Strike! The Musical honoured in Winnipeg
The 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike meant a new production, feature film, and a public plaque
It’s been twelve years since we published Strike! The Musical by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe—fifteen since the musical first premiered on stage—but it has certainly kept the authors busy since!
The Winnipeg General Strike, the historic event that the musical is based on, celebrates its one hundredth anniversary in 2019. The strike saw hundreds of thousands of workers bring what was once Canada’s third-largest city to a standstill, and not without a violent end. The anniversary provided the authors an opportunity to revamp their story for a new production and to turn it into a movie (called Stand!).
And to add a note of further recognition, Project Bookmark Canada has honoured the play and the event with a plaque in Winnipeg’s Stephan Juba Park, which was unveiled last week. Project Bookmark Canada is a nationally registered charitable organization that is building Canada’s literary trail by putting pieces of stories in the exact locations they’re set. Strike! is the first play and musical to be honoured with a Bookmark.
Check out our interview with Rick about all of the striking success below.
What’s it like to have a public plaque made that honours your book/musical?
It's an amazing honour to be included in this national bookshelf of notable works and authors. There are Bookmarks in nine provinces so far, and they're working on New Brunswick's first one. Other Bookmark authors include Lawrence Hill, Carol Shields, Alistair MacLeod, Michael Ondaatje, and twenty-five others; the company is incredible.
Why is it important to show Strike! to Winnipeg?
Strike! has become an incredibly important show for Winnipeg because it's the largest scale telling we have of what many believe to be our most important story after our founding story, the Red River Resistance. The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was the catalyst event to the social democratic innovations that became defining features of Canadian society, but it left horrible scars that divided the city for decades. Winnipeg has embraced the show—it's been produced locally four times in fifteen years, but this year's production for the 100th anniversary of the strike—completely re-conceived and rewritten—was a runaway success for Rainbow Stage. The company added three hundred extra seats—and filled them—for the last three shows of the two-week run. (It was also only the second Canadian-written show, after Anne of Green Gables, in Rainbow's history, the largest and longest-running outdoor stage in Canada. We hope this opens the door to more new Canadian musicals at Rainbow.) Now we're hoping the movie gets the story out to a wider national and international audience and leads to further theatrical productions beyond Winnipeg.
What was it like turning your musical into a movie?
Exciting, frustrating, maddening, elating. Endless rewrites of course for both of us re-imagining the stage play for the screen, but ten times that for Danny as the producer raising the funds and inspiring believers to make it happen. The tipping point was actually the election of Trump. The resonances for today were suddenly so overwhelming that unions and like-minded backers lined up to help get the movie made. When Sudbury-born director Robert Adetuyi (Bring It On; Stomp the Yard; Honey: Rise up and Dance) read the script he signed on immediately (see his interview, Robert Adetuyi Takes a Stand in Hollywood North magazine), and from that point on we were knee-deep in it… we were really making a movie. In response to Robert's take on the script, Danny wrote a new song, Stand!, and it was so clearly the voice of the movie that Robert said it's not called Strike! anymore, the movie's title is Stand!
What do you hope people will take away from the musical and the new movie?
First of all, this is a great story with great songs, where 1919 is virtually a parable for today: an entire city's workforce fighting back against a massive wage gap fuelled by nativism and anti-immigrant hate propaganda. But it's also a love story with Romeo and Juliet overtones mirrored at all levels of society. Really, we hope audiences take inspiration for taking a stand against the same forces that people today are fighting all over the world.
Want more? Get your copy of Strike! now!
Audiences will get the first look at Stand! at a sold out run at Toronto’s Royal Cinema from September 9 to 11, and a private screening in Winnipeg on September 24. The theatrical release is planned for later this year.
Images courtesy of Danny Schur.