If you grew up in Hamilton like Megan Janssen and I, then you may remember the schoolyard rhyme that that ends with an appallingly unsubtle double entendre about the murderess who puts the ‘famous’ in infamous, the one and only Evelyn Dick. This dark and beautiful woman captured the imagination of our city in 1946 and although she herself has gone missing, her story and her memory have been present ever since. It’s no wonder that such a rich story has made it to the stage more than once to thrill the audiences of our city.
I had an opportunity to see the impact of this story on audiences first hand while performing in “How Could You, Mrs. Dick?” by Douglas Rodger in 2013 for Dundas Little Theatre. It was the type of show where the stage lights went down at intermission and the audience was immediately abuzz with conversation and speculation.
Recently I caught up with Janssen who wrote, directed, and starred in a one woman show in this year’s Hamilton Fringe Festival inspired by that very speculation: How could she? “Suitcase: the untold story of Evelyn Dick” played to packed houses as a part of the Fringe’s Gallery Miniseries and Janssen’s production company, Aperio Theatre, won the ‘Best of Venue’ award.
The creation of this dark comedy came from Janssen’s desire as an artist to challenge herself to portray a character whose motives and actions she couldn’t understand. This challenge was at first quite daunting, she admits, but after burying herself in research Janssen eventually found a humanity and truth she wanted to share with her audience . “It’s forever a mystery” she says, and therein lies its unstoppable allure. Janssen was thrilled by the process and looks forward to sharing her next project with us. I, for one, am excited to see what she does next.
Crystal Jonasson is a writer, director, producer and actor who has appeared on stages in Toronto, Ottawa and throughout the Hamilton area. Recently she had the opportunity to work as the Assistant Director on Tribes by Nina Raine for Canadian Stage and Theatre Aquarius. Crystal was the Associate Producer of the 2014 Hamilton Fringe Festival, a mentorship position made possible through the support of Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program. In 2013 she received the Emerging Artist Award in Theatre at the Hamilton Arts Awards. Crystal is a lifelong Hamiltonian, a McMaster University Alumni and the founder of 11th Year Productions, a Hamilton based theatre company focused on working with emerging artists. @crystalinhammer