Winnipeg Free Press (Ca), February 1, 1995


by Treena Khan

A two-page spread in the popular U.S. magazine People is the latest publicity accorded Keanu Reeves and the Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Hamlet.

"Something is . . . well, not rotten, but, you know, weird in Winnipeg," begins the piece in the Feb. 6 issue of People, which hit Winnipeg newsstands yesterday.

Featuring three pictures of Reeves and quotes from several Winnipeggers, the article goes on at great length about the excitement MTC and Reeves have caused here.

Meanwhile, Time magazine features a short item on Reeves and MTC in its Feb. 6 issue, as does the Feb. 7 issue of the Star Weekly supermarket tabloid. Also expected is a short item in Entertainment Weekly magazine.

The American tabloid TV show X-Tra was in town yesterday filming a sequence at Earls restaurant on Main Street, where Reeves was eating lunch.

MTC publicist Blair Cosgrove said he has received calls from U.S. TV shows American Journal and Inside Edition this week.

"I expect they'll show up in the next couple of days, but no one's asked for tickets," he said.

Hamlet, which opened Jan. 12 to largely favorable reviews, ends its three-week MTC run Saturday night.

From this week's People to the tabloid New York Post to Britain's Plays and Players magazine, Winnipeg suddenly has a mystique about it: why would a Hollywood star travel to this "most God-forsaken" town to do Shakespeare?

London's Sunday Times sent freelance writer Roger Lewis from his home in France to Market Avenue to see what he could see, and in the newspaper's Jan. 22 Style section, he admitted he couldn't see much.

"Ice-bound Winnipeg -- of all places, the most God-forsaken. Situated in the dead centre of Canada, ice-bound for half the year, once a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Co. and now a maze of subterranean shopping malls. Winnipeg is a town that even the locals mock!"

USA Today ran a brief item Jan. 24, followed by the New York Post Jan. 26.

"Audiences at Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Centre in Canada are pleased as punch that the superdude's latest adventure hasn't failed egregiously," wrote Post reporter John O'Mahony.

For London fans, says Sunday Times staffer Yvette Sitten, Reeves doing Shakespeare anywhere is big news.

"He's one of the top sex symbols here, and to hear he was doing Shakespeare was quite surprising," she told the Free Press yesterday. "People expected to scoff because they really remember him as Ted (from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) and maybe they'll never get past that goofiness."

Robert Tanitch of the more high-minded Plays and Players magazine of London promises to take Reeves seriously as an actor when he sees him in his final performance Saturday.

"If people are surprised to hear he's doing Shakespeare, well, I would find that slightly insulting," he said in a phone interview from London yesterday.

"I think it's understandable for a young actor to want to do Hamlet, and Winnipeg has quite a reputation for its theatre."

Tanitch, who has written books on noted Shakespearean actors John Gielgud and Sir Lawrence Olivier, said he's arriving in Winnipeg tomorrow to catch Hamlet's final performance Saturday.

His first requests for tickets before the show opened were turned down by the MTC, Cosgrove said, but now that the opening night sound and fury have passed, house tickets "became available."

BUT THERE'S something in it for the MTC: Tanitch says he is interested in doing a story on Winnipeg theatre for Plays and Players, and has already arranged to catch Monument, now on at the MTC Warehouse and All Fall Down at the Prairie Theatre Exchange be fore he leaves Feb. 6.

It will be his first visit to Winnipeg, but having visited Toronto and the Stratford Festival in Ontario, he says he's excited about Canadian theatre.

With the entire run of Hamlet sold out long before the box office opened, even media couldn't simply get tickets from MTC at the last minute, explained Cosgrove, who guessed the People reporter must have bought a ticket on the street.

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Hamlet , Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

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