Here are some preliminary sketches, ideas and images for our upcoming production of Wanderlust, the working title for a play with music based on the poems of Robert W Service, for the Stratford Festival

workbook: wanderlust

As thousands of prospectors wend their way up over the Chilcoot Pass, composer Marek Norman composes the score from the warm comfort of his Toronto studio. The search for gold is on.

Left, the poet himself, Robert W. Service. At right, Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, an event neither man actually attended.

Excerpt from Wanderlust book

Victoria, B.C.  1900. The branch of the large bank. An office with desks with adding machines, in rows. A backdrop of more office machines. The backdrop sometimes transforms itself, with projections, into a beautiful Yukon wilderness, the desks into a landscape.

Music quietly, almost eerily, underscores an opening scene. Service is sitting at his desk in coat and hat; the light is dim. Its evening; he writes on scraps of paper. He stops, sighs, continues. Without his noticing, Mr. McGee, the manager, an affable old man, enters and approaches.



Service, awoken, mid-thought; snaps to attention.




Its late.


Is it?

They look at their respective watches.

Good God, it is.


Seven thirty; Im surprised.


Really? Its occasionally seven thirty.

The young office boy, Noah, appears.


Sir; can I get your coat and hat?


Go get my coat and hat.

Noah runs off.


When people see the lights on, in a bank, late at night, it fills them with dread.


Ill just finish up and be on my way.


Besides, you should be careful with numbers at this hour. The mind wanders.


It does.


A person begins to dream; of things beyond their - -

Grasping for it -




I used to dream, you know.


Did you, sir?


Just look where it got me.


Well, you are the manager.


True, I am the manager. But not from dreaming, Service. Not from dreaming; from doing. Actually, not from doing, either. From being, really.




I am, therefore I am. Isnt that what they say?




One oughtnt question these things.




One begins to question, one wonders; why?




Why are we here? What are we doing? You see?

Service considers.




You arent really working on anything remotely bank related; be honest. What is it?




Let me see it.

Without handing it over.


Actually, its a...poem, sir.


Another poem? Whats this one about?


Actually, its a list, to be honest; which is sort of a poem when you think about it.


A list?


Sometimes I make lists of things Ill need to travel to certain places. Do you ever get the desire to go certain places?


Now and again. Yes. To get back out there and, well, you know. Grr.


See the world again?


Is that it?

He sings.

excerpt from lyric

The Wanderlust

The Wanderlust has lured me to the seven lonely seas,

Has dumped me on the tailing piles of dearth,

The Wanderlust has haled me from the morris chairs of ease,

Has hurled me to the ends of all the earth. How bitterly Ive cursed it, oh, the Painted Desert knows,

The wraithlike heights that hug the pallid plain,

The all but fluid silence, yet the longing grows and grows,

And Ive got to glut the Wanderlust again.

In 2009, Des McAnuff, artistic director of the Stratford Festival, asked Morris if he would like to create a new work for the stage. Morris approached composer Marek Norman with the idea of creating a work based on Robert W. Service poems. Together they went back to Des with the idea and were

provided with funding for a workshop. In the workshop, performed in October of 09, eight songs and an half finished book were presented by a cast of six and an orchestra of four. Based on that workshop and subsequent negotiations, Stratford asked to see a first complete draft of the project, now titled Wanderlust, by April 2010

As mentioned in the script, the Canadian Bank of Commerce set up offices in the Yukon, a destination Robert Service dreamt of but never got to until ten years after the gold rush. Instead, he worked in various banks in Western Canada, especially in Victoria, where the our story takes place. Below, Bank of Commerce in Victoria.

Corruption in the banks has been a favorite subject of humorists for decades. Financial markets are no less vulnerable to mismanagement and foul play than they were at the turn of the century.

In 1903, a Liverpool bank was famously defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars by an employee with a bad gambling habit who figured out how to write cheques to himself on accounts that he managed in his ledger. The criminals who had him in their thrall walked off with thousands while he was arrested penniless, in a hotel room

The script calls for images of the Yukon wilderness to appear as Service attempts to escape, through his imagination, the drudgery of working in a bank, a theme similarly explored in The Dishwashers, where in one instance Emmett dreams the men are dancing a tango together; here thoughts drift to the frozen wilderness, in the land of the beyond, the gold rush.

Excerpt, left, leads into opening song, The Wunderlust, in which McGee talks to Service about dreams of wandering, a theme taken up by Service. Above, hard to believe this is not a painting. Right, Charlie Chaplin dreams of gold in the Land of the Beyond.

Wanderlust will be presented in the Tom Patterson Theatre.

Tom Patterson, right, came up with the crazy dream of starting a Shakespeare festival in a farming town, which proves that holding to your vision is at least as important as coming up with it in the first place and that the middle of nowhere can end up being somewhere special

The challenge is to design both a Victorian bank and a Yukon wilderness with no real walls and audience on three sides. We will use the floor as a projection surface, and quite possibly the walls above and behind the audience, especially for our imaginary journeys to the high north.

Tom Rooney - pictured right, and left performing with Stephen Ouimette in our production of Benevolence at the Tarragon Theatre - will play Robert Service, as reimagined by Morris, a dream obsessed bank clerk in Victoria who sublimates his desire for adventure with poetry. Service did, indeed, work in a Victoria bank, and got to the Klondike long after the gold rush was over. But the imagination, sometimes, can hold adventures that even the heart could not dream of; the mind is a fascinating and an endless wilderness

Lucy Peacock, who we last worked with in Trespassers, right, plays the role of Mrs Munsch, reformed Klondike madam and landlady to Robert Service. A woman a shifting morals, who knows a thing or two about gold digging and the men who hunt for fortune

For Randy Hughson, who plays McGee, this will be the third premiere of a Morris Panych play. Randy has played Doyle in Earshot, which toured the nation, and right, with Eric Peterson, in a Tarragon production of The Dishwashers. Below, the lovely Robin Hutton plays the lovely Louise, object of Roberts ill-fated affection.

Tom and Lucy, a pleasure to see them again, as, below, in the 2010 Stratford production of The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again by Michel Tremblay

With rehearsals about to begin (at last) upper left, Diana Coatsworth, Dana Osborne and her assistant gather with the Morris and Ann (stage manager) to strategize and try to cobble together a picture of what the show might look like. Above, the counter for the bank tellers, which doubles as a saloon counter, takes shape over at the shop and, left, Morris does an opening day orientation with the company where he tries to explain his complete lack of preparation. Far left, the lovely Diana Coatsworth is doing double duty as onstage teller and offstage choreographer.

Right, Victoria, B.C., a going concern at the time of our story. Check out this footage

of 1907 Victoria found online by Heather McGuigan, one of our bank tellers. Its a three minute cinematograph taken by a W. H. Harbeck, who later sailed the Titanic

Far left, visiting the shop, Ken and Morris meet with Billy, left, and Chris, right, at the scene shop to look at the progress of the set pieces. Left, a large bank of windows takes shape in the Stratford shop. The process of building, even a relatively small set like this one, involves many workers and many man hours. In some cases, parts of the set are ordered, prefabricated, to save on time and expense. Once the set is assembled it will be painting in the shop before being reassembled in the Tom Patterson theatre. The gentlemen have been involved in the construction of both our other shows at Stratford as well; Moby Dick and The Trespassers.

Dana Osborne costumes sketches, presented at our first reading, have undergone many changes and much consultation, but Dana, Ken, and Morris have worked on a number of projects and evolution is part of the game. Above, left, Service in his day suit, a typical Edwardian ensemble. Above, the parka that Tom Rooney will wear at the beginning of Act 2. Above, right, a generic outfit for one of the number of bankers who populate the play. Left, Mrs Munsch at home, right, Mrs. Munsch at the office. Below, right, another parka, this one worn by McGee, pictured below. And, right, an outfit for Robin Hutton, as she appears in the bank, famously talking about her cheap dresses and bad shoes. Single women of this period were not well off.

Above, right, more Dana Osborne costume sketches, these of, above, right to left, a prospector heading north, an overcoat for Louise to escape in, and beside it, a look for one of the more senior clerks in the bank where Service works

Left and far left, details of the teller counter bar piece, painted and waiting for backstage at the Tom Patterson for our first onstage day, when we will have our first opportunity to explore the space with the actors

Over in the wig department, they are fitting Randy Hughson, who here proudly displays his top hat for the character of Sam McGee. We are going from the top down, with still a ways to go

Far left, part of the facing for the bank wall, which clads the Tom Patterson stage structure, made of wood and styrofoam and painted to look like limestone. Although this is not exactly the bank that Service worked it, it replicates the idea of stodgy immutability. A settee, left, has been recovered in props to serve Mrs. Munch as she transforms herself back in time to her days of whoring in the Klondike.

Left, Troy tries on two different looks for the show at his first costume fitting, far left, his look for the offices, sans jacket, very smart. And left, Troy as balladeer in The Shooting of Dan McGrew. Right, Randy with and without his coat and hat. With his chin strap beard and stove pipe hat, Randy is looking a little like Lincoln. There is only one costume change for Randy in the show, into his parka.

Left, again Troy, this time with coat and hat. To his left two looks for Ken, an office boy without his jacket, giving a thumbs up, presumably because he approves, and centre, Kens look for the docks. During one of the scenes, men leave for the Klondike gold rush. Right, Xuan tries on his jacketless look for the office as Mr. Blount. The clothes, to be authentic, are cut from somewhat heavy material which makes the prospect of dancing and book keeping a very sweaty one.

Far left, Steve looking decidedly formal in his office garb, in the days before casual Fridays, obviously, although look a whole lot more casual in his saloon garb, left. Far right, Ryan dresses up  for a day at the office, this with coat and hat, and left, as a traveler to the Klondike. Below, left Kevin as bank teller and ship steward, and right, Cyrus as a dockworker in the Victoria harbour, where steamers left for Skagway, the sea route to Chilkoot Pass

Above, historic counterparts to our Klondike bound travellers.

Left, Morris poses with his assistant director Rachel Peake in period costumes; right, Morris poses with his designers left to right, Alan Brodie, Ken MacDonald, and Dana Osborne. Far right, videographer Sean Nieuwenhuis with Morris and video expert Chris stand on green screen for filming of period bodies that will travel as silhouettes across the projection surface behind the tellers counter in the bank, as ghosting images, filling the bank with dozens of customers

Right, actors help dry a wet rehearsal floor, in preparation for a run of act one, among them theatre luminaries Lucy Peacock, Randy Hughson, Dan Chameroy, and Tom Rooney. Sometimes it isnt just about the acting. Left, a projection as it might be seen on the wall of the bank, thereby transforming a granite edifice back into a mountain.


Production photos clockwise from upper left. Tom Rooney loses himself in the Cremation of Sam McGee, Randy Hughson as Sam McGee, Dan Chameroy as Dan McGrew confounds a nervous Service, Lucy Peacock as Mrs. Munsch revisits the good old days of the Klondike whorehouse, Tom Rooney tries to propose to Louise, beautifully played by Robin Hutton. Bottom left, Service arrives at the barge of Lake LaMarge with the corpse of Sam McGee in tow.

More production shots from the show; right, office workers swirl about Service in one of the many fantasy sequences. Diana Coatsworth not only choreographs but also performs, pictured on the right. Below, Tom Rooney sings his heart out, his voice traveling further than he ever will, at least in our story

Ken has designed a set which is both rich in detail and character, and carefully positioned to allow for a maximum of flexibility with the Tom Patterson space which is a deep three quarter thrust where most of the audience is at the sides, providing for challenging stage positions for both furniture and people so that there is a minimum of visual obstruction

Morris and his trusted assistant director, Rachel Peake, celebrate with gratitude and relief, the opening night of Wanderlust; behind them, our balladeer, Troy Adams.  A great night.