A great loss...

Tracy WrightThe film world was dealt a great loss recently with the passing of Canadian actor Tracy Wright.  Tracy won the Chlotrudis Career-So-Far Award in 2007 and she was a great supporter of Chlotrudis making lots of friends when she came to  Boston to receive her award.  More, Tracy became a personal friend between her visits to Boston and our visits to Toronto in the past several years.  She was an incredibly special person that touched everyone she met.  She was an amazing actor who specialized is lonely, socially challenged characters, who infused her roles with a depth and power that lifted them above stereotype.  Tracy started her career in fringe theater, and appeared in dozens of Canadian films, including LAST NIGHT, HIGHWAY 61 and MONKEY WARFARE.  She is probably best known below the border for her lovely role in ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW.  Here is the text of the speech written in her honor when she received her award at the 16th Annual Chlotrtudis Awards.

I am a librarian.  Finding information is what we do.  But let me just tell you, Tracy Wright is one elusive public figure.  I spent hours searching the web and some electronic databases just to come up with a few random snippets of information like, Tracy Wright appeared in ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW.  Hmmm… I knew that.  Tracy Wright was onstage in Daniel MacIvor’s “Beautiful View.”  Check… got that too.  Oh here’s a good one, Tracy Wright co-founded the Augusta Company in 1989 with Don McKellar and Daniel Brooks.  Well guess what, I knew that too.  You can’t even get Tracy’s agency or management information on IMDBPro, so we must resort to harassing her famous friends in order to contact her.  Thanks, Don, by the way.

So clearly there is this talented actress running around north of the border and beyond, quietly doing some outstanding work and no one is talking about it.  Well, it’s time for that to change.  The Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film is talking about Tracy Wright, and we want the world… or at least, the indie film world… to know about her.  Chlotrudis is honoring Tracy’s “Career-so-far,” but ironically, it’s a career that we’ve really only got access to about half of… and that’s just her film and TV work.  There’s a whole other career Tracy’s got going on in the theatre that we can only know about through brief snippets on the web.  Fortunately, the film and television work that we have seen is enough to know this is a career worth honoring.

Tracy Wright makes every film she appears in better.  Whether she appears in a single scene, or in a substantial role as part of an ensemble cast, she makes that film more enjoyable.  Take Bruce McDonald’s HIGHWAY 61, her feature film debut that was released in 1991.  Tracy plays Margo, a spaced out, self-involved rock star who doesn’t appear until ¾ of the way through the film.  She has very few lines, but her presence is riveting in all of the scenes she appears in.  I’ve found that Tracy plays a lot of her scenes silently, and it’s clearly one of her strengths to communicate without speaking.  She appeared in some short films, some directed by her friends like Don McKellar and Daniel MacIvor, and she had a role in Jeremy Podeswa’s little-seen first film, ECLIPSE, but it was her next film that I first really noticed her.  Not in an, oh my god, who is that actor?  She is amazing! I need to see everything she’s ever done Way, but in a hmmm, she was really good, I’m going to file that performance away in my head without really knowing it and when I next see her, I’m going to say, Hey, that was that woman who was in Patricia Rozema’s WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING.  In WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING, Tracy plays Tory, girlfriend/partner to Don McKellar’s Timothy, a couple who run an avant garde circus that is hitting financial difficulties.  Tory admits to Timothy that sometimes she longs to just run away from the circus to a quiet life in the suburbs.  Tracy’s deadpan delivery as a harried circus manager tricks you into pigeon-holing her character, so when she shows some real compassion towards the films conclusion, it is a sweet revelation.

Tracy Wright

Chlotrudis next really gets to see Tracy in her first major role, courtesy of Don McKellar’s directorial debut, LAST NIGHT.  It was here when my mind woke up and noticed that this is the same actress who played in both of the previous films I have mentioned.  The name Tracy Wright now takes residence in my brain.  In LAST NIGHT, Tracy plays Donna, a lonely woman working for the gas company, keeping things running by herself as the world counts down towards its final night.  She has been left by her boss, the only person she thinks she has a connection with, until, during her final hours, she decides to let go and find what life has to offer.  Tracy’s Donna is frumpy and awkward, but she’s also competent, self-aware and funny.  In an extended scene during the midpoint of the film, Tracy wanders through the empty offices of the company, singing along to the radio, checking to make sure everything is running, and finally taking one quick moment to vent her frustration at her absent boss.  It’s a heart-breaking and humorous moment all at once, brought to life by an accomplished actress who doesn’t need to speak a word to convey the complex emotions she’s feeling.

Tracy appeared briefly but notably in a couple of films in the following year, playing a punk, ex-girlfriend in Jeremy Podeswa’s THE FIVE SENSES and a nun in Bruce McCulloch’s SUPERSTAR.  We’ll return to Tracy’s film work in a moment, but I must now mention her outstanding work on television, most notably the much-beloved, short-lived Canadian series, TWITCH CITY.  Tracy appeared in two episodes as Dizelle, a wacky, cat-obsessed conspiracy theorist who turns series regulars Curtis, played by Don McKellar, and Hope, played by Molly Parker lives briefly upside down.  Tracy is flat-out hysterical as the crazed Dizelle, and in this scene one has to wonder if there’s a little improvisation going on.  Note the reactions of her co-stars at the conclusion of the scene.

Tracy plays Tabitha, the recently ex-girlfriend of lead character Rick in Don McKellar’s second directorial effort, CHILDSTAR.  In her few scenes, Tracy conveys a weariness and finality in her relationship with Rick, yet it’s clear that there is still love between them as well, in the way she looks at him with such sadness, even while insulting him.  I have to briefly mention her two extremely brief cameos in another Canadian series, SLINGS & ARROWS, where I believe she only has two lines in two different episodes, but even then they are memorable. 

In 2005, we got a pleasant surprise when Tracy appeared in a substantial role in Miranda July’s debut film, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW.  Tracy plays Nancy Herrington, a cool, professional gallery curator who is secretly involved in an internet romance.  In another of her most fully realized roles, Tracy conveys a sadness and loneliness masked by a hard fa├žade, and does so in some remarkable scenes where once again, she doesn’t speak at all, and lets her movements and facial expressions reveal so much.  Chlotrudis members can only wait in anticipation for our chance to see MONKEY WARFARE, where she and Don play aging activists railing half-heartedly against the system.  Advance word from the three members who caught this film in Toronto last year is exceedingly positive, and the rest of us will get to enjoy another substantial role from Tracy very soon.

Since information on Tracy was so elusive, I contacted some of our mutual friends to get their thoughts on her talents.

Chlotrudis Body-of-Work Award winner Daniel MacIvor said, 'Tracy Wright is a woman of huge heart, fearsome talent, and a more profound cool than the love child of Patti Smith and Lou Reed.  She is indeed the real deal.'  I have to add that Daniel then said to me, 'I was thrilled when I heard you were honouring those two.  I love them and love you guys even more than before for loving them.'

Chlotrudis Advisory Board member, and winner of a Special Visionary Director’s Award, Patricia Rozema said, 'Tracy is very hard to write this kind of thing for because she has such a keen nose for falseness I would hear her rolling her eyes all the way here in Toronto. The first thing that comes to mind is that Tracy is sometimes shockingly honest. But after the surprise is gone, you can breathe better and deeper, like clean air has swept through the place.  This would only be interesting or maybe useful if she weren't also very, very loving. 

Something else one might forget to mention in a context like this was brought up by my three year old daughter, who is also her goddaughter. I asked her  what kind of person Tracy is and she thought for a moment and said, ‘Tracy is a Tracy Wrightperson with hair.’

Congratulations Trace, on all of the above.

I will leave you with this powerful scene from ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW that brings together so many of Tracy’s outstanding qualities as an actress.  It’s a scene that I’m sure many of you will remember, and it’s heartbreakingly sweet. 

On behalf of the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, I am so happy to present the Career-So-Far Award to Tracy Wright.

Here is a video that we shot of Don and Tracy during their visit to promote Chlotrudis.  It shows the wonderful relationship they share and the quirky and delightful sense of humor that Tracy brought into the world. 

You can also read my personal homage to this dear friend who changed my life at http://justgiblets.com/2010/07/05/my-friend-tracy/

Chlotrudis members, if you have memories you'd like to share about the talented and delightful Tracy Wright, please comment on this post. 

Tracy, you are loved and you are missed.  Hope to see you again someday!

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Don wrote a beautiful recounting of their last moments together, in the email he sent out to friends to tell them of Tracy's death - Macleans, a Canadian magazine, asked for permission to reprint it publicly, and Don agreed.  It was posted late last week, and you can read it here: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/08/thankful-to-the-very-end/

It's shocking and sad how quickly this all happened, but I am so grateful that she was surrounded with love and peace throughout her last months and moments.  I keep remembering her eyes and her laugh - she was so down to earth, interesting and interested.  Her astonishing eyes followed every word & thing while she listened & watched open-hearted and attentive...and then she'd make a gentle point and laugh that lovely laugh, and you couldn't help but join in with her.   I feel so lucky to have gotten to know her a bit more, to spend time with her swapping 40something career angst stories while she was in New York, to have her go maternal on me at the Blindness afterparty to make sure I wasn't overwhelmed or lost in the crowd.  I understand a little bit more why she was such an amazing actor, and was so beloved by her fellow actors - she was so fully present to whoever was in her life, no matter who it was, or however long they would be there.   It's a cruel thing that we can no longer learn directly from her shining example.   She is terribly missed.

I'm so glad Don allowed MacLean's to publish that piece.  When I got that e-mail the day after Tracy's death, I was so profoundly moved.  What a beautiful piece of writing and fitting tribute to a wonderful person.  Thanks for letting us know, Beth.