Tim Sutherland was born to John and Christine Sutherland on September 8, 1966. He was a natural performer and showed great talent as a singer and actor. Every Christmas, Tim’s mother wrote a play for him to perform with his brothers and cousins, starting at the age of three. He sang solos in his church choir, and landed lead roles in school performances. In the fifth grade, Tim played Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, to great acclaim. Four years later, he won a scholarship for his performance in The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet at a high school drama festival. By the age of fourteen, Tim was a role model for other aspiring young actors.
But Tim was not just an actor. He was interested in theatre history, theory, writing and directing. Tim spent hours of his high school years reading Stanislavsky and Beckett to friends. He was determined to pursue theatre, and was well on his way.
“I remember watching him take direction and thought… oh…that’s how you do it.” (Peter McGuire)
“He was a very smart and creative person…an amazing actor.” (Peter McGuire)
At the Phoenix
Tim received his Theatre undergraduate degree and MA in Theatre History at the University of Victoria Phoenix Theatre. He was well-loved by his undergrad cohort; they were amazed by his passion, quirkiness, intellect, and overwhelming love of theatre. Tim had many friends and created incredibly intimate connections with his peers. He was cast in many mainstage productions and brought joy to each show’s cast, crew, and audience. Though he was certainly a dramatic person, he avoided the social drama at school and focused on his studies and creative output.
“We used to drink a glass of sherry before every show and sing God Save the Queen.” (Ian)
“He had a vocabulary that made you google words.” (Danette)
“Tim lives within the Phoenix.” (Unknown)
Tim was one of the founders of the Student Alternative Theatre Company. He took a concept for a student-run company that had been developing and put it into practice. Establishing a brand-new company with few precedents in other university departments was not easy. Tim was driven by the desire to give students a creative voice outside the limitations of the department. He saw the abilities of the people around him to create their own work. Tim understood the importance of giving these students the resources and the platform they needed to foster creativity: the equipment, the facilities, and the funding.
SATCo has developed over the years and is now an essential part of the department. Students rely on SATCo for opportunities in all areas of theatre, opportunities that may not be available to them through the department. SATCo is a place where students can create their own work and put the skills they are learning into action. It is also unique to UVic. SATCo has had an impact not only on Phoenix students, but on the theatre scene in Victoria. Tim’s initiative caused a major shift toward small companies in the city. His belief in the power of developing one’s own work has become a part of the overall attitude of Victoria’s theatre scene.
Tim went on to have an extraordinarily successful theatre career in Calgary, Wells, Victoria, and more. An actor, director, writer, dramaturge, and historian, Tim was always focused on creating theatre that was important to him. He co-founded Eclectic Circus in Victoria and worked with many small companies in the city. He loved Shakespeare, and he was very skilled at performing verse. As always, Tim raised the standards for artistic practice everywhere he went, leaving the Victoria arts scene a better, richer place through his involvement.
Tim is perhaps best known for playing Judge Begbie in the historical tourist park Barkerville for thirteen seasons. Begbie always sat at the same stool in the pub, and many employees still recognize the stool as Tim’s. Tim adored Barkerville, and his family has donated a bench to the park in his memory.
Tim never lost his zeal for academics. He pursued an MFA in Directing at the University of Calgary which was awarded posthumously. His family has since donated to the university, and the donation was used to buy new rehearsal furniture. Tim’s legacy lives on at the U of C, both through his academic work and this wonderful gift.
“The Victoria arts scene would not be the Victoria arts scene, if Tim had not been involved.” (Ian)
“He loved whiskey, he loved music, he loved people, he loved theatre.” (Ian)
Tim passed away in 2015, leaving behind a permanent impact on everyone privileged enough to have met him. He is remembered in the hearts of friends, family, castmates, creative teams, fellow students, and more. The effects of his endless creative generosity are felt in the Phoenix, in the Victoria theatre scene, in Wells and in Barkerville, in Calgary and in Vancouver.
“I was just reading a great article about how the last scene of a play is the most important. My last moment seeing Tim, I was leaving a show with my kids and I looked across the lobby and Tim was sitting at a barstool at the concession and he had just been handed a glass of scotch and he looked so happy. He was ready to deconstruct everything that had just happened onstage. Instead of talking to us, he looked over and we waved at each other, and he turned around with his glass of whiskey poised, waiting to talk to the performers. The happiest possible Tim place. He had a glass of scotch and he was ready to talk about theatre.”
– Danette, a friend.
“Tim was in his life every single day, 24 hours a day.” (James)
Thank you to Christine Sutherland, Peter Balkwill, Corey Hardeman, Ian Case, James Douglas, and Danette Boucher for sharing their memories with us.
Photos by Julia Mackey