other realms, embodies accomplishments that advance the status of women.
“I’m honoured to have been added to the list of women celebrating her legacy,” Lough Haggquist told Peace Arch News.
“And to be assessed by my peers to be worthy of this recognition is truly an honour.”
She was a friend and acting colleague of Gale, she said, and had also sold her plays through her BizBooks store.
Gale had always been an inspiration to her, she said.
“When I first started in the business, she was reading for all the roles of doctors and judges, while I was reading for the uniformed officers. But as time went on and I felt my work improved, we were reading for some of the same kinds of roles.”
The status of women within the industry has made great progress in recent years, she said – as has inclusivity of all races and gender identifications – and that’s been behind-the-scenes as well as on-screen.
“In the projects I’m working on, I’ve never seen as many women directors as I have in the last few years,” she said. “We’re also seeing far more female-led projects that are showing bankability.”
But at the same time, she said, work has to be done to maintain the progress, avoiding pressures to slip back or simply indulge in “tick-the-box tokenism.”
“When the gender isn’t the remarkable part – but the ability, and the work the artist is doing, is – that’s when we are starting to get there,” she said.
Lough Haggquist, who officially took over the The Drama Class (thedramaclass.com) from founder Michele Partridge at the beginning of September, was already a familiar face at the studio, having conducted classes and workshops there for years.
While it has become an all-online school during the pandemic – “we felt it was the most responsible course for both our students and instructors” – she said plans are to return to in-person workshops. They will be presented as special events initially, “once we get back to a ‘new healthy’ as opposed to the ‘new normal.’”
But students – who range from early childhood to adults – are benefiting from current online classes to build skills in such areas as self-taping, and participating in Zoom-call auditions and callbacks, she said.
“The industry has embraced technology as a means of getting back to work, and it’s always going to be that way, now,” she said. “It’s actually expanded opportunities for actors to get their work in front of (casting) directors.”
Through her career, Lough Haggquist has, herself, appeared in more than 140 film and television productions, and also has numerous stage credits.
And the latest honour is not the first recognition she has received for her work. In 2008, she was presented the Women in Film and Television Vancouver’s Special Jury Award, while in 2013 she was named UBCP/ACTRA’s International Women’s Day honoree.
She was also awarded a lifetime membership by UBCP/ACTRA in 2017, in recognition for her work with the union.
And she continues to operate BizBooks.net, a now-online bookstore specializing in film, television and theatre subjects, which she founded as a bricks-and-mortar store in 1996.
In addition to her work with The Drama Class, Lough Haggquist is also a contributor to programs such as On The Mic Training, Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts), Capilano University and ActorVan Studios.
Well-known Vancouver actor Alvin Sanders was also honoured with a lifetime achievement award – the John Juliani Award of Excellence – during the UBCP/ACTRA ceremony.