Touring theatre company halts Prince Albert show in solidarity of employees on strike

The cast of Bear Grease, currently touring across Canada, postponed their Oct. 3 performance in Prince Albert due to a strike involving city employees at the EA Rawlinson Centre. – Photo by Nipîy Iskwew

Some acts scheduled to perform at Prince Albert’s EA Rawlinson Centre are postponing their shows in support of striking employees.

The theatre company behind Bear Grease announced on social media Monday that it was holding off on its Prince Albert performance, set for the next day. 

The company said many of its members are part of a union currently on strike. Actors and screenwriters in Hollywood have been taking job action since May, with the Writers Guild of America reaching an agreement at the end of September.

“Our hearts tell us that the right choice is to stand in alliance with the hard working people behind the scenes,” reads the Facebook post.

Middle Raged, a live sketch comedy show by Geri Hall and Gary Pearson, has also chosen to postpone.

Crystle Lightning is the co-creator and a performer in Bear Grease, an Indigenous twist on the original 1978 musical.

“In the theatre world, we form a bond with everyone behind the scenes, from the light and sound technicians to the box office, to the ushers and stage managers. We understand that they are the backbone of the performing arts and the show does not happen without them,” said Lightning.

She encouraged other acts to do the same, although “not everything is black and white and some artists might decide to cross that line for their own reasons and convictions.”

Country artist Corb Lund crossed the picket line to perform on Saturday.

Cara Stelmaschuk, the vice-president of CUPE 882, is the marketing and events coordinator at the EA Rawlinson Centre.

“That was a disappointing one,” she said about Lund.

“In that time, we’ve kind of learned that these acts, when they’re coming to Prince Albert, they don’t actually know that they’re coming into a workplace that has their employees on strike. They literally are finding out when they pull up,” she added.

“For the record, he did not look happy when he walked into that building.”

The Herald has reached out to The Feldman Agency, which represents Lund, for comment.

Stelmaschuk said it was heartwarming to learn that, just a few days after Lund went ahead, Bear Grease chose to delay.

“I don’t really want to call it a win because it’s a wonderful show. When they do get to come back, it’s going to be such a great event for our community to have and be able to see and to experience,” she said.

“For the moment, the fact that they are postponing in solidarity with us, it feels really good.”

Director of Corporate Services Kiley Bear said the City of Prince Albert is contacting ticketholders about postponed shows and the next steps.

“We respect the decisions of each individual performer that’s coming and if that’s what they feel is right, that’s what they feel is right. We’re prepared to work with them to find another date,” said Bear.

Bear Grease said although it broke its contract, management at the EA Rawlinson Centre are “graciously” working with them on a new date.

CUPE 882 has been on strike since Sept. 11, and started taking job action on Aug. 10 by refusing train others and not following dress codes. The union reached a tentative agreement last week, but chose to stop the membership vote with new information about a call centre being established at City Hall.