Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre – Focus on Local Artists – Issue #140

March 2024

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Regional Tour in Pinawa

On February 24, Winnipeg River Arts Council welcomed the touring production of “Mix Tapes From My Mom,” featuring the talents of renowned Manitoba playwright/songwriter/ musician Cory Wojcik. Joining him on the stage were Christy Taronno on keyboard and vocals, and Josh Bellan on guitar and vocals. With animated narrative and expertly performed pop songs, they told a story based on real events.

Years ago, when Wojcik ended up with more than 250 cassettes created by his music-loving mom, he decided to write the play. The songs he performed with Bellan and Taronno accentuated his description of what he called “the best and worst day of his life” – when his mother was admitted with a life-threatening illness at one hospital at the same time as his wife, after suffering months of “Braxton Hicks” contractions, went into labour with their second child at a different hospital.

Once he got permission from his family to explore this personal story, he created a fringe show, with help from dramaturge Trish Cooper, who also directed the touring production. The story takes place in an old style rec room with wood panelling and awful velvet paintings and string art. This all happened years ago; his son is now 13 years old.

Wojcik said, “It would never have been possible if it weren’t for the right people saying yes. And now here you are, in the audience, in the middle of winter, saying yes to being here.”

After graduating from theatre school, Wojcik worked as a teacher for many years. Prodded by his mother’s death, he decided to follow his passion and left the teaching profession to pursue theatre and music full time.

Given the fringe show’s great success, RMTC asked Wojcik to present it in their 2024 rural touring season. The show was booked in twenty-one venues throughout Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, from Thompson to Crystal City to Sioux Lookout. The entire tour lasts about 6 weeks and the play in Pinawa was the ninth show.

Kelly Thorton, RMTC’s artistic director, said, “Cory is a consummate storyteller and his suspenseful tale of life and death, laced with the greatest hits of the last 50 years, is sure to make you laugh, cry, and capture your hearts.”

The play lived up to her praise. The Pinawa audience responded with laughter, chair dancing and singing, and a standing ovation. Also, Thornton must have really liked “Mix Tapes,” because it’s included in RMTC’s 2024-25 regular season, appearing at the Warehouse Theatre. So, if you want to see it, or see it again, you can catch it there. Or you can drive to one of the other communities where it will be playing for the remainder of the rural tour.

There were 122 people in attendance and the 50/50 draw took in $450. The winner, Mayor Blair Skinner from Pinawa won $225, but returned $60 to the arts council, which was incredibly generous.

WRAC thanks the rest of the hard-working Mix Tapes crew: music director Rusty Robot, set and props designer Daina Leitold, technical director Joshua Gehman, and tour technician Jess Rose. Also, WRAC was also extremely happy to see stage manager Sadie Wannamaker, back for a second time with the touring team, and was especially thrilled to welcome Lac du Bonnet Senior School graduate and assistant stage manager Larissa Shabaga, formerly a proud member of the local high school drama club.

Please consider attending next year’s RMTC touring show. It provides rural folks a rare chance to see family-friendly professional theatre, without the long drive and higher ticket prices. See you in the winter of 2025!

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