Martha Burns, actor, writer (b at Chicago 23 Apr 1957). Martha Burns was 8 months old when her family moved to Winnipeg. She attended St. John's-Ravenscourt School in the city and earned a BA in English in 1977 from the University of Alberta before attending the VANCOUVER PLAYHOUSE's Acting School in 1979.
One of her first roles was Nina in The Notebook of Trigorin, an adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull by Tennessee Williams. She received critical acclaim when she starred as a female wrestler in Trafford Tanzi (National Arts Centre, 1983). The production visited Toronto Free Theatre in 1984 and Burns won a DORA AWARD for best actress. She won a second Dora in 1986 when she played Annie Sullivan in a production of The Miracle Worker at Young People's Theatre in Toronto.
A series of leading heroine roles at the STRATFORD FESTIVAL and SHAW FESTIVAL followed. In 1986 she played Imogen in Cymbeline at Stratford. She played Regan in King Lear, Heavenly in Sweet Bird of Youth (both 1996) and Cathleen in Long Day's Journey into Night (1994), receiving a GENIE AWARD for her role in the screen version of this production.
At the Shaw Festival she was memorably cast as Nora Reilly in John Bull's Other Island (1985) and in the title role of Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara (1987). She appeared in The Memory of Water, directed by Jackie Maxwell, at Tarragon Theatre (1998) and in the revival in 2000 at the Elgin Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto.
A founding member of Toronto's SOULPEPPER THEATRE COMPANY, Martha Burns has starred in several of its productions, including Present Laughter and La Ronde (both 2001), The Maids (2002) and as a much-praised Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days (2003). After a four-year break from the stage, Burns returned in 2010 with a role in the Toronto production of George F. WALKER's And So It Goes at Factory Theatre.
Her television work has included appearances in Due South, Emily of New Moon, Foundation, and Republic of Doyle. She appeared in the TV miniseries The Trojan Horse and spent 3 seasons as the tempestuous diva Ellen in the satirical series Slings and Arrows (receiving 2 GEMINI AWARDS for best actress) along with her husband Paul GROSS. Martha Burns and Susan COYNE wrote and directed the short film How Are You? which was an official selection for the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2005 Burns won the Barbara Hamilton Award for excellence and professionalism in the performing arts. As an associate artistic director at Soulpepper, Martha Burns was the driving force behind an extensive youth outreach program including the Youth Mentorship and Leadership programs and Soulpepper in the Schools, which introduced Shakespeare to children in grades 3 to 6. Along with Jim Pitblado and Jim Fleck she started the annual Toronto Arts for Youth Award, which gives $15 000 to a person or organization devoted to bringing art to young people in Toronto. She is also on the boards of Peggy Baker Dance Projects and the Toronto Arts Council.
Martha Burns won a Genie Award for best supporting actress for her role as a nun in the feature film Love and Savagery (2009), and she has produced (and directed one of) 10 short films in the anthology Little Films About Big Moments for The Movie Network.
Martha Burns is committed to excellence in theatre and to the roles she plays and, while she has a strong onstage personality, she is known for her generosity to those who perform alongside her.