Write about what you know about is familiar advice proffered to writers of all sorts. And it's advice Buffalo-born playwright Tom Dudzick took to heart with his 2010 play Miracle on South Division Street. If you know about large backyard shrines with tall statues honouring the Virgin Mary, then you likely know something about eastside Buffalo (or near northwest side Chicago, for that matter) and the Polish-American 20th century Roman Catholic immigrant experience. Tom Dudzick does.
The Nowak family's claim to fame is a statue of the Virgin Mary, built by Grandpa Nowak, the family patriarch, in 1943 to commemorate vision of the Virgin Mary preaching world peace, a vision he said he had shortly after arriving in Buffalo and opening his barbershop. Almost 70 years on, the neighbourhood has seen better days and is now part of "forgotten Buffalo."
The shrine that has given the family its identity: "We were selected," the daughter, Clara says, even if the Catholic Church won't recognize her father's account as a miracle. Clara long ago converted the barbershop into a kitchen for the poor, proudly offering soup "prepared on holy ground."
Before taking it out on its 36th consecutive regional tour for the 2014, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre presented Miracle on South Division Street on the John Hirsch Mainstage in Winnipeg last Nov. 22 to Dec. 15.
The Manitoba Theatre Centre was formed in 1958 with the merger of Winnipeg Little Theatre and Theatre 77.
The annual MTC regional opens in Steinbach Jan. 27 and wraps up in Virden March 2, said Brent Neill, acting publicist for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, with two dozen stops over a winter odyssey throughout rural and Northern Manitoba, including also Crystal City, Killarney, Deloraine, Souris, Brandon, MacGregor, Carman, Portage la Prairie, Neepawa, Minnedosa, Binscarth, Strathclair, Snow Lake, Flin Flon, Eriksdale, Gimli, Great Falls and in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country in Atikokan, Sioux Lookout, Dryden and Kenora.
On the regional tour, Jimmy Nowak is played by Cory Wojcik; Beverly Nowak by Tricia Cooper; Clara Novak by Marina Stephenson Kerr and Ruth Novak by Stefanie Wiens.
Last Jan. 21, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) brought Ed's Garage out from Winnipeg to the hinterlands of northwestern Ontario and rural and Northern Manitoba on their annual regional tour. Ed's Garage was written by Canadian playwright Dan Needles, a former editor of the Free Press & Economist weekly newspaper in Shelburne, Ont., whose column, "Letter from Wingfield Farm," would provide the inspiration for the acclaimed Wingfield series of plays, featuring fictional Persephone Township and the Town of Larkspur, based on the very real towns of Mono and Shelburne, Ont.
In 2012 it was The Melville Boys written as a two-act dramatic comedy by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, The Melville Boys premiered at Theatre New Brunswick in Fredericton in October 1984. In 1988 it won the Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award.
MTC brought Needles' Wingfield On Ice to Thompson March 12, 2011, the fifth of seven plays in the Wingfield series, which follow stockbroker-turned-farmer Walt Wingfield, in the mythical Persephone Township north of Toronto.
In 2010 it brought Robert Chafe's play Tempting Providence, originally commissioned to be a "portable" play to be performed in Newfoundland and Labrador's senior citizen homes and schools, written as a series of episodes that chronicle the early years of Myra Bennett's life in Daniel's Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Thompson on the annual regional tour.
In 2009, MTC brought to Thompson Theresa Rebeck's one-character play, Bad Dates, starring actress Precious Chong, daughter of Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, as Haley Walker in a monologue by a Texas woman transplanted to New York City. MTC also took the play to Churchill, making their first stop there in 17 years. MTC brought Rope's End, Doug Bowie's bittersweet 2006 comedy to Thompson Jan. 29, 2008 as part of its annual regional tour.