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Antony Holland celebrates 95th birthday on stage

03/28/2015 04:14 EDT | Updated 05/28/2015 05:59 EDT
Canada's oldest working actor and Studio 58 founder Antony Holland's career has always been a mix of comedy and tragedy.

As a soldier in Egypt during the Second World War, Holland witnessed his fair share of tragic events. But he also fondly recalls putting together a theatre troupe, directing fellow soldiers in plays — even having prisoners-of-war paint sets at the direction of his commanding officer.

"They painted it with enamel paint," Holland told North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay.

"You can imagine what that's like when you put lights on it — nearly blinded the audience, but they meant well."

On Saturday, Holland will celebrate his 95th birthday on stage in Nanaimo, B.C., where he will perform in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

Acting has always been a big part of Holland's life. Born in England, he started performing when he was eight. His passion for theatre carried him through wartimes and later landed him a teaching job at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school.

He moved to B.C. in 1957 and began teaching drama as therapy at a Maple Ridge prison. He later created Studio 58, one of the top theatre programs in Canada. Holland continues to act on stage, and now lives on Gabriola Island, where he founded and runs the Gabriola Theatre Centre.

The Order of Canada recipient admits that being 95 years old doesn't agree with him. But he continues to work and to make plans. In fact, he's thinking of doing a one-man show based on his time working in prison, which, like his wartime experience, was also a mixture of hardship and comedy.

"There was one guy who was always big trouble," Holland said, chuckling.

"They were always throwing him into what they called 'The Hole,' in solitary. Once he got into one of the plays, he suddenly became a model citizen."

Holland will perform in The Caretaker on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT at the Kismet Theatre Academy in Nanaimo. Admission is by donation.

To hear the full interview with Antony Holland, listen to the audio labelled: Antony Holland celebrates 95th birthday on stage.

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