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In Memory of Luella (Lou) Massey

 To Celebrate the Life of Lou Massey this page is dedicated to her and the countless memories of her that people have shared. She has touched so many lives over her more than 35 years of service with the Drama Community here at the University of Toronto. She will be forever missed, but remembered fondly and with pride too. [slickr-flickr tag=”2206″]



I wish I could be there to celebrate the life of such a fine person.  Luella remains a pillar of strength, support, and model for all of us.  She was a people person, down to earth, who understood and respected the challenges and joys of those she was surrounded by at the Drama Centre.  She was in the centre of often high anxiety, whether it was stressed out grad students or panic-stricken performers, and her calm demeanor and no-nonsense approach put things in perspective. I met Lou 20+ years ago as an MA student and it’s as if it were only yesterday.  I have seen her a number of times since as I traveled to U of T and we’d pick up the conversation where we left off the last time.  She was like this with most of the people I’m sure – personable and in the moment.  Her memory of us, care for us and sheer ability to engage with other human beings was unique and something to be treasured.

My condolences to the family.
University of British Columbia                                                                                          

If I try and pick out a particularly anecdote about Lou to remember…well I can’t come up with one.

Lou was a force.

That’s the only way I can describe her; and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Lou was just always there, and you could trust Lou to GET IT DONE. I think that was one of the reasons why I was so shocked by her death. I had been making an arrangement with her to rent some theatre space at The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and suddenly she didn’t answer my emails. This wasn’t like her. This reveals, of course, that I barely knew Lou outside of the workplace; but I’m pretty sure that is where many of us met her and came to love her. How do you come to love the box office manager and administrator at a University? How does that happen? And it isn’t just cuz she’s friendly and helps you out.

Lou was a rock.

But you know what?  She was a rock with a wry sense of humour. I wish I could describe it. But the best way to do that would be to say that Lou knew that the world was a tough place filled with people who often aren’t very nice and on top of that, people who often don’t live up to your expectations of them, and when you were up against that  — well Lou would just kinda shrug in just the right way, and call you pal, and make a joke, and then it would be alright. Sometimes — you know— you feel as if you’re fighting the forces of evil, and there’s nothing much you can do. And when that happens, the person you would want to have on your side would be…well…it would be Lou.

And that’s the truth.

 SKY GILBERT                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

When I moved back to Toronto in 2005, Lou welcomed me into her employment on the reJEWvenation conference and then as FOH and box office for almost four years. Over those years, I heard a lot of gossip, a lot of memories, and a lot of laughs from Lou.  She loved UofT and more specifically Hart House. I had the fun/privilege of setting up all the props in the new space on McCaul after they had to be moved yet again because UofT decided to take over the Banting space after they were already moved out of Hart House.  Lou had a lot of trust in me and I trusted her greatly.  She was an amazing person, with a strong head, a caring heart, and two wide-open arms always willing to welcome.

TRENT SCHERER                                                                                                                   

My best memory of Lou is a long lasting impression of her accessibility, always finding me when I entered the Drama Centre main area.

If she could she would walk out to assist me she would do it instantly.

If she was busy she would address me over her shoulder – usually while at the computer – and tell me she would be there as soon as she was finished with what she was doing – which was always urgent.

I could have wandered in to review the posters on the walls, to ask about the box office, or to set up lights for a re-presentation of performance for a video record. I was always treated the same way in my capacity as committee member, alumni, student or conference attendee. I had her full attention and it was important and immediate.

SUSAN AARON                                                                                                                

I have many wonderful memories of Lou but of most significance is that she introduced me to my husband who was also a student at the Drama Centre. We are so pleased that Lou was able to come to our wedding in 2011 and only sorry that she did not get to meet our son who was born this year. I look forward to having the opportunity to honour Lou.

KAREN GILODO                                                                                                                                               

I know Luella from my MA days at the Drama Centre. I continued the contact when I retired and joined Ryerson’s ACT II STUDIO in 2002. ACT II had several ‘June productions’ at the Robert Gill, during which Lou was always supportive – and a welcome sight when we moved in the theatre! There was always that ‘no-nonsense’ approach that, even though disarming at times, we knew was her way of helping us focus on the real business at hand. It was the professional approach we all needed.

GEOFF BAINES                                                                                                                                                 

My most vivid memory of Lou:

I had never lived away from home when I came to U of T from Montreal. I visited the Drama Centre with my parents a few weeks before classes were to start. Lou was there to show us around. My mother (very embarrassingly) told her that I was probably incompetent and that she should look out for me. Lou very politely reassured my insanely over-protective Italian mother and I thought, “This poor lady is just trying to do her job. She’s not here to babysit adults.” Well. In my year at U of T, Lou stepped outside of her job description time and again for me and my classmates. From rides home late at night, to hugs and a shoulder to cry on, Lou really was my home away from home.

When we had to choose our work-study positions at the beginning of the year, my first choice was to be Lou’s costume assistant. In the interview process she asked me if I had ever done laundry before (I hadn’t), if I knew how to iron (I didn’t) and if I could sew (absolutely not). For whatever reason, I still got the job and therefore had the pleasure of working closely with this incredible woman. We worked together on the costumes for every project at the DC that year. Out of the corner of my eye, I’d catch Lou silently straightening the pants I’d just placed on a hanger, or strengthening the button I’d just sewn on a shirt. I was incompetent after all! But she never scolded me. I should have been fired, really.

The climax of this story came on the opening night of my final project. A one-woman show that I had written and would perform in. Lou had been there for me through the entire process dispensing encouragement and advice along the way. She even found the perfect costume and allowed me to take it on tour after I graduated. Anyway, that day Lou told me that I should wash and iron my costume before the big opening. I was on the way out to pick up my programs from the print shop, but I made a detour to the laundry room. I had this one little blue dress. Not a load of laundry. But I naively followed the steps that Lou had shown me for an entire load, including the “one cup of detergent” part. Suddenly, white soapy bubbles started to spill out of the machine. I opened it, peered in, and saw my little blue dress was engulfed in a cloud of soap. I pressed all the buttons. I looked for a way to unplug it. I was too embarrassed to tell Lou. Opening was in 4 hours. I had to go pick up my programs! I made a mental note to deal with the laundry afterwards and for a reason I still can’t find in my brain, I trusted that the machine would settle down on its own.

When I returned from the print shop, my dress was happily tumbling in the dryer and the washing machine was empty. No sign of the flood I had caused.

I went into the Drama Centre. Lou asked if I had the programs. She didn’t mention the washing machine but I knew she had seen it. 

She worked front of house for my show that night, like she did for every other show. I begged her to just be an audience member and enjoy the show. She lied to me and said she would, but she stayed out in the cold lobby the whole time. She never had the opportunity to watch the work she had so tirelessly helped me to create. This year, I am touring the play in Ottawa, Hudson and Montreal. My performances are dedicated to Lou.

P.S. I wish Lou could see me now in my new role as a wife. I do laundry, iron and hang up my husband’s pants (mostly) without incident. 

MICHAELA DI CESARE                                                                                                                             

I am a member of Act II Studio Ryerson and we used to use the Robert Gill Theatre for our productions every June. I was Stage Manager on several occasions and had the privilege of getting to know Lue well. What an amazing person.

ROSEMARY GRAYDON                                                                                                                               

I am the artistic director of ACT II STUDIO at Ryerson and we performed at the Gill at least once a year from 1992 to 2008.  What I remember most was that Lou made us feel like family, helped us through growing pains, and became a treasured part of our family.  She is the only non-ACT II STUDIO person to be awarded our special Apple Award for her indelible effect on the development and growth of our studio.  In a time of growing administrative standardization and red tape, Lou always treated us with generosity and warmth, dealing with our foibles, facilitating our needs.  She gave far more in ways that truly matter than she was required to.  She always created an environment of warmth and good humour.

VRENIA IVONOFFSKI                                                                                                                                 

I was involved with many ACT II Studio performances at the Robert Gill beginning with Mornings at Seven in June 1992, never as an actor, but with front of house, lobby displays, 50/50 draws, refreshments etc. Lou was always cheerful and helpful and one of the main reasons why I continued to volunteer for these jobs!  

PAM HITCHCOCK                                                                                                               


I see you now
in places you used to be
places you never were

in faces of ones left behind
in things undone

riding a string of green lights
going smooth at 50k
stuck at red in left turn lanes
for forever and a day

I see your morning routine
your grocery store route
paying for toilet paper
canola oil
ketchup you forgot on
your last trip

late night flips through photo albums
so old they seem like someone else’s

the clouds that day
made me think of a god I don’t believe in

I saw you when you said:
“he takes a record or two every time he visits
he puts them in his backpack and shows me as he’s leaving”
followed with a mother’s smile

I see you in your chair
posture, papers
knowing every one
every thing

I see you no longer choosing
no longer boss

saying goodbye in your mind’s eye

tense for those you cared for at home

and away

at work

I see you in their faces
a legend in your time

I see you now
and then –
you knew
this time it is my time.

With love,

SEIKA, AUGUST 4, 2013                                                                                                                             

I joined Act II Studio in 2000 and was lucky to be cast in “Waiting in the Wings” in 2001 and subsequently other shows at The Robert Gill Theatre.  Lou was always the backbone of the The Gill.  Nothing was too much trouble and she was always so interested in our shows and helped us in any way she could.  I was sorry to learn that she had died and would like to attend but am not sure if it will be possible for me – many thanks for the invitation.  Lou was “one of a kind” – she will be remembered fondly by me.

MAUREEN DELANEY                                                                                                                                  

 The thing I remember most about Lu is her coming out to our Drama Centre “Comedy of Errors” baseball games with a “street meat” hotdog in hand, because of course, as she said, there was nothing better for a summer evening than grabbing a ‘dog and watching a good game. 

CYNTHIA “CINDY” PICCOLO                                                                                                                

I first met Lou when she was, I believe, the stage manager of the PLS’s second BIG show, the Castle of Perseverance in 1979. I had modernized the text and I was also playing the relatively small part of ‘Peace’ — one of the Four Daughters of God. One day when we were all supposed to be ‘off book’ I was stumbling badly over one speech. Lou was rather impatiently holding the book and I blurted out ‘the poetry is hard to learn!’ She shot back ‘You wrote the damn lines!’ — so I went home and re-wrote them.

ALEXANDRA JOHNSTON                                                                                                                         

My first memory of Lou was on my first visit to the Robert Gill Theatre.
I was a new and nervous member of Act 2 and, was not even sure if I was in the right place.  Lou took one look at me pointed at the door to the stage saying “In you go, your late”. 
Thus was my introduction to Lou.
Whenever Act 2 was performing I would look forward to seeing her and continuing the many chats we had. She always seemed to be there whenever I had a question or wanted information. We had so many laughs together and she had, and always will have, a most warm place in my heart.

MARGARET KILLINGBECK                                                                                                                    

I am a member of Act 11 Studio and that is where I met  Lou when we did productions at  Robert Gill Theatre. I think of going into her office where she had a desk full of work but still had time to answer my question or just offer a friendly “Hi”. When I requested reserved front row seats for my ,visually impaired friend Norma, she said “No problem” and added that she was related ,by marriage to her. I always had to have the relationship explained which she and Norma did with infinite patience.

I remember Lou with pleasure.

NORA BRETT                                                                                                                                                     

My memory of Lou… was popping by her office whenever I had a break and trying to get her to smile. She had that kind of gruff exterior, but underneath she was a softie. If you could get her to laugh, which she did often but not frivolously, then you knew you had accomplished something worthwhile that day. We bonded over being “Techies” in the midst of all the academics, and if you were willing to commiserate with her, she would always help you figure out how to get what you needed.

BRAD LEPP                                                                                                                                                          

I was at the Drama Centre in one capacity or another from 1971 until I retired, and even now I am still hanging around as I await a thesis from a student. As a result I have known Lou for almost forty years, from those early times at Hart House when she was making sure I didn’t make too many mistakes directing Marsh Hay or in other stage ventures, to the years in the Centre when I would seek her advice and help in an inordinately large range of matters. We shared a connection of life in the valley, the Bay and the ‘prior. I have so many vivid images of Lou that it is hard to pick merely one, but the dominant image in all of them is of a unique combination of attributes: her incomparable kindness, generosity, remarkable abilities and wise advice. Lou was a treasure whom I, and countless others, gained immeasurably from knowing.

I am indeed sorry not to be able to attend the celebration of her life and contributions.

RICHARD PLANT                                                                                                                                           

My most vivid memory of Lu Massey is one of serenity and peace in the face of chaos.  I am a member of Act 2 Studio and we used to perform our June shows at The Robert Gill Theatre.  Lu was always friendly and in control without being controlling.  She helped me in so many ways when we had a reception on opening night.  Nothing was too much trouble.  Nothing upset her (at least visibly).  Lu handled everything calmly and efficiently.  It was because of Lu that our stay at the Robert Gill was so successful.  She was a great lady who was full of love and caring.  She really did look after her clients.  I will never forget her and I hope that I have learned a little bit from the way she handled all problems that presented themselves to her.  She will be missed.

 JEANETTE CAIRNS                                                                                                                                     

The news that Lou is no longer with us saddened me. She was just such a big part of the Drama Centre routine while I was doing my Ph.D. that it seems somehow inconceivable she is no longer there. Most of the times I visited Toronto since I moved back to Brazil, I dropped by at DC and Lou was invariably at her office, welcoming me and updating me on what everyone else was doing. I grew to admire her stoic ways, although it took me a while to understand her manner. Lou was great. It moves me to write this. She left her mark. I was trying to think of something more inspired to say, but time passes and I don’t want to let the moment pass without expressing this. My regards to her family. She was a remarkable woman, in many ways. 

MARIA CLARA                                                                                                                                                 

I suppose she and I had about five or six thousand lunches together from 1984 to just last spring.  Mostly they were along College Street (the south side), from Spadina to McCaul.  I won’t try to summarize, or characterize, the subject matter – except to say, mostly, that conversations were of two working people who liked (and disliked) aspects of their daily jobs; had families (sort of, in my case); read the newspaper every day; and had favourite films and records they enjoyed remarking to one another about.  The fact that her Sunday school was within the Anglican Church in Arnprior and mine was at the United in Etobicoke (by way of Columbus GA First Methodists) really didn’t enter into it.  For we were both now downtown in Toronto and therefore tolerant of such grotesque differences.
But there is one lunch that I consider now not important, but indicitive.  Let’s say it was #1936, in the early ’90s, at the (then) Elm Restaurant – once home of fine so-so Canadian cuisine.  Our waitress was our regular (named Selma, I think), who Lou knew well enough to discuss family and compare server-slogging with, having once herself trod among aisles of tables, as a student in her twenties.  That day was, sadly, some Big Off Day.  The cutlery was spotted.  Lou said so to Selma.  The burger was pink in the middle, and the fries were cold and didn’t come with the side of gravy she ordered.  Lou said so too – at some length.  Then the cheque was wrong – so noted to Selma by Lou – that included two coffees that we didn’t order nor did we have.  It was an Bad Off-Day.  Then we began to leave, so to get back to the pressing needs of Ron Bryden or Colin Visser, or whomever was there at the time.  But in so doing I noticed Lou quietly say something to Selma – something friendly, for the latter smiled, tiredly – as she covered the bill, as our alternating lunch regimen dicated that day.  And I noticed that on our tab of a some double saw-buck, she left an extra two fins – as some damned godforsaken tip.  I said nothing and (and as) we went.  I remember it being cold, flurrying, outside, and Lou huffing about Gordie and the Argos, the latter playing play-offs that weekend, the former heavily to attend: Big Double Blue..
That, indicatively, was a bit of She.  I’ve never seen kindness, discipline, and carelessness (only with her own money) quite concatenate just that way.  To say I miss her mixes understatement with near rob-ford stupidity.  I still owe her some lunch, though I don’t know quite what its number could be.  Probably algebraic, which she was good at, and I never quite got.  And just to rhyme the hell out: she was so patient/ I (no no) am just not

ROB MOSES                                                                                                                                                         

I studied at the Drama Centre in 2003-4.  There were many times Lue helped me during productions, but the incident that stands out for me is actually almost a decade later.  When I needed to have my Master’s accepted by the Ministry of Education in Israel, the process was delayed for YEARS with new demands everytime.  One of the last demands was to have course descriptions.  Now, the Drama Centre is a dynamic place and the courses I took were not the same as were offered.  I decided to try my luck.  I called the Drama Centre and Lue answered my call.   I said my name and heard “Hi Tali!  I remember you!”  This was 8 years after my studies!  She even asked about my oldest daughter who would sometimes crawl around during rehearsals.  I was so touched!  We chatted a bit and then I apprehensively asked about the course descriptions.  Lue answered that she’d check the archives and see what she could find.
In short, I got my course descriptions the same day, and more importantly, Lue had made my day with her warm and generous manner.  Aside from her efficiency and knowledge, I think that Lue’s attentiveness and humour is what made her so loved and respected by all.

TALI PEREL                                                                                                                                                       

Most Vivid Memory of Luella Massey

Lou ‘rescued’ me from a period of unemployment when I received a call not from her, but from a colleague in the undergraduate arts and science office at Sidney Smith. A department at the university was looking for a ‘temp’ worker who had some–‘some’ is the operative word here–knowledge of the student information system, ROSI, to come in a few days per week to do some computer work.

At the time I received the call, I had no idea where or with whom, I would be working. Shortly thereafter, I was told to report to “Lou” in the graduate theatre department located on the top floor of 214 College Street. I was unfamiliar with the department but I figured the best way to get ‘prepared’ for my job interview was to research who this “Lou” person was.

My first revelation was that “Lou” was a lady and that she seemed to have been born in a trunk at the theatre department since she was here for decades, knew everyone, and seemed to do everything! And when I mean ‘everything’, it also included the job I was expected to do for the department.

I was familiar with ‘some’ aspects of the student record system having done the things I needed to do in other departments more-or-less by rote and with the operating manual always open beside me. Lou however took me to places in ROSI I never knew existed and she took me there from ‘Day 1’ letting me do the ‘driving’ while she did all the ‘heavy lifting’ sitting at my side.

She always let me believe we were going into these dark corners of ROSI for the first time together and that the limited knowledge–how limited I only found out when I started to work with her–I brought to the department was of some value. However, it soon became apparent to me that she had already done everything I was expected to do, and more! Any ‘uncertainty’ she exhibited in how we were to do a procedure was just part of her ‘Socratic method’ allowing me to learn what she already knew and could do before I got there; even though it was as far from her job description as some of the other talents she brought to the department.

I assume how she taught me was how she taught generations of theatre students who passed through her hands: Never assume they know as much as they think they know but never let them know you know. Whatever road she took you down she had already been there before, and she took you there with a confidence and compassion you never forgot.

MARC GOODMAN                                                                                                                                           

There are a lot of little stories involving Lou that I could share. Moments shared that, at the time, hardly seemed significant in many cases, as they were simply part of the rhythm of day-to-day life, in and around the Drama Centre. But in fact, those memories stretch back to before I came to the DC (not to mention moved to Toronto from Vancouver) in 2002. I had 1,000 questions for Lou that I e-mailed to her from Vancouver, all, unfortunately, from an AOL account I no longer have access to. But they all seemed equally important and pressing at the time, about the intricacies of registration and so on, and she answered each one quickly, helpfully, and sometimes, sarcastically. We joked about all those questions for years after, and we agreed that, given all that help, and all the support and advice that was to come, I owed her a few beers after I finally got my PhD. Although I am on track to finish my dissertation at last, one of my greatest regrets in life is that it will now be too late to celebrate that achievement with Lou in person.

 Although I always knew Lou was a “mother figure” for many at the Drama Centre (and probably not just to students!), this fact was driven home at her memorial service. I think, however, that this was especially true for the “Lost Boys and Girls” who came to both the DC and Toronto itself from elsewhere, and even more so for those of us who had no family or close friends in the city when we first arrived here.

 Lou—as well as her comfortingly cluttered yet somehow, at least to her, organized office—always had an aura of understanding and support, even when she was giving me a needed figurative kick in the butt. For example, when Chris Jackman and I decided to do something a bit different and proposed two separate collaboratively created works-in-progress to be produced by the DC in 2008 (Home and Away and Performative Exercise), she kept a close eye on us to make sure we were making the progress we needed to. I also remember, however, her telling me, after a particularly late rehearsal, that surely there was someone waiting at home to see me. Alas, at the time, there was not, but her concern for my well-being was comforting in itself. She later greeted Chris and me as her “favourite directors,” which I am sure was a jocular exaggeration, but it gave me a boost at a very trying and stressful time.

 One of the last times, I think THE last time, I saw Lou was when I was bringing in the paperwork last summer for the final extension to my PhD programme (i.e. for the current academic year). Although it was for my supervisor to read and sign, she showed her usual concern, which frankly could sometimes border on intrusiveness, and immediately started to leaf through it. And you know what? I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I appreciated it. And I think I chuckled quietly at the time.


JAMIE ASHBY                                                                                                                                               

Lou was a colleague, and a friend. She gave me my first job in the city and helped me gain valuable experience working in the Front of House/Administrative side of theatre. Lou would always offer to drive me home, and it was during those late nights that we would talk about almost anything. She is dearly missed, and I am often reminded of her. When I walk through an arts and craft fair, I remember how much Lou looked forward to the One of a Kind Show with Steven and Becca. When I wait in the lobby of a theatre, I remember how Lou knew most of the people in her lobby and how efficiently it was run. When I attend a party, I remember how Lou could put together a reception at the drop of a hat. I will always remember my friend, and how she touched so many lives. 

BECKY BRIDGER                                                                                                                                            

I’m sure we’re all going to say the same thing about her – that Lou WAS the Drama Centre for many of us, that she was the backbone and the heart of our graduate experience. I was especially lucky to have worked for Lou – I was the DC’s publicist one year and shared Lou’s little office on many afternoons. I was even more fortunate that Lou agreed to stage manage the production I directed at the Glen Morris Studio (it was “Wanted” by Michelene Wandor) and was, as you might expect, the best SM anyone could ever hope for. She was always happy to see me when I made it back to Toronto to visit, and it breaks my heart to think she won’t be there when I go back again next time. Lou Massey was a wonderful person, and I will always miss her.

SHELLEY SCOTT                                                                                                                                            

The first time I can remember meeting Lou she was living in a mobile home outside Con Hall, and I was supervising a Crucifixion—beat that! She was clearly, even then, a force to be reckoned with. Over the years she kept me in order when she was a stage manager and me a mere actor in Hart House Theatre, but our relationship grew closer, and more affectionate, when I moved full time from Erindale College, my first home, to the Drama Centre in 2002. Always active, willing, and super-competent, Lou was, despite her feisty spirit, shy of recognition at public events. So it was in 2003, when she’d completed twenty-five years service at the university, she failed to go to the ceremony at which you’re given the little gold pin you get to memorialize that career landmark. Rob Moses suggested we quietly collect it from the awards office, and present her with it at the Centre Christmas party, in the presence of her university family. A little nervously, I did this, with a few words  of appreciation about her work for us, but Lou was, for once, overcome, and tearfully gave me a big hug, which I will always remember as an occasion  when I had managed to fly under her radar. Thereafter I felt, rather proudly, that I was one of the people she approved of. 

JOHN ASTINGTON                                                                                                                                       





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