Walter Borden

For more than fifty years, Dr. Walter Borden has been a leading presence in Canadian performance, a trailblazer of the African Canadian stage, and an especially beloved luminary in the theatrical life of the Atlantic region. He has also played a transformative role as an activist, mentor, and advocate for youth. Few artists have made such a lasting imprint on their communities, or on the theatrical history of this land.

Born of Black and Indigenous (Métis) ancestry in 1942 in the long-established African Nova Scotian community of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Dr. Borden holds degrees from Acadia University and from the Nova Scotia Teachers’ College, and went on to train at Circle in the Square Theatre School and the Herbert Beghof Studio in New York City. As an actor, he has performed at major theatres across the country, including (starting at the West Coast, just to be fair!) the Victoria Playhouse, Tarragon Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times, Theatre Passe Muraille, the Stratford Festival, the National Arts Centre, Centaur Theatre, and of course Neptune Theatre, to name just a few. He has also appeared in numerous feature films and television programs. Among the many iconic theatrical roles that are closely associated with Borden are those of Canada in Djanet Sears’ Harlem Duet, which he has played at Tarragon Theatre, Neptune Theatre, and the Stratford Festival, and Abendigo in the same author’s The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, which he has played at numerous theatres and for which he has won both META and Dora Awards. Borden is also an important playwright; his play Tightrope Time (which was first performed in 1986 as Tightrope Time Ain't Nuthin' More Than Some Itty Bitty Madness Between Your Twilight & Your Dawn, and appeared in its most recent incarnation at the National Arts Centre and Neptune Theatre as The Last Epistle of Tightrope Time) has been described as “one of the first Canadian plays to explore homosexuality from a Black perspective.”

As a Civil Rights Activist and a mentor to many young people, meanwhile, Walter Borden has had a profound impact on communities in Nova Scotia and beyond. In the late 1960s, he helped establish Kwaacha House: an interracial, youth-oriented, drop-in and social education centre that inspired young African Nova Scotians to seek full equality of citizenship and opportunity. The many awards and honours Borden has received over the course of his extraordinary career include the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, the African Nova Scotian Music Association’s Music Heritage Award, the Portia White Prize, an honorary doctorate from St. Mary’s University, and membership in the Order of Canada. In this year when the Canadian Association for Theatre Research’s annual conference is being co-hosted by St. FX University (situated within 45 minutes’ drive of Borden’s home town of New Glasgow) and Dalhousie University (where Borden has performed and taught), we are proud to have the chance to add an Honorary Associateship in CATR to these many well-earned recognitions. Truth is, the honour of being associated with Dr. Borden is all CATR’s. Dr. Borden, thank you so much – wela’lin.