Actor, Composer, Theatre Director
Published, EAC Communiqué, November 1992
From youth to his present undertaking managing the Theatre on the Grand, Fergus, Alan Argue has lived his life in performance and art. Twice he left the challenges and uncertainties of the entertainment world, gravitating back in time to the crafts and networks he knows well. “It’s a very small world in entertainment in Canada.”
Growing up in Ottawa, his sharp interest in many fields of the art was encouraged by his parents. Lessons with excellent teachers in drawing, piano, and acting honed his talents. School years spent at St. Andrew’s College augmented a respect for excellence. Gradually drama pulled ahead of music and painting as a priority. He phoned Ottawa Little Theatre, pretended he was his mother, and asked if the “son” could join! His ambition was to act at the Passadena Playhouse.
After high school and a whirl at a factory job, he settled in Kingston, which he still considers the best arts community in Canada. For 10 years he worked in broadcasting, FM radio, and television, ultimately becoming a programme director in radio and a producer in T.V. During this time he also wrote music and lyrics for reviews and children’s plays which “mom and dad enjoyed as much as the kids,” and he taught drama. Slowly, however, the pendulum began to swing back toward acting. He joined Actor’s Equity and got into summer stock with the Kawartha Festival. “Out of the fat into the fire!”
Now absorbed in a performing career, Alan hired a good agent, and as he made his way in theatre, TV acting and films, spent increasing time in Toronto. Since childhood he had never perceived any barrier of “Fame”. Alan had known many famous people through his father, who was Director of the Canadian National Exhibition, where people like Elvis Presley and Louis Armstrong came to perform. He had seen that off stage they were ordinary, accessible people. He acted in the film “Equus” with Richard Burton. “Those years were a lot of fun, with a lot of neat memories,” he reminisces. “But I tell young actors, if you’re looking for Fame and Applause, forget it. Do it for the doing of it, or you’ve lost it all.” This reflects strong identification with the philosophy of Ayn Rand. For five years he travelled across Ontario with Theatre Ontario’s Talent Bank, directing, teaching acting and make-up to Community Theatres.
Pressures on his life became heavy, and he decided to escape completely. He drove to the airport and got a job driving a forklift, his first time away from the entertainment world. “I was happy slugging freight,” Alan says. But his drive for excellence was harder to suppress. Within a short time he found himself managing his own small Freight Forwarding company, on call 24 hours a day, successful but unbelievably stressed. When an opportunity came to teach Broadcast Journalism at University of Western Ontario as an adjunct for Post-Grad programs in 1980, Alan left the airport and used teaching as a base for freelancing, and return to the uncertain world of the Arts.
Five years later, with the economy low, and twin girls, Alan and his wife Roxanne decided to leave Mississauga and come to Fergus. “It’s so cold and fast in the city”, he says. “We didn’t want our children to grow up there.” Roxanne reassured him: “Alan, you can change your life”. Since coming to this area,
But I tell young actors, if you’re looking for Fame and Applause, forget it. Do it for the doing of it, or you’ve lost it all.
Alan Argue has often played piano in the lounges of The Elora Mill and Wellington Fare, started an all round performing art school for young people, CAST, was production manager for The Elora Festival, developed a Community Musical for Sudbury, and continued to write commercial scripts for film and TV. Recently Alan and Roxanne established Argue-Hall Enterprises, a firm of Theatre Management Consultants, drawing on long years of experience in many aspects of entertainment to organize theatres, physically and administratively, and to book shows.
With the renovation of the Theatre on the Grand by Hugh and Lorraine Drew Brook, the opportunity has come on Alan’s doorstep for Argue-Hall Enterprises to vitalize the dormant potential of this building. But it’s not easy. Little audience development has been done in the past, and local people still don’t seem to believe great things can happen right here. “Hugh and Lorraine have done something remarkable for this community,” Alan says “and the community has not yet given this sufficient recognition and support.” He has formed the group Friends of the Theatre to act as a type of apprenticeship program for technical and administrative aspects of theatre, an initiative that has immense but to date insufficiently utilized potential. Alan says to all of us, “People have to believe the truth. They have to come out and give their support to the tremendous opportunity that’s here if they want this vision of Hugh and Lorraine, of Pat Chataway, to survive.” We are fortunate to have Alan Argue’s diversified and persuasive knowledge of the world of entertainment and theatre at work in our community.
UPDATE – 1997
In the year following this Profile, Alan returned to one of his many skills: freelance journalism. He has become a most important and vital voice for the arts, with his weekly column in the Wellington Advertiser. Alan continues to work as a water colourist and to exhibit. He has written original music and lyrics for his eighth music-theatre production.
Alan is once more managing the upgraded theatre building in Fergus, renamed “The Fergus Grand Theatre”. It is now owned by the Township of Centre Wellington. Under Alan’s management the theatre has become a busy place, and the number of local theatre groups has expanded with a secure performance space. This area has never before been so actively supportive of theatre.
Alan Argue has written and directed several musicals recently, including “Seasons of the Heart” and “Tribute” and oversees the Wellington-Waterloo Players.