Lauren Semple, as Madame Zee, and Dean Chadwick, as Brother XII, rehearse a scene from Western Edge Theatre's upcoming musical 'The Cult of Brother 12.' (Photo courtesy Western Edge Theatre)

Notorious Vancouver Island cult leader’s story re-imagined in new musical

Western Edge Theatre presents ‘The Cult of Brother 12’ starting March 25 in Nanaimo

A made-in-Nanaimo theatre production is sure to be a ‘cult’ favourite.

Western Edge Theatre is getting ready to bring to the stage the new musical The Cult of Brother 12 at the OV Arts Centre starting March 25.

The play, written and directed by Nanaimo’s Bill Miner, is based on real historical events surrounding Edward Wilson, a British sailor, mystic and cult leader who established the Aquarian Foundation and a colony of followers at Cedar-by-the-Sea in the 1920s.

Dean Chadwick, who stars as Brother XII, said he’s always been interested in the folklore surrounding the historical figure, but since being involved with the play, he’s researched further and has found himself fascinated by some of the surviving documents written by the cult leader and the foundation.

“It’s really great to find this historical figure and find the facts that work in this fictional re-telling,” Chadwick said. “Because you’ve got these true people who were there, and then it [progresses] to ‘What might have happened now?’”

Chadwick said playing the role of a notorious character has meant trying to “compartmentalize” Brother XII’s seemingly different types of personalities to try to discover who he was.

“Any character you’re playing, you never want to consider them the bad guy,” the actor said. “So trying to figure out why he behaves in certain ways has really been interesting and a deep dig trying to figure out, well, how do I justify doing this or saying that.”

Co-starring with Chadwick are Lauren Semple as Mabel (Madame Zee) Skottowe as well as Rick Meyers, Frank Moher, Alejandro Mujica and Haley Turnbull.

“Brother XII told his acolytes that he channeled the ‘ascended masters,’ supposedly mystical beings who were guiding the Earth towards a spiritual awakening…” noted a press release from Western Edge. “Things took a decidedly unenlightened turn, however, when he was accused of pilfering colony funds and began an affair with Zee, who helped him turn his utopian encampment into something more like a slave colony. The turmoil ended up in court in Nanaimo, where it is said Brother XII used black magic to render his accusers speechless … Then there were the jars of buried gold.”

The music by Miner and Marty Steele will leave audiences humming the tunes, the release added, and Chadwick said a Vaudeville-style number performed with Moher’s psychiatrist character has been a highlight of rehearsals.

“It’s an exciting world right now,” Chadwick said. “The scenes and the music and the dancing is all intermingling now and it’s an exciting time to be at the theatre.”

WHAT’S ON … The Cult of Brother 12 will be performed at the OV Arts Centre, 25 Victoria Rd, at 7:30 p.m. on March 25-26 and March 31-April 2 and at 2 p.m. on March 27 and April 3. Tickets $26-28 for adults, $22-24 for seniors, $15-18 for students and youths 29 and under, available at http://westernedge.org or by calling 250-816-6459.

READ ALSO: The shadowy past of sailor, seducer and swindler Brother XII



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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