On the morning of their 15th wedding anniversary, Bronwen Smith and John Prowse woke up to the sound of fire alarms. They had to flee their Kitsilano apartment with only the clothes — pajamas, actually — on their backs.
Their wedding rings were among the many beloved possessions they lost when the July 5 fire gutted several buildings on West Fourth Ave. near MacDonald Stree.
"They always take their rings off at night," says their friend Catherine Haggquist, who started a crowdfunding campaign to help them rebuild their lives.
Smith was living in the apartment when she and Prowse met so it was the only home they've known as a couple, Haggquist says.
Much attention about the fire has focused on the loss of several businesses, including the much-loved Topanga Café, but there were also several apartments consumed by the flames.
Haggquist's not surprised by the outpouring of support for the couple, known affectionately in Vancouver's acting world as Johnwen. In just five hours, the crowdfunding campaign had raised $15,000 of its $25,000 goal.
"They are enormously generous themselves," Haggquist told the Courier. "They give of their time and talent and are selfless friends.
"Many people have experienced their generosity and kindess and want to pay them back."
The night before the fire, Smith and Prowse took part in the Laughing Matters Theatre fundraiser for children facing displacement in the United States as well as First Nations children in Vancouver.
Smith is an actor who co-founded Classic Chic, a theatre troupe that celebrates women in roles that usually go to men. Her on-screen credits include Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Killing and a recurring role on the ABC sitcom Imaging Mary. She’s also an acting teacher at SchoolCreative. She also managed Haggquist's bookstore, Biz Books, when it had a bricks and mortar location on Cordova Street. (It's now an online store with an occasional pop-up location.
And if you’ve ever wondered what The Godfather would have been like if it was written by Shakespeare and cast with an all-woman cast, Biz Books explored the answer in its blog.
Prowse also feels equally at home on stage or in front of a film camera. Television credits include several Vancouver-based series including Da Vinci’s Inquest and Stargate SG-1 (he portrayed Colonel Pearson between 2004 and 2006) while film roles include The Chronicles of Riddick.
Together, Smith and Prowse created the short film Wendy 1968, inspired by the Billy Bishop Legion in Kitsilano. They were just on stage together in the William B. Davies' production of The Cherry Orchard which, ironically, is about a family about to lose its home.
Given how embedded they are in Vancouver’s film, television and theatre world, it’s perhaps not surprising that the GoFundMe campaign raised almost $15,000 in the first five hours.
“Today, July 5th 2018, their 15th Wedding Anniversary, our beloved friends Bronwen and John lost EVERYTHING in a fire,” Haggquist says on the campaign page. “As a result, they will need to replace EVERYTHING to start their lives over in a new place to live. As they mean so much to so many of us in this community, this page is set up to help them raise money to start over and to rebuild the lives that were disrupted by flames this morning.”