Winnipeg Strike musical staged on Main Street
It was a scene reminiscent of a day in June in 1919 as thousands crowded onto Main Street in Winnipeg and watched as mounted police charged into a group of striking workers — all staged as a history lesson about the Winnipeg General Strike.
"It was a logistical nightmare," admitted Schur, who needed to close off the southbound section of Main. "It took [Mayor Sam Katz's] personal intervention."
In the re-creation of what many consider a seminal moment in Canadian labour history, dozens of actors dressed as the North West Mounted Police herded the audience around.
They watched as a group of police charged into a crowd of striking "workers." One officer on horseback drew his pistol and shot a worker — dramatizing the death of striker Mike Sokolowski, a Ukrainian immigrant.
"The performance was just stunning for me. I saw people looking on in wonder," noted Schur. "It exceeded my expectations."
Families, cyclists and seniors all stared on as the play unfolded — many observing in silence.
"It's kind of surprising that nothing has been done before this. It's 90 years," said high school student Anna Currie who volunteered to play a striker. Currie says she had never heard about the event until her Grade 11 history course.
30,000 workers leave their jobs
In May 1919, the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council called a general strike after talks broke down between management and labour over the contract for building and metal trades.
Some 30,000 workers left their jobs, including firemen, telephone operators and utility employees in a massive display of solidarity.
On June 21, the mounted police charged into the demonstrators, injuring 30 and killing one. The day ended with federal troops in the streets, with the strike ending four days later.
NDP member of the legislature Rob Altemeyer says the musical should be staged outdoors every year: "It's the arts that are teaching us."
Schur says he would like to stage it annually outdoors, not on the street but rather at The Forks — the city's downtown park area.
A full version of the play is being staged this summer at The Canwest Performing Arts Centre from July 30 to Aug. 5.
With files from The Canadian Press