His­toric theatre’s lat­est trick a treat for hor­ror fans

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - KEVIN ROLLASON kevin.rollason@freep­ress.mb.ca

T’S hard to tell if your heart is in your throat or just pump­ing into over­drive when vis­it­ing the for­mer Walker Theatre these days.

But the trick that’s at the Bur­ton Cum­mings Theatre un­til Tues­day night is re­ally a treat — that is if you want to have the be­jee­bers scared out of you.

Stage Frights, which be­gan on Oct. 26 and runs through Hal­loween night, is a full-scale haunted house ex­pe­ri­ence in the base­ment of the his­toric Win­nipeg theatre.

Just a few me­tres un­der the seats and stage, where count­less per­form­ers have en­ter­tained and thrilled au­di­ences through the decades, the thrills now come with chills when par­tic­i­pants are led through a base­ment of hor­rors, where ev­ery turn could mean a sud­den visit by the dead or a sud­den scream from the per­son be­side you.

The show is sub­ti­tled Ma­bel’s Cur­tain Call and is based on the his­tor­i­cal fact that ac­tor Ma­bel Hack­ney graced the stage of the Walker in what be­came her fi­nal per­for­mance in 1914.

As of Sun­day af­ter­noon, about 2,000 Win­nipeg­gers had met Hack­ney live and in the flesh, even though she ac­tu­ally per­ished in the sink­ing of the Em­press of Ire­land 103 years ago, along with her hus­band, Lau­rence Irv­ing, and 1,010 other souls, after the ship was struck by a Nor­we­gian ship on the St. Lawrence River.

The ship sank in 15 min­utes, and while Irv­ing’s body was re­cov­ered — hold­ing onto a piece of his wife’s night­dress — Hack­ney’s body was never found.

But for a cou­ple more days, Hack­ney is back at the Walker, al­beit back­stage and in the base­ment, and Win­nipeg­gers are lov­ing the come­back.

“It was awe­some,” 12-year-old Tyson Schel­len­berg said shortly after “sur­viv­ing” the show.

“It was great. I was wor­ried in the maze, be­cause I thought some­thing was go­ing to come out, but then no one ever did. I’ll be back next year.”

Nine-year-old Remique Cloutier said his favourite part was also the maze.

IBoth Schel­len­berg’s mom, Lori, and Cloutier’s mom, Ly­dia, said the fact that the show was rated PG-13 didn’t scare them from bring­ing their sons. “Kids han­dle things like this very well these days,” Lori said. “This was re­ally well done.”

“I liked the artis­tic as­pect — how they dressed up,” Ly­dia said. “There is some scary stuff. I did jump. There was a per­son be­hind me in one area — I didn’t ex­pect that.”

An­draea Sar­ti­son, one of the show’s cre­ators, and Ruben Ra­mal­heiro, True North Sports and En­ter­tain­ment’s di­rec­tor of live en­ter­tain­ment, said there have been at least a dozen peo­ple who were so scared they bailed out mid­way through.

“For some, it is a re­ally scary thing and some don’t make it through,” Sar­ti­son said.

“Some come out and say, ‘Yeah, it is sort of scary,’ and the oth­ers are in be­tween.

“Fear is a re­ally in­ter­est­ing thing. There was a 65-year-old woman who got right out of the build­ing it­self. She didn’t even wait for her hus­band.”

“We’ve had more peo­ple who have come out early than I thought we would,” Ra­mal­heiro added.

Sar­ti­son hopes the pro­duc­tion by One Trunk Theatre be­comes an an­nual event at the theatre.

In­ter­est­ingly, a theatre se­cu­rity guard on Sun­day — a real one and not a ghost — had some­thing of a per­sonal con­nec­tion to Hack­ney.

“My great-grand­fa­ther was also on the Em­press of Ire­land,” Christo­pher Hal­l­i­day said.

“He went to visit rel­a­tives in Scot­land and he went down with the ship. He was a sec­ond-class pas­sen­ger.

“I haven’t seen him yet in this show,” he added chuck­ling.

The pro­duc­tion runs ev­ery half-hour, be­gin­ning at 6 p.m. to­day and Tues­day, with the last one at 10:30 p.m. both nights.

Tick­ets cost $25 and can be pur­chased at Tick­et­mas­ter and at the door.


Lo­gan Ste­fansen (above) per­forms as part of Stage Frights: Ma­bel’s Cur­tain Call at the Bur­ton Cum­mings Theatre Sun­day. Ruben Ra­mal­heiro (left) and An­draea Sar­ti­son are among those be­hind the haunted house ex­pe­ri­ence, which con­tin­ues its run tonight and Tues­day night.

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