A long time ago, Jane Poveromo arrived at a Ringplay Productions meeting with some sobering news. She’d been diagnosed with cancer, she told us. Nothing too serious, nothing too extensive, but something that needed immediate treatment. “It’s very fancy cancer,” she told us. “Farrah Fawcett’s got it. I’m in good company.” Anal cancer, in other words. “I’ve got to have chemotherapy and radiation.” And so she did. She joined the ranks of all of our friends who had their ports sewn below their collarbones, and went to PMH to get her chemotherapy, and took the radiation with the kind of humour that was just Jane. She walked with a doughnut cushion to ease the discomfort of her sitting down. When you asked her how she was doing, she’d say “Fine. Apart from the fact that it’s a pain in the arse.”
That was our Jane.
She took the treatment. Her hair fell out and grew back in. The treatments seemed to work. After a year and a half (the timing is fuzzy) she was declared cancer free, and she was back on her feet and working again. She celebrated her new lease on life with a new, bold hair colour, and she was right there, present to prayers, when we started Shakespeare in Paradise. She was on stage in our production of The Tempest in 2009, playing Michaela Alonso Naples-Sands, (Shakespeare’s King Alonso); she was on stage again in 2010 as Matilda Quince (Shakespeare’s Peter Quince), the director of Pyramus and Thisbe, that hilariously awful play-within-a-play in our Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was a cornerstone of our Shakespeare productions, taking on the role of the Soothsayer in 2011’s Julius Caesar and the role of the Attorney-General in 2012’s Merchant. She worked backstage in 2013, as health challenges were beginning to slow her down—mysterious pains in her legs that made it difficult for her to walk—but she was there as we mounted The Shrew and Sammie Swain. She missed the festival altogether in 2014, as she was doing her second found of chemo, but this year she was all set to return to the stage with us, assisting Cookie in Cookie Unplugged. Even though she’d been declared cancer-free again in the summer, by September she wasn’t feeling well, but she was determined to be there for Cookie. She had a short stay in hospital about a month before the show opened, and she told Cookie that it was only a temporary setback and she was going to be at rehearsal as soon as they let her out—and indeed she was. But the week before the festival opened, Jane had to go back into hospital again. This time it was different. Her recovery was much slower, and the tests they were running suggested that the cancer that was invisible in the summer was back again, with a vengeance.
Jane’s fight ended yesterday morning. We cannot quite believe it. Jane Poveromo, always upbeat, fiercely committed, mistress of languages, friend to all, patriot in her adopted country, co-founder of Ringplay Productions, co-founder of Shakespeare in Paradise, one of the finest character actresses to grace our stage, has left us.
Our journey with Jane was a long one, one which dates back well before Ringplay Productions and Shakespeare in Paradise to the years of the Dundas Repertory Season. It was a thirty-two-year-long association, beginning in 1983 and continuing until this year. Jane loved theatre, respected her craft, and we loved her. Our stage will never quite be the same again.
Here’s a little of what she could do. We wish we had more to share!