Royal Manitoba Theatre returns to Northwest with Assassinating Thomson

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's regional tour returns to the Northwest with a play titled Assassinating Thomson, a one-person show weaving the tale about the mysterious death of famed Canadian artist Tom Thomson and a personal story of the artistic process.

Actor, artist and playwright Bruce Horak performs and paints a portrait of the audience over the course of the show.

"I tell the story of how I became one of Canada's only legally blind visual artist and I solve the mystery of who killed Tom Thomson, who was a influential Canadian artist who died mysteriously in 1917," he said. "There has been a myriad of theories and ideas about who done it and why."

According to the National Gallery of Canada, Tom Thomson created an enduring image of the Ontario North through his landscape paintings. He was also closely associated with Canadian artists who would later form the Group of Seven in the 1920s.

Horak, who lives in Stratford, Ont., said Thomson certainly influenced him and his work.

"You can't really can't really start a career as a Canadian artist without hearing about Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven," he said. "As I was studying art in high school, I heard the story of Thompson and was intrigued by the murder mystery and it's just a really interesting story about who he was, how he got into art and the legacy that he created."

Horak said he got the idea for the play when a friend asked him about the portraits he paints and how is it that he sees.

"So being visually impaired, I tried to interpret that and over the course of a year I did 365 individual portraits," he said. "I would get all those similar questions about how I got interested in it, how it is that I pursued a career in visual art and theatre etc."

Horak said the story evolved from there and started to create a one person show where he does a portrait sitting, not for just one person, but for the entire audience as a whole.

He said he uses the process as an opportunity to talk about how a visual artist creates, how they get over artistic roadblocks and ultimately what it means to be an artist.

"So [the] opportunity to create a one person show where I get to incorporate all of my great loves, including visual arts just seemed like a bit of a no-brainer," he said.

Growing up in a very artistic household, Horak said a career path into the arts seemed predestined.

"Being visually impaired, I got into theatre because it's a realm where a person with a disability can certainly get on stage and act like somebody else," he said.

During his award winning career of 25 years, Horak said he's performed, created and toured all over Canada.

His acting career also includes some TV roles including the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds series, where he said he plays a visually impaired alien.

Assassinating Thomson will be performed in Atikokan on Feb. 21, Sioux Lookout on Feb. 22, Dryden on Feb. 23, Red Lake on Feb. 24, and Kenora on Feb. 25.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source