What ever happened to Angela Donahue?
Even Coquitlam resident Angela Lundin asks that of her former self.
The topic of identity loss — after years of working and raising a family — was what the SD43 elementary teacher wrote about in her master’s thesis, an arts degree she clinched last Friday night at her Simon Fraser University convocation.
Here’s how she tells her journey to middle age, a story that eventually became the subject of her one-woman stage play and academic paper:
About three decades ago, the Indiana native was an actor in New York City when she met her future husband on a cruise ship. After their courtship, they returned to his home province to make a life together.
But in the Lower Mainland, Lundin struggled to make a living in musical theatre.
Realizing there weren’t enough jobs to pay the bills, she sacrificed her true calling and turned to commercial and television work. Later, she taught kids how to dance.
By the time she was 44, Lundin switched her focus again — this time, to education, and obtained her teacher-training diploma from SFU.
She taught music and provided student services at Aspenwood and Pleasantside elementary schools in Port Moody before settling in at Coquitlam’s Roy Stibbs elementary. Lundin helped many special needs students — especially those with autism — and sought programs to further her knowledge and to better connect with them.
It was a recommendation from a teacher-on-call at Minnekhada middle that lit her path for the next four and a half years. He suggested she not pursue her master’s of education degree but a master’s of arts instead, through the SFU faculty of education.
That allowed her to be more free with her expression and it got her out of her comfort zone.
She recalls after her weekly sessions, “I would get home and my husband would open the door for me and I was just buzzing,” she said. “I loved going to school.”
A fellow master’s degree student hinted to Lundin that she perform her master’s thesis, which she did to a sold-out audience in 2017 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam; her instructors, Lynn Fels and Celeste Snowber, were on board with her unconventional approach.
Today, Lundin nurtures her elementary students and her own kids’ artistic pursuits: Her son is a a film studies graduate of Capilano University while her daughter is following in her mother’s musical theatre footsteps.
She’s also open to the idea of remounting her master’s thesis, titled Finding Wonderland, at a future fringe festival or at the Havana Theatre in Vancouver. “It’s got everything,” she said of the play. “Menopause, identity loss, giving up everything to be a mom. There are lots of people who can relate.”
“But the message is, If you’ve got a passion, you’ve got to follow it,” Lundin said. “Create and explore and, most importantly, if you’re working in an art form, collaboration is the key.”