From Guelph Today, November 13, 2020
Guelph Today has launched a new monthly feature, Then and Now, where noted Guelph historian Ed Butts brings stories about people, places and events from the past and their significance today. We are happy to share that one of Guelph Little Theatre’s own has been featured in this month’s edition.
Guelph has been hometown to several individuals who made their names in the entertainment business: Ned Sparks, Joe Sawyer and Neve Campbell to name a few. One of the city’s best-known thespians began and ended his career on the stage, while compiling an impressive body of work in television and movies in between.
Terry Doyle was born in Guelph on June 23, 1933. He attended Guelph CVI and liked to go to the Royal City Milk Bar for milkshakes with his friends. He was a popular kid, known for his wit, friendly nature and sense of humour.
Doyle decided early in life that he wanted to be an actor. But he had to work up the nerve to take his first step into the Guelph Little Theatre.
According to a press interview with GLT veteran Keith Slater, “He must have ridden his bicycle around the old theatre about twenty times, then plucked up the courage to come in.”
Doyle proved to be a natural on the stage, even though he would often have a case of the jitters before a show. He quickly learned how to deliver a professional performance when the curtain went up and the stage lights were on. In later years he would refer to his GLT days as “the launching pad” of his career. It was also during this time that Doyle met his wife, Joyce Murphy (1938 – 2018) when they were acting in a play together. They would have two children, Michael and David.
Over the years, Doyle would play many roles on the Guelph stage, including neurotic Felix Ungar in the GLT production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. In 1973, about seventeen years after joining the Little Theatre, Doyle became its president, a position he held for two years.
In April of 1975, at the Western Ontario Drama League Festival awards ceremony held at the University of Guelph, the Sarnia Little Theatre won five of the eight major awards, including best play. But adjudicator Paul Eck presented the award for best actor to Terry Doyle for his portrayal of Frank Foster, the absent-minded, fussy husband in the GLT production of Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves. Guelph theatre goers said the award was well-deserved and long overdue.
By that time Doyle had also worked in radio and was a partner in the Terry Doyle employment agency in Guelph. He made his first television appearance in 1980 in an episode of the popular Canadian series The Littlest Hobo. That was followed by guest spots in such TV shows as E.N.G., War of the Worlds, Night Heat, Street Legal and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Doyle appeared in movies produced both for the big screen and TV: Recommendation for Mercy, Night Friend, Prom Night II: The Last Kiss, Kaleidoscope, The Good Fight, Change of Heart, Alley Cats Strike, Men of Yesterday and Power Play. His last film appearance was in The Spreading Ground in 2000.
Doyle once said, “I never pictured myself as a movie star. The only time I like being in front of the camera is on payday.”
He said his favourite role was that of Matthew in a stage production of Anne of Green Gables.
Doyle’s philosophy on life was to “do something you like to do and get paid for it.”
He said that he would like to “act forever.”
In a sense, Doyle’s wish came true. In 1998 he had his greatest success on stage when he performed in Beauty and the Beast in the prestigious Dominion Theatre in London, England. On June 3, 2005, Doyle was in a production of the same play in the kind of venue he had always loved: a small theatre in Grand Bend, Ontario. He had a sudden heart attack and died onstage, twenty days short of his 72nd birthday.
Doyle was praised as a brilliant stage performer and an inspiration to aspiring young Canadian actors.
He was a Guelph trouper who trod the boards all his life, and then died with his boots on.