John Wright is having a much easier time playing the title character in Persephone Theatre’s production of The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, than he did the first time he took on the role of the curler with dreams of Brier glory nearly three decades ago.
The improvement isn’t just a result of having honed his acting skills since 1984. He also has much more in common with the character these days.
“Now that I’m the right age it’s a bit more fun. I don’t have to grey the beard and I don’t have to pretend to be hunched over and grumpy and tired all the time,” Wright said. “There’s less acting required.”
The role is a temporary return to the stage for Wright, who is now semi-retired from the profession after spending much of the past 40 years appearing in productions across the country.
“I just got tired of the grind of being out of town for so long, you know being away from my wife for six months at a time. I decided that I would do one or two shows a year if they come up, but if they don’t come up they don’t come up.”
He was drawn back by both the chance to appear in a play and role he loves, and the opportunity to do so in the place where his career began.
“When Del (Surjik, Peresphone’s artistic director) offered me this I thought it would be kind of fun to come back and see some old friends and see the new theatre.”
Wright, who now lives in Edmonton, was among the people who were there in the early days of Persephone’s existence. His sisters Janet and Susan founded the company with Brian Richmond, while his father Jack helped secure funding for the company.
He says he and his other sister Anne essentially served as underlings to get the theatre off the ground.
“It was a hand to mouth existence. Beg, borrow, steal, get whatever you could. It was tough in the beginning but we did it.”
Wright says being back in Saskatoon brings back fond memories of those early days, but he’s also thrilled to see how the company has grown. And there’s another reason he’s enjoying the role more the second time around: he has someone to help out with the heavy work.
“I haven’t been able to do much of the curling because I have a terrible back. I have a stand in who does my rocks for me from offstage. Otherwise I would be in a wheelchair.”
What you need to know
The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon tells the story of a shoemaker who wants to win the Brier and agrees to sell his soul to the devil.
The tale. It was written by W.O. Mitchell in 1951 and is based loosely on the tale of Faust. It runs through Dec. 15. Tickets are available through persephonetheatre.org.