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Video: Norman Armour’s sense of humour and dedication to performing arts recalled at his Celebration of Life

Norman Armour performing arts
Norman Armour was working on a new festival called Reflect with the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association before he became ill with cancer. Photo by Jessica Sung.

Family and friends offered warm and loving memories for a performing-arts community giant at his March 30 Celebration of Life. The co-founding artistic and executive director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Norman Armour, died on November 19 after contracting cancer. Armour also co-founded Rumble Theatre.

The well-attended public memorial took place at the Vancouver Playhouse and included performances by Juno-nominated Two-Spirit Cree cellist Cris Derkson and Vancouver musician and songwriter Veda Hille.

Derksen performed a plaintive and mournful piece in honour of Armour, which was augmented with a photo montage. Hille closed the Celebration of Life with her song “LuckLucky”.

Speakers included two of Armour’s brothers, Douglas and Robert, and many cultural leaders in Vancouver. Playwright and filmmaker Marie Clements shared recollections of working on Burning Vision alongside Armour when he was at Rumble Theatre. It was staged at the Firehall Arts Centre in 2002.

Clements said it was a gift to be able to partner with Armour on this project. And she praised Armour’s passion for making great theatre.

“It just left a mark in me because it seems that it set a tone that I had to be as fearless as Norman, that I had to demand the best from people I collaborated with, that I had to love hard, and that I had to take that because this is what we signed up for,” Clements declared.

Former PuSh Festival board member Jane Heyman told the audience that when she thinks of Armour, the first word that pops into her mind is “partnerships”. She also cited his sense of humour, which was even on display in palliative care last November. Heyman recalled visiting him and, much to her amazement, she felt better leaving than when she entered the facility.

Watch the livestream of Norman Armour’s Celebration of Life.

Supporting performing artists 

Wesley Enoch, the former artistic director of Queensland Theatre Company, spoke via video. He told the audience that Armour had a great life, travelling the world and supporting performing artists. Then Enoch asked: “How could this serious friend be so naughty?”, sharing how Armour used to introduce him at public gatherings as his friend Tubby.

Theatre Replacement artistic director Maiko Yamamoto spoke glowingly of how she felt as an SFU student watching Rumble Theatre plays. She said that she felt close to the performers and the shows in a way that she had never experienced before.

SpiderWebShow artistic director Adrienne Wong was another speaker who commented on Armour’s appreciation for the importance of interconnectedness and partnership. She added that Armour taught her “to jump in and find your community by doing”.

“He once told me that there are two kinds of people in the world. People who like Scotch and people who didn’t,” Wong quipped. “For a long time, I thought that meant we were the same kind of people but he turns out he doesn’t like Scotch. I didn’t know. It didn’t matter because we were the type of people who loved each other.”

Another speaker was theatre director and dramaturg Richard Wolfe, a former colleague of Armour’s. Wolfe talked about his friend’s appreciation for the word “fierce”, noting that Armour interpreted it as a measurement of the depth of one’s engagement with the world.

Former SFU teaching partner Kenji Maeda shared his thoughts on Armour’s impact on the next generation while revealing an amusing tale about their trip to a foot-massage clinic. Another SFU teaching partner, Dani Fecko, reflected on Armour’s role in the community. Armour received an honorary degree from SFU, which was his alma mater—something he took delight in reminding his two younger friends, according to Maeda.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.