A new play at the Grand Theater will focus on ghosts, the mystery of Ambrose Small

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One hundred years ago this week, the founder and owner of the Grand Theater in London passed away.

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To commemorate the mystery, the theater has announced that a new play, Big Ghosts, written by award-winning playwright Trina Davies, will open the 2021-22 season.

On December 2, 1919, Ambrose Small sold his large chain of theaters, including the Grand, for a record sum, deposited the money, and disappeared, although occasionally his ghost was sighted at the Grand.

Ambrose Small, owner of the Grand Opera House, mysteriously disappeared 83 years ago today.
Ambrose Small, owner of the Grand Opera House, mysteriously disappeared 83 years ago today.

“We couldn’t ask for a better day to announce this new work which will be fun and very ghostly. This piece will appeal to those who enjoy local history, mysterious murders and ghost stories, ”noted artistic director Dennis Garnhum, who has spoken about the project since arriving here three years ago.

Davies also wrote the new play, Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, which premiered at the Grand in 2018, the first production of the theater’s new COMPASS new play development program. After the Great, Silence was a resounding success at the National Arts Center in Ottawa.

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The program also developed this season’s first show, This London Life. It will be followed in March by a new adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room, based on her award-winning novel, a co-production with British company Covent Garden Productions, which staged her in London, England in 2017, and David Mirvish, who will bring him to Toronto in April.

In press materials, Small has been described as “a ruthless businessman with a penchant for gambling and women; qualities that did not endear him to his employees, his business partners, his gambling rivals or the ladies in his life.

In a statement, Davies described the piece she is working on as an interactive experience.

“With Grand Ghosts, the public will be invited on a ghost hunt to experience the Grand in a way they have never known before,” she wrote.

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“Theater areas. . . unseen by the general public will be on display, along with stories that take place in the building’s 1901 bricks and mortar. This hunt can open up something that has long been hidden. . . The story of Ambrose Small, her disappearance and all those around her who felt entitled to be part of the action.

Garnhum, Davies (online participant from the West Coast) and Katie Daubs, author of the new book, The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed with Finding Him, hosted an event on Grand Monday that attracted around 300 people to talk about Small and the ghosts of the theater.

“What really excited me is that there is clearly an interest and a fascination with this person, both the life he led and the mystery around his death,” Garnhum said.

“It was a huge boost of encouragement that Grand Ghosts will have great appeal when we premiere it a few years from now.”

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