With the support of her mother and a vibrant imagination, Diane Dupuy started Famous People Players 41 years ago. After being discovered by Liberace, the internationally acclaimed theatre company is still entertaining audiences today with its unique black light performances.
“My mother raised me with the philosophy that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” said Dupuy, “And I’ve never worked a day in my life.”
With five honourary degrees and several awards, including the Order of Canada, Dupuy’s resume is evidence to the contrary.
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Dupuy is celebrated for her dedication into the integration of people with developmental disabilities – travelling the world, changing attitudes and laws back in the 1970s for the performers in her company.
“Back in those days, excuse the terminology, we were called ‘mentally retarded’”, said Dupuy.
“They had no problem with people who were blind or deaf or in a wheelchair, but they didn’t understand people with mental challenges. That’s changed because of Famous People Players.”
Raised by her single mother Mary Thornton, Dupuy, who struggled in school with a learning disability, has always loved being creative and exercising her imagination.
“She didn’t like to play with little children of her age on the street,” said Thornton, “So I had her in the house most of the time. We played dolls…and from one doll to a dog, to a bird and a clown, and so on, and it grew into what it is today.”
Thornton, who will turn 100 years old next month, worked at Famous People Players designing and building props from the very beginning. Today, she’s still a familiar friendly face and an integral part of the company, greeting and mingling with guests in the dining room.
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Although Diane has recently taken a step back from her previous creative role, her daughter Joanne now produces brilliant performances, like this year’s holiday special, “Mistletoe Magic”.
The Dine and Dream theater experience entertains and delights guests from start to finish. It begins with a three-course gourmet meal, prepared and served by the exceptional members of the company, who receive culinary arts training from celebrity chef Christopher Woods.
Through providing the individuals in her company with opportunities for learning, growing, and performing, Dupuy is helping to change the lives of performers like Erik Dzintars.
“Performing has made it easier for me,” said Dzintars.
“Now I believe in myself, I’ve built confidence and trust, and taken direction.”
Dupuy said it’s inspiring to watch these shifts in confidence happen for the individuals in her company.
“When I see the beautiful souls that come through here and all of a sudden have a new life, and they open up like a beautiful butterfly, it moves me to tears.”