Memorable Manitobans: Doreen Stein Brownstone (1922-2022)
Born Doreen Stein at Leeds, England on 28 September 1922, during the Second World War she quit a secretarial job at an architectural firm to enlist in the Royal Air Force. There, she was given an opportunity to perform in a touring theatrical company, which kindled a life-long interest in acting. In 1945, she married Canadian aviator William Solomon “Billie” Brownstone (1923-1999) and moved with him to Winnipeg the following year, having three children before the couple separated. She joined the Jewish Women's Musical Club, which presented drama productions, and the Winnipeg Little Theatre, through which she met director John Hirsch.
In 1958, Hirsch’s Theatre 77 merged with the Winnipeg Little Theatre to become the Manitoba Theatre Centre and, later that year, Brownstone starred with Gordon Pinsent in its first production, “A Hatful of Rain”. Family responsibilities prevented her from advancing an acting career by moving to Toronto. Instead, she worked for 40 years as a swimming teacher in Winnipeg, retiring in 1997. Her withdrawal from the stage ended in 1971 when she performed in the Rainbow Stage production of “Fiddler on the Roof”. She became a mainstay of the Winnipeg theatre and television community, performing in over 100 productions with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Theatre Projects Manitoba, and others throughout Canada. She became known as Winnipeg’s oldest working actor, still active in her 80s.
In recognition of her community service, Brownstone received a Canada Actors Equity Association Life Membership (2004), Lifetime Achievement Award from the Winnipeg Arts Council (2013), was inducted into the Order of Manitoba (2017), and was selected as a Manitoba Women Trailblazer (2021).
She died at Winnipeg on 16 December 2022.
“It’s raining, it’s pouring (but the old man was snoring)” by Roland Penner, The Manitoban, 24 October 1958, page 7.
Obituary [William Solomon Brownstone], Winnipeg Free Press, 15 September 1999, page 34.
“Her show must go on,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 May 2004, page 35.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 17 December 2022.
Doreen Brownstone, O.M., The Nellie McClung Foundation.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 December 2022