Aug 17, 2009

Play On, Bruce...

Today I read a worrisome message on actor Bruce Dow's website that basically states he is unable to complete his season with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It wasn't owing to any fallout or firing, but rather a simple matter of health. Bruce suffered from what he terms a "minor accident and a moderate illness" earlier this year, and though he thought he was in the clear, it turns out he wasn't, or isn't. He's had to withdraw from the remainder of the season, and his roles in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum and West Side Story as a result.

For audiences, sure, it stinks. But for the performer, it has to hurt, a little -or a whole lot. Being taken out of something because your body can't take it is painful -not just physically, but emotionally. You know you need to sit and recuperate, but your whole essence, built for performance and entertaining, is screaming to get up and strut your stuff. Alas, the body breaks down, and when it does, must be allowed the time and space necessary for healing. At such times though, it's to know what kind of message the universe is trying to send you. I shouldn't be doing this? I should take a break? I should re-group? Hmmm.

Whatever the case, there's no denying Bruce is a talented guy. Through the years, I've enjoyed his work in shows like Guys and Dolls (as Nicely Nicely Johnson) and Into The Woods (as the Baker). This year I had the good fortune of seeing the very first preview of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at the Festival -and Bruce was fantastically engaging as Pseudolus, the slave who pines for freedom.

As well as being a talented performer, Bruce is also a lovely guy. We've met on a few occasions, and he is every bit as sincere as you might imagine. In theatre, this is no small feat. Where egos are frequently huge and artifice is often carried off the stage and into real life, Bruce is a refreshingly open, honest breath of fresh air. In our brief conversations, I got a keen sense of just how much he loves theatre and feels blessed and honoured to be doing the very thing he loves. I can barely imagine how challenging it will be for him to sit still and get better. But he better do just that.

Bruce, you are one of Canadian theatre's treasures. Speedy recovery and good thoughts.

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