Remembering Jack Alouf
February 11, 2022
Written by James Bowlby
Recently my friend, Jack Alouf passed away, but he’s not gone, as many of us have splendid memories of him. I met Jack when he was the Director of the Recreation Department for the District of Salmon Arm. Jack thought Salmon Arm should have a theatre group. I was teaching drama, so he told me that if I would organize a group, he would look after the advertising. He did amazingly well. On a Tuesday night in 1977, 24 people showed up at the Drama Room at J.L. Jackson, and Shuswap Theatre was born, thanks to Jack. Once we got started, and had our own building in 1980, Jack began his twelve-production legacy with Shuswap Theatre. His first role was the Magician, in Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp. With fantastic make-up and flowing robes, Jack was in his element. His sense of fun, comedy and ability to work with others stood him in good stead.
Jack enjoyed being in revues. He had seen his brother in night club acts in Paris, and Jack was a natural. He was hilarious in The Four Yorkshiremen, each man competing with more and more outlandish stories of hardships growing up. In The Arrangement, Jack was the son of a frustrated father (Patrick Benson) who takes his naïve son to a brothel for his birthday present. Dad wants to be sure his son knows the facts about sex, but the son has difficulty understanding why they are visiting this nice lady.
A Flea in Her Ear, a Feydeau farce, centres on a wife (Sandi Lightfoot) who suspects that her husband, Victor (Jack), is having an affair, after he suddenly becomes sexually inactive and seems uninterested in her. She confides in her best friend, Lucienne, (Joanne Benson) who comes up with a plan. They write a letter that tells Victor to meet his admirer at the Hotel Pink Pussy. Of course, everything goes wrong as it always does in a farce. I remember Jack’s character literally scared stiff, with one leg posed to run. Throw in a revolving bed, an older woman, and young man to add to the hilarity.
Leaping from farce to tragedy, Jack was cast in Oedipus. He was a member of the Greek chorus, climbing up the wrought iron web and calling out speeches to the doomed hero. All the actors were modelled by a mask maker from Vancouver, who made a basic mask on each face from felt, stiffened with glue and painted. Jack made many of his signature nose jokes, because his nose was a major feature of his mask.
As a character with a “stiff upper lip,” Jack was a natural portraying the lawyer in Whose Life is it Anyway?, and as the waiter, Dumptsy, in Idiot’s Delight, which earned him the Best Supporting Actor award.
Character roles in dramas were another area where Jack excelled. Audiences were engaged by his portrayal of Lizzie Borden’s neighbour in Blood Relations, and as the Woodcutter, who tells the final version of the rape in Rashomon.
Jack, his partner, Eileen and I had fun in the summer of 2000 doing the comedy Marriage is Murder, ironically just before they were to be married. They had met in 1985 in Vernon doing a play, of course, Not Now Darling. They ignored that advice and have enjoyed 36 years together since.
After the productions with Shuswap Theatre and Vernon Powerhouse, Jack didn’t stop acting. He and Eileen formed the “Alouf and Trett” duo and toured BC and Arizona with their own revue. I had the privilege of writing for them. Their favourite was Who’s the Sickest? – two older people besting each other with stories of their ailments and operations. Jack also did productions with the Nanaimo Theatre Group, including Glorious with his step-daughter, Karen Wheeler, and as ‘the dame’ in two Christmas Pantos.
Jack has been a good friend and I shall miss him, but I, among others, will have many memories of this man who loved life and loved the theatre.