It’s over for Ma­chomer; Miller head­ing out to Sea

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

RICK Miller, the cre­ator of Ma­cHomer, has turned off his D’ohmaker af­ter 17 years.

The Toronto ac­tor/im­per­son­ator made a global name for him­self with his one-man Shake­speare/Simp­sons stage mash-up that he per­formed for about 500,000 peo­ple in 165 cities on five con­ti­nents. He has also stopped tour­ing all his other shows, in­clud­ing Big­ger Than Je­sus and Hard­sell, both of which were staged at the RMTC Ware­house.

“I have no tour dates ahead of me, con­sciously, for the first time in 17 years,” says Miller.

He was in town this week to con­fer with lo­cal col­lab­o­ra­tors on his next ven­ture, a stage ver­sion of the 1870 Jules Verne sci­ence-fic­tion novel 20,000 Leagues Un­der the Sea that is sched­uled for its world pre­mière at the 2015 Pan-Amer­i­can Games in Toronto.

As has be­come his habit in the devel­op­ment of new works, he has come to Win­nipeg, where the Royal Man­i­toba The­atre Cen­tre de­buted Big­ger Than Je­sus, and MTYP, where he pre­mièred an up­dated Ma­cHomer and a Tolkien homage called Into the Ring in 2003. Win­nipeg has be­come his cre­ative home away from home.

“I con­tinue to come back to Win­nipeg be­cause I think it’s a great place for me to in­cu­bate shows out­side the dis­trac­tions of home,” he said dur­ing a chat at MTYP this week. “It has an au­di­ence that knows me and in­dulges me for shows that are not nec­es­sar­ily fin­ished but are a work in progress.”

MTYP will host a work­shop of 20,000 Leagues, which he has dubbed the 20 K Project, in Fe­bru­ary with a Win­nipeg cast. Miller hopes the au­di­ence will in­clude in­vited Cana­dian the­atre artis­tic direc­tors in­ter­ested in get­ting in on the ac­tion. His cross­coun­try cre­ative team in­cludes two lo­cals, film­maker Deco Daw­son and pup­pet-maker Shawn Ket­tner. One of his favourite part­ners is MTYP’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Leslee Sil­ver­man, who has ex­pe­ri­ence in bring­ing a new play to a ma­jor sport­ing event — MTYP pre­miered Rick: The Rick Han­son Story at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Cul­tural Olympiad in 2010. The com­pany fi­nan­cially sup­ported 20,000 Leagues’ first work­shop in Toronto.

The arts com­po­nent of the Toronto Pan-Am Games is called aqua cul­ture and will be staged on the city’s waterfront. The idea is for artists to in­ves­ti­gate water is­sues from var­i­ous van­tage points.

As a teen, Miller was a huge fan of the Verne clas­sic that fo­cuses on Cap­tain Nemo, who for­sakes all land for­ever be­cause of the harm that hu­mans have done to it. He de­signs and builds an in­cred­i­ble sub­ma­rine, called the Nau­tilus, and es­capes into the won­ders un­der the sea.

“I don’t want it to feel like an is­sue play,” says Miller, a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor with the renowned Que­bec di­rec­tor Robert Lepage. “I want those things in­her­ent in the en­ter­tain­ment. I want peo­ple to re­al­ize that water con­flicts will be, if not the most, one of the ma­jor global con­flicts in my kids’ lives. It’s an aware­ness-rais­ing thing.”

His chal­lenge as one of the cre­ators is how to cre­ate a great 19th-cen­tury ad­ven­ture story but have it res­onate with peo­ple now.

“The man­date I’ve given this play is to de­sign and build a bold and beau­ti­ful ma­chine that will travel 20,000 leagues, like the Nau­tilus, daz­zling au­di­ences of all ages around the world,” he says.

Miller can only dream at this point about 20,000 Leagues hav­ing the global reach of Ma­cHomer.

“Hopefully I won’t be solely re­mem­bered for Ma­cHomer,” he says. “It may be just that, so be it. It was a fun ride.”

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Aragon says her hope for 2013 is that she can con­tinue to have fun with mu­sic.

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

MTYP will host a work­shop of 20,000 Leagues Un­der the Sea.

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