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When the time is right!

Mario Crudo  Magnus Theatre

Mario Crudo receives a watercolour of Magnus Theatre from Treasurer Ernie Epp and President Kathleen Lynch on his retirement.

THUNDER BAY, ON  --  August 23, 2016  (LSN) The first time I attended Magnus Theatre, it was a cold, wet and wintery night. As I stepped out of my car, my foot quickly found a deep puddle and I ended up walking up the steps to the old east end theatre with a twisted ankle. The play must have been good that night because I have kept on coming to Magnus Theatre. Mario Crudo has been Artistic Director of this theatre for nearly 25 years. He is just as passionate about the theatre as he ever, only that passion has changed a little.

From its early days in the City’s East End, no one could have imagined the state of the art modern theatre now occupying the historic Central School in Waverley Park. At the time the vacant school had become a political white elephant for the city, so many were opposed to developing this property commercially. Everyone it seems was against the destruction of the old building. Someone had the idea of talking to Mario Crudo about the possibility of moving Magnus Theatre to this new location. The theatre in the park movement has begun. Recently a considerable donation by the Westgate family retired the mortgage on this theatre, so now all of Magnus Theatre’s resources can be focused on programming.

This has me thinking, so why leave now? As an arts critic I have long run out of good things to say about Magnus Theatre, clearly Mario is at the top of his game. His influence extends well beyond the play on the stage. Mario has always tried to create the entire theatre experience in an effort to make his guest feel appreciated. If theatre is like the other artistic disciplines it is unlikely that he has actually earned enough money to retire. “Besides, I don’t think he really could retire even with a pension” one staffer told me.

I keep thinking of children leaving the nest, or in this case the director exiting the stage. At Magnus his work has always been exemplary; Mario has been there and done it all, better than most I would say. Clearly he could have many more good seasons behind him. Being so closely tied to Magnus, Mario clearly has a great love for the theatre that he helped build, but at his stage in his life I think Mario is thinking of writing a new chapter in his life. Where that will take him no one is sure, but guaranteed it will be interesting. Mario’s passion for this theatre may also be a reason for departing now. The place is in fine shape and has the promise of remaining a successful part of Thunder Bay’s arts scene for generations. Succession is something that is best not left to late, when a leader remains on the scene too long sooner or later they will run out of ideas, things begin to stagnate and finally fail. Often succession under these terms sounds more like a bankruptcy procedure. Leaving at the top of his game, will permit his cherished theatre to grow and develop in new hands. Mario will now have time to get to his bucket list of things he would like to do after theatre.

Magnus Theatre

The entire parking lot was fenced in to create a large billboard of production posters for every play that Mario has directed at Magnus Theatre; a lifetime of theatrical excellence.

As amazing as his accomplishments over many seasons, I think the future will be kind to him. Indeed Mario has always looked ahead and not behind him. Certainly his departure will lead to the nurturing and development of a new and younger Artistic Director, and talent like this doesn’t grow on trees. Perhaps he could employ his considerable talents developing other theatre directors; he may even pick up the pen and try some of his own works. “It is not a matter of me looking for work, but work and opportunities coming to me” stated Mario during our brief conversation.

While this Sunday picnic supper in the park is the official retirement for Mario, he will be working with the new Artistic Director until November to ensure a smooth transition. Mario has spent many long hours at the Theatre rehearsing, refining and perfecting his craft, he presence will be missed, but I am sure he will be welcomed back for guest directing and special occasions. In the mean time Mario will exit the stage and begin a new chapter in his life’s adventures, and Magnus will also begin a new chapter in its experience as the best professional theatre in our region. (the only one!)

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor

Magnus Theatre


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