Rita Shelton Deverell, C.M., Ed.D. is a theatre artist, professional performer, independent television producer/director, and a founder of Vision TV. She was the first woman to lead a journalism program in Canada as acting Director of the University of Regina’s Journalism School in the 1980s, and concluded her term as News Director at APTN in 2005 where she mentored her Aboriginal successor. She was the first CanWest Global Fellow at the University of Western Ontario (2006) and Storyteller in Residence at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communication (2008-09). In 2010 Deverell’s play McCarthy and the Old Woman had a first production by the School of Drama, University of Washington, which meant its central character appeared on the same stage from which she was blacklisted during the cold war 60 years earlier. Deverell is the author, editor, or major contributor to seven books and producer/director/writer of eight independent TV titles. In 2016 her multi-media e-learning kit “Women, Contemporary Aboriginal Issues, and Resistance” was acquired by the National Film Board’s CAMPUS portal giving it widespread North American distribution.
In the summer of 2005, Dr. Deverell returned to the theatre and drama. She also began to develop her fiction feature film through Women In the Director’s Chair in Banff. Since then, she has written and performed three, one-woman shows, Smoked Glass Ceiling, McCarthy and the Old Woman, and Big Ease, Big Sleaze. She received the 2007 WIDC Centennial College @Wallace Studios Award to shoot her docu-drama Not a Drop, an exploration of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Canada’s forgotten people. Eight of her TV drama titles have gone to air on OMNI, APTN, SCN, and Bravo!
Rita was selected by WIFT-T (Women in Film and TV Toronto), for their 2006 Banff TV Festival Mentorship Award and a Quebecor Fellow for the 2007 Banff TV Festival. She was in the playwrighting units of both Nightwood and Obsidian Theatres (2007-08); wrote In Press, an anthology of 20-minute scripts from the Obsidian Theatre playwrights units for Playwrights Canada Press; and the epilogue to the autobiography of blacklisted theatre pioneer, Florence James, for the Canadian Plains Research Centre.
Deverell has served on boards and advisory committees, including MediaSmarts, the campaign cabinet of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, is an Adjudicator at Large for the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, and now serves on the Board of Directors of the Royal Ontario Museum as well as the CBC.
She was the 12th holder of the Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University from July 2009 to June 2012, and in 2015-16 was a Mentor for the Canadian Senior Artists Research Network (CSARN). She holds a BA in Philosophy (Adelphi), a MA in the History of Religions (Columbia), and her doctoral thesis (OISE/University of Toronto) focused on arts policy for children.
Deverell’s other distinguishing honours include two Geminis, the Black Women’s Civic Engagement Leadership Award, and membership in the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Her 2005 Order of Canada citation says in part: “Rita Deverell’s career in journalism has been one of pioneering innovation and creativity. With an unceasing drive for social justice, she is one of the first Black women in Canada to be a television host and a network executive… An inspiring mentor and teacher, she serves as a role model for young journalists and audiences alike.”