Remembering Colin Bernhardt

Published on January 13, 2013
Colin Bernhardt

Wolfville resident Colin Bernhardt, 70, died in late December. A native of Calgary, he was a much loved theatre instructor and actor.

Bernhardt was nearly killed at the age of 15 in a collision, which killed both of his parents.

“He felt he had been saved for a purpose, a spiritual purpose,” said former Acadia University colleaque Donna Smith.

“Both in the theatre and in the larger world, he was a visionary. For him, the arts were the way to heal the world.”

After studying acting in Vancouver, Bernhardt was a member of the company at the Stratford Festival for four seasons. He graduated from Guelph University and went on to become a popular teacher of speech and acting.

From 1986 until 2006, he was a professor of theatre studies at Acadia University. For 32 years, he taught at the Banff Centre in Alberta.

Greg Hollingshead, who directs the writing studio at Banff, said Bernhardt made a tremendous contribution as a voice teacher. “He changed many lives for the better.”

“He gave everything he had, and then he went away, and when he came back he did it all again in different ways,” Hollingshead said.

Nine or ten of his former students recently participated in a private service of remembrance, reading poems and tributes. They spoke of his great gifts as a teacher.

Orin Dash said that Bernhardt’s teaching ignited a passion for theatre.

“We were cast and forged in the love of acting, with the arts seared deep within our very souls.”

In 2001, Bernhardt published a text on voice development, entitled So To Speak: A Personal Approach to Voice. He was working on a book about the teaching technique he employed at Banff at the time of his death.

He is survived by his partner of 46 years, Michael Bawtree, and by his twin brother Herbert. Bawtree said he has encountered an incredible outpouring to his passing from townsfolk who had been befriended by Bernhardt.

A public celebration of his life and work will be held in the spring. Donations in his memory can be made to The Banff Centre ‘In Memory of Colin Bernhardt’ at