Sudbury Theatre Centre kicks off new season with Theo Fleury's story

The Sudbury Theatre Centre’s first play of the season will glide into production on skates on synthetic ice.
Shaun Smyth has been playing the role of NHL star Theo Fleury in a one-man play called "Playing With Fire: The Theo Fleury Story" since 2012. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

The Sudbury Theatre Centre's first play of the season will glide into production on skates on synthetic ice.

On Thursday, the production of Playing With Fire: The Theo Fleury Story will open the theatre centre's season. It's about the story of Fleury and how he overcomes sexual abuse to become an NHL All-Star, win the Stanely Cup and represent Canada twice at the Olympic Games.

The one-man-show is played by actor Shaun Smyth. He grew up in Calgary and remembers when Fleury won the Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Flames.

"It was a big celebration in the city. The city was on fire," he said. "So he was a huge personality in the city. Everybody knew who he was."

Smyth got to meet Fleury when he eventually auditioned for the part.

"[Fleury] was pretty picky," he recalled of the audition. "He needed to know it was somebody who could be believable as an NHL player." 

Smyth made the cut and says after getting the part, he then needed to focus on his skating skills to deliver it on stage successfully. He says it took him a year to learn the script as well.

Throughout the process, Smyth says he's learned Fleury is a survivor.

"To see somebody go through what he went through and to go to the bottom of society in the way that he did … there were times after the games, he'd go to the wine shop, pick up a bunch of wine and go down under the bridge with the homeless guys and drink all night long with them," he said.

"He had no idea who he was when he came off the ice."

Smyth says the conversation about sexual abuse is dealt with in an upfront way which he says allows the audience "to see everything after in his life … all his experiences from that point on through a filter."

He calls the production "a great story of hope and redemption."

"I think everybody has experienced hardship in their life whether it's currently or in the past," he said.

"It's such a great tale of how you're not alone. You can find your way through the darkness."

The production opens on Thursday night and runs until Oct. 5.

With files from Markus Schwabe


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