Winnipeg actor Darcy Fehr went back to university at 40 and finds himself onstage in classic play


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Darcy Fehr didn't like the university dropout role he was playing, so he went back to school to take on one of theatre's greatest parts.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/03/2015 (2873 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Darcy Fehr didn’t like the university dropout role he was playing, so he went back to school to take on one of theatre’s greatest parts.

A longtime professional actor in the city, the 40-year-old Fehr is finally finishing the bachelor’s degree he started 17 years ago at the University of Manitoba. As part of the requirements for his backstage course in the theatre program, he built and painted the set for the Black Hole Theatre’s current production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

He had no plans to join the student cast of actors half his age.

Supplied photo Darcy Fehr as the combative George in Black Hole Theatre's current production of Edward Albee's 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'

“I’m here to get my degree and move on,” says Fehr, who has appeared in a trio of Guy Maddin movies. “I told my professor, George Toles, that and he said I was foolish. He said that’s why you come to university, to get those kinds of experiences.”

With a wife and family, as well as an acting studio to run, there was no time, he thought, to fit in learning the 892 lines belonging to George in Edward Albee’s domestic battle royale. But when his wife agreed that Virginia Woolf was a rare opportunity, he agreed to make his Black Hole debut.

The university experience is proving much more satisfying the second time around.

“At 40 years old, I’m learning more than I ever did at 22,” says Fehr, who is on track to graduate next Christmas. “I have a better appreciation of what the professors are teaching.

“This is important to me. I want to finish something I didn’t 17 years ago. I want to set an example for my kids. I want them to pursue education.”

There is an irony to performing at U of M, because it is where he first declared his intent to pursue a career in acting. He sought advice from his English professor, the late Winnipeg actor Vic Cowie, who promptly crushed his plan with a brutal reality check.

“He told me, ‘Get the hell out of the business right now, young man,'” says Fehr, who was in his first year at the time. “He said, ‘Get ready to be unappreciated until you are into your 50s and 60s and not get any recognition until after you’re dead.’ Then he said, ‘If you do go ahead, make sure you love it.”

Most of the advice fell on deaf ears, except for the last bit. Fehr then entered the profession with his eyes wide open, but has returned to U of M for another surprising lesson.

“This is the best work I think I’ve ever done as an actor,” he says.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? runs at 8 p.m. until Saturday at U of M’s University College, 220 Dysart Rd. Tickets are $15.

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Of the eight artists who won Governor General’s Awards for career excellence in the visual arts this week, three were born in Winnipeg and all graduated from the University of Manitoba.

New media artist Reva Stone is the only laureate who still resides in her hometown. Both Robert Houle and Micah Lexier are now based in Toronto, but have deep roots in Manitoba.

Houle, an Anishnaabe Saulteaux, spent 12 years in Manitoba residential schools, where he was encouraged to pursue his artistic interests by priests and nuns. He earned his BA in art history at the University of Manitoba before leaving to study in Montreal and Austria. He has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an artist and teacher.

Lexier, a conceptualist, collector and curator, with a deep interest in the passage of time and the fleeting quality of human life. He left Winnipeg in the early ’80s sat the age of 22, after finishing his studies at Grant Park High School and earning a degree at U of M. He is best remembered for his memorable 1994 Winnipeg Art Gallery exhibition A Portrait of David, which featured 75 photographs of people named David from age one to 75. It was a major hit with the public and lead to sequel projects.

The 54-year-old, who has had more than 100 solo exhibitions, was back in Winnipeg in late 2013 looking for subjects of another followup called David’s Double, scheduled to open U of M’s School of Art Gallery this year.

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Manitoba Opera wants to take you for a ride.

The company is launching a new park-and-ride offer for patrons who want to see its upcoming production of Puccini’s Turandot. Instead of ticket holders searching for a hard-to-find parking spot around the Centennial Concert Hall, they can be picked up by a Beaver Bus Line bus at predetermined locations and times, and arrive 15-20 minutes before curtain. Then they can go home on the bus after the show. Tickets are $15 per person round trip.

There ware two routes, one starting on the west side of the city at Unicity Mall and another starting in the south at Real Canadian Superstore on Bison Drive.

Park and drive is being offered on a trial basis. For more information call the MO box office at 204-944-8824.

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Winnipeg-born actor Jeremy Kushnier will play Iago in the Shakespeare classic Othello at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre next month. Kushnier, who got his start at Rainbow Stage, is best known for starring in the Broadway stage musicals Footloose and Jersey Boys.

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