Assassinating Thomson – MTC Featured Event – Issue #128

February 2023

Bruce Horak

For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s regional tour. Their journey began on January 30, and on March 4, it will have visited 24 communities from Snow Lake to Sioux Lookout. On February 26, the travelling show arrived at Great Falls Community Centre.

After greeting folks who volunteered to help with setup, the crew swung into action. Although this gig was their twentieth, the unloading routine proceeded with precision and cheerfulness. Within hours, the chairs, backdrop, large paintings, cables, lights, sound system, and performance area were positioned in appropriate places.

Of special interest was a large, paint-splattered drop cloth taped to the floor, with an easel, and paints, cloths, and paintbrushes arranged on nearby tables. Bruce Horak, actor and creator of the play, used this space to describe the famous Canadian artist’s mysterious death. Interspersed with details about the Group of Seven, possible causes of Thomson’s death, and suspected killers, Horak told stories about his early years, performance history, art education, love, politics, ghosts, and life as a legally blind entertainer.

As the play progressed, the audience learned how Bilateral Retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer, left Horak blind in one eye, with limited vision in the other. The crowd was enthralled while he performed his lengthy monologue, moved around the drop cloth covered with words to jog his memory, and painted a picture of the audience. At the end of the show, the painting was auctioned off, with proceeds going to Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. Horak said, “Since I started doing this, the highest bid for a painting was $3,200.00. Tonight’s winning price ($400.00) was pretty good for a smaller community.”

Horak lives in Stratford, Ontario, but has spent time in Manitoba, appearing in Winnipeg Fringe Festivals and a Manitoba Theatre for Young People tour. One of his many claims to fame is acting in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. During the COVID shutdown, he did street theatre. He’s a brilliant performer, but he admits, “I couldn’t do my work without the crew. They feed me and make sure I get to where I need to go.”

Sadie Wannamaker

The Crew:

Sadie Wannamaker (stage manager) – A graduate of Fanshawe College, she’s worked in more than 20 professional productions, and took over the RMTC job after a friend told her about it. During her first time in Manitoba, the tour opened her eyes to the varied geography, climate, and cultures in our province. Although she’s from Kitchener, she enjoyed their stopovers in new-to-her towns in Northwestern Ontario. She said, “At times, it was cold, but it feels amazing to visit small places and put smiles on faces. People are hungry for theatre.”

Jazz Marcelino

Jazz Marcelino (apprentice stage manager) – A 2021 graduate of University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film Studies program, she has worked at Rainbow Stage, MTYP, and numerous other film and theatre venues. Born in the Philippines, she came to Canada in 2006. Growing up in Winnipeg’s North End, she caught drama fever at Sisler High School. She said, “My passion is meeting all kinds of people. In Thompson, I was amazed to see mountains. I regret we can’t explore much on our days off.  But we need to stay put and catch up on rest.”

Claire Bestland

Claire Bestland (tour technical director) – She lives near Ottawa in Wakefield, Quebec, but grew up in The Pas and still visits family there at Christmas and on other holidays. Also an experienced sound designer, she has worked with various musicians and on television commissions. Also, she has premiered a show in Berlin, as lead composer and sound designer with STO Union, a theatre company based in Quebec. She said, “I’m used to small towns and I loved bringing our show to Manitoba’s more remote communities. I was especially excited to educate my crew about the North.”

Will Medwick (tour technician) – A student at Toronto’s Humber College, he moved back to Winnipeg in 2018. Always able and willing to solve technical tasks, he calls himself, “The Swiss Army Knife of Theatre.” A member of International Alliance for Theatrical Stage Employees, he’s worked at Centennial Concert Hall (Phantom of the Opera), Festival du Voyager, Manitoba Opera, Winnipeg Folk Festival, and other places. This was his first regional tour, and he enjoyed visiting new places in Manitoba and Ontario. He said, “It was fun seeing the impact of live theatre in smaller communities. And I didn’t realize Riding Mountain was so high.”

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