A Regina theatre company is producing an original vaudeville-like play based on the real-life story of a troupe of actors, including Boris Karloff, who were in Regina when a devastating tornado struck in 1912.
The play, Swept Off Our Feet: Boris Karloff and the Regina Cyclone, will be showcased by the Regina Summer Stage as part of a number of cultural events making note of the 100th anniversary of the tornado.
The deadly windstorm was one of the strongest ever recorded on the Prairies. It claimed 28 lives and brought down 500 buildings.
The play is a story about show business and an actual theatre group of a century ago: the Jeanne Russell Players, a struggling company of actors and singers that arrived in Regina just a few days before the tornado hit, on June 30, 1912.
One of the actors in the troupe was Englishman William Henry Pratt, who would become very well known under the stage name Boris Karloff.
Pratt, or Karloff, had been in Canada since arriving in 1909 at the age of 21.
Five performances are set for the run of the show, beginning July 10.
Auditions are set for May 1.
"We need up to 30 people for our cast and chorus to fill a diversity of roles," show director Nora Berg said. "Some of the roles require singing ability, but many do not, so we certainly encourage anyone with an interest in drama or musical theatre to audition."
The play was written by BD Miller and the production is supported by the city of Regina and corporate sponsors.
The show will feature popular music of the day.
The presence of Karloff in Regina at the time of the tornado has been recounted in a number of articles about the disaster, including an extensive profile of the actor's earliest days in Canada, specifically in B.C., by Greg Nesteroff.
Nesteroff's article notes that the theatre company went bust shortly after arriving in Regina and the actor found work clearing debris left by the tornado, before joining another acting company in Prince Albert, Sask.