See below for information about the dedication of the theatre in Burlington.
A woman who dedicated her life to teaching drama to students of all ages is being remembered by her colleagues, family and friends.
Helen Zdriluk, who had been an instructor at Brock University for two decades, died Wednesday after a brief illness.
“She was extremely dedicated to the power of drama in both teaching and performance,” said Professor Joe Norris, Chair of the Department of Dramatic Arts. “She lived and breathed drama 24-7 when you consider she taught high school for many years during the day and then came here and taught at least two evenings a week. And she was running an after-school program.”
Dramatic Arts Associate Professor and Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Director David Vivian said the whole school is saddened by the loss.
“Longtime colleagues will remember Helen for her joyous and industrious leadership in Drama in Education and Applied Theatre, including her Connections projects in the old Studio theatre.”
Norris said DART Connections was a group of education students who rehearsed and performed plays that dealt with social justice and education issues.
Zdriluk taught drama at Burlington Central High School and was the owner and artistic director of Centre Stage Theatre School and Productions. In addition to teaching at Brock, she also completed her master’s at the University in 2010.
“The drama in education community has lost one of the most talented, dynamic and authentic educators and practitioners we have ever seen,” said former student Rox Chwaluk. “Helen was my mentor, my friend and colleague. She was fierce, hardworking, witty and passionate about her craft. She was instrumental in my education, provided me opportunities to ignite my passions, and solidified many of my values.”
Zdriluk is survived by her husband Gerald and children Jennifer and Beth.
A visitation will be held at Smith’s Funeral Home on Brant St. in Burlington Monday, May 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral service will be held Tuesday, May 2 at 10:30 a.m. Those wishing to make a donation in Helen’s memory are asked to consider the Canadian Cancer Society.
We are sharing our memories below. If you have any memories you’d like to contribute, please share with us.
Remembering Helen Zdriluk
Reflections from Former Brock Students
“I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.” — For Good, Wicked
Most of us met Helen Zdriluk in a classroom at Brock University, maybe ST103, ST105 (affectionately called blue and black – as per the paint colour of the room). Maybe it was ST107 – that hallway with one random non-DART classroom. Once we met Helen — our former instructor, mentor, colleague and friend — we were forever changed. For good.
Maybe it was by the smile emerging on her face at the end of a particularly interesting question she had just posed to us, that she knew we would need to think hard about before answering. Or the simple, embedded image of her with her hands in her pockets, looking with calculation at our set because we remember that meant we knew she was going to suggest changes we would find annoying (wouldn’t it just be easier if we kept it the same?). And she wouldn’t exactly spare our feelings while delivering the news.
“This needs work,” she would say in her blunt tone.
Of course, we also remember, she always ended up being right about them and her directness was only because she cared so much about making us as good as we could be — and that we were infinitely glad we listened to her.
Maybe it was how when you first met Helen, you could feel like you wanted to drop her class because it was too tough. But then she taught you to check your ego at the door and get past your insecurities, and then you realized you wanted to take all of Helen’s classes, because you wanted to learn — and learn from the best.
That was Helen.
Maybe it was when, for all of Helen’s demands on you to be the best student you could be, you suddenly realized that she had even higher ideals.
That if your mother was suddenly rushed to the hospital and the rest of your family wasn’t nearby, and you were worried about missing a dress rehearsal for a major project because Helen had taught you not to let the group down — and you hated the idea of letting Helen down, the blunt directions would suddenly disappear.
Instead you’d feel the comfort of her hug that would help ease your tears, as she told you to go home and take care of your family.
“In that moment, I remember feeling this overwhelming peace come over me,” said Karen McDonald, who still remembers the impact of that hug years later. “I needed that hug, but I didn’t realize it until I got it.
“That’s who Helen was. She always knew exactly what her students needed even before we did.”
Helen taught many of us for 3-5 hour-long classes, once a week, usually on a Thursday. We’d learn as the weeks passed by that Helen was determined, passionate, driven, hardworking, creative, supportive, a force, patient, witty, caring, and saucy (in the best way possible).
We would hear from fellow classmates about the amazing courses she was teaching: Community Theatre (3P07 or 3F77), Children’s Theatre (3P06 or 3F66/3F92), Musical Theatre (3F98), and Production (DART 2P70). These are course codes that we can still remember because they are not numbers to us, but experiences that have shaped us into who we are.
Some of us had to beg the administration to be in Helen’s classes because they were so popular, and Helen had to request to have more students in her classes. Helen always advocated for us — for our work, for our marks, and for ourselves. Helen saw the potential in all of her students and helped them to see the potential in themselves.
Her classroom was a place of magic. A place where we would take off our shoes, literally, but also a place where we could ground ourselves, tell stories, and make meaning of our world. Helen believed that theatre was an integral part of every community, and that it was the best way to tell the hardest stories. Stories that no one wanted to hear because they made you uncomfortable, but Helen believed that the best work came from being uncomfortable.
Helen legitimized what many of us felt — she showed us that “drama” wasn’t just Shakespeare or watching people perform; it could be a tool to teach; a vehicle to work with and within communities; a transformative power for actors and audiences.
She always asked us “What’s the point?” Helen instilled a sense of purpose that allowed us to balance the process of a production and the result. While she had high standards for the final product — “I’m not putting (garbage) on stage. I would rather cancel the show than put (garbage) on stage” — she had the same low tolerance for people who thought their talent or hard work gave them license to be difficult during the process.
She was unbelievably smart, passionate and dedicated not only to Dramatic Arts but to sharing that passion through education in the most meaningful ways possible. She wanted to make the world a better place and she wanted to do that through drama — using it as a tool to help people express themselves in the comfort of a character but that allowed them to share their thoughts, fears and insecurities.
She was fierce, she was sassy, and above all she was passionate about ensuring that the arts continued to be developed and encouraged in the school system and she would put no limitations on pursuing that goal.
But there was more to Helen than the classroom. Helen was always so busy, always doing something. She barely had time for herself. In between classes, on her break, you would usually see her having a Diet Coke and an egg salad sandwich (which usually one of us picked up for her, as she was too busy supporting students). As a part-time instructor, Helen was also involved in many co-curricular activities, including Brock Connections, a club on campus that focused on using theatre as a tool for education about various social issues.
As our faculty advisor, she produced and directed The Laramie Project (2007-2008), Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (2008-2009), Bhopal (2009-2010), Shatter (2010-2011), and Colours in the Storm (2011-2012). We learned about social, and historical issues and were able to take these shows into the Niagara community.
Helen was our rock. Many of us owe pretty much everything that we have done, and who we have become to Helen. For aspiring teachers, she was the type of teacher that we wanted to be. She had a way of identifying our most triumphant strengths and limiting weaknesses with grace and compassion. She was able to genuinely inspire growth in us because of her keen awareness of them.
She always knew exactly what her students needed, often even before we did. She supported us in our low points, and celebrated with us in our highs. If she thought you could do better work, she let you know, she challenged you.
But even when she was dishing out tough love, she followed it up with a smile, and a healthy dose of encouragement. She took the time to get to know each of us personally, to understand our goals, and then to find or create a way to connect us to the community so that we could achieve them.
Helen never doubted us for a second. She was quick to give us advice, but we think the most important advice she gave us was that we were fully capable and that she knew we had the skills to put on a great show. We felt her acceptance for all of us as individuals, especially for all of our unique talents and experiences. That was one of the most beautiful things about Helen, her ability to see beyond a student’s cover and see what they could be.
She pushed and she challenged, she called you out when you needed it and she made you a better team member because of it. The belief and trust she had in us when we doubted ourselves is one of the most important lessons we learned from her, and every day we try to put that same belief and trust into those around us.
Most of us think about Helen often in our daily lives. Many of us have gone on to teaching careers. We thank Helen for the opportunities we were given in our program. Many of the skills and teaching methods we use were learned directly through her.
The Drama in Education Community has lost one of the most talented, dynamic, and authentic educators and practitioners we have ever seen. There is a sense of sadness to know that so many future educators will not have the opportunity to learn through Helen, but there is some comfort in knowing her methods and teachings will be passed on to the next generation through all of us.
She built herself an army of her endearing students to go out into the world and provide arts education by any means necessary, and that is the legacy that she leaves behind her.
But as they say, the show must go on. And Helen is sitting front row, smiling.
“She was a force, and how could a force like that be stopped? The answer is that it can’t,” Rebecca Durance Hine said. “What she accomplished in her life, the lives she touched, the people she changed, all of that will continue in her place. She will never, ever be forgotten, and the effects of her life will continue to be seen for a very long time.
“You are wonderful Helen, simply wonderful, and I hope that you rest in peace knowing the difference your life made in the lives of so many.”
“The greatness of a teacher can be measured not by what someone can achieve, but by what they thought they couldn’t achieve.” — Helen Zdriluk
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2011; Bachelor of Education, 2012
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Applied Theatre, 2011.
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education (2008-2013)
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biological Sciences, With First-Class Standing, Minor in Dramatic Arts, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2012
Bachelor of Arts (3 Year) in General Studies, 2010
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Child and Youth Studies and Psychology, 2011
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Integrated Studies, With First-Class Standing, Minor in English Language and Literature, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2012
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, 2010; Bachelor of Education, 2011
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Performance, 2013
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Drama in Education and Society Stream, 2012
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, 2010
Master of Education, Teaching, Learning and Development, 2013
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2013
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2013
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2012; Bachelor of Education, 2013
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, 2009; B Bachelor of Education, 2010
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Concentration in Drama in Education, 2013
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, Drama in Education and Society Stream, 2011; Bachelor of Education, 2012
Rachael Bason (Verschoor)
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Concentration in Drama in Education (Co-op Option), Minor in History, 2013;
Bachelor of Education, 2014
Rebecca Durance Hine
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Drama in Education and Society Stream, 2010; Bachelor of Education, 2014
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, Drama In Education and Society Stream, 2009; Bachelor of Education, 2010; Master of Education, Social and Cultural Contexts of Education, 2013
Whitney Shantz (Lee)
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Dramatic Arts, With First-Class Standing, 2011; Bachelor of Education, 2011
Notice of the dedication of a theatre in honour of our departed Department of Dramatic Arts colleague, Helen Zdriluk:
Burlington, Thursday October 05, 2017
Dear Friends, Colleagues, Alumni and Family
It has now been several months since the passing of Helen Zdriluk, an educational icon whose loss continues to weigh heavily on all of our hearts. However, due in no small part to her unparalleled commitment to Burlington Central and the Arts, I am happy to say that Helen’s memory and influence continues to reverberate in our great building, helping to inspire future
generations of students at BCHS.
Now you may already be aware that over the last few months many groups have rallied to pay tribute to Helen’s legacy in a variety of ways , including the creation of the Helen Zdriluk Memorial Fund for the Performing Arts, which will be
administered by the Burlington Community Foundation.
Well through some of those discussions another idea began to take root and with the support and blessing of Helen’s
Family, we at Central could think of no tribute more fitting than the renaming of the auditorium to the Helen Zdriluk Memorial Theatre.
With that process now complete we would like to cordially invite you to share in the honour of officially dedicating the theatre in Helen’s name (details below).
Helen Zdriluk Memorial Theatre Dedication Ceremony
Date: Thursday, October 5th, 2017
Location: Burlington Central H.S. Auditorium (1433 Baldwin St.,
Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm (dedication at 7:15pm, social to follow)
Please RSVP to Lynn Jones if you plan to attend.
(phone:905-634-7768 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org )