Ray Hogg got to know Rainbow Stage well in 2011 when he was directing. He lived in Toronto at the time, but came to Winnipeg for a few weeks to direct. “It was a relatively short, but a very intense getting-to-know-you Rainbow Stage time,” said Hogg.
Ken Peter, the former executive producer of Rainbow Stage, would pick him up and drive him to the theatre every day — about a 30 minute car ride to and from the house Hogg was staying at in Tuxedo. “You’re trapped in a car, you have no choice but to talk to the person beside you and there’s no direct eye contact because the person’s driving, so you wind up sharing more,” he said. “In those forty car rides I got to know Ken pretty well and I got to know the company pretty well from his perspective.”
When I asked my mother, ‘can I do ballet?’ her immediate response was, ‘No!’
Peter unexpectedly died in 2011 and Rainbow Stage was looking to fill its void in leadership. The musical theatre restructured by making the executive producer position, Peter’s previous position, into two positions — executive director and artistic director.
Hogg applied to be artistic director. “I crafted a really detailed – and what to me seemed righteous – vision for the company, and that aligned well with the company’s values and ultimately I was selected to lead.” He was hired as artistic director in 2013. “I’m very happy to be here and I’m happy to work with this community,” he said. “The Winnipeg arts community is not only vibrant, but I think they’re leaders.” Hogg said his cast is well trained and few are from outside of Winnipeg. “I’m not wanting for incredible Broadway talents. They’re right here. So that is incredibly stimulating,” he said. “I think people think I’m blowing smoke when I say I really love it here, but I would not have uprooted the family if there wasn’t lots to love.”
Gérald Michaud, Hogg’s husband, had lived in Toronto for more than 20 years when Hogg got the position as artistic director in Winnipeg. “Our lives were so established in Toronto.” It was a big move for Hogg, Michaud and their two kids, but they knew an opportunity like this is rare. “He knew that it was and is a career goal of mine to be a major force in Canadian theatre, so he was and continues to be very supportive.”
Michaud is now a realtor but the two met while dancing in the Danny Grossman Dance Company, one of Canada’s most established and well-regarded dance companies. Hogg said he and his husband have always worked together. Hogg was even a realtor. “Apparently you can’t marry one without becoming one, so I became a realtor too.”
His journey to the rainbow stage
But realty plays a very small part in Hogg’s extensive career as a dancer, director, teacher and choreographer. Hogg worked as a performer for the Danny Grossman Dance Company, Dancetheatre David Earle, Julia Sasso Dances and CORPUS Dance Projects. After his work in concert dance, he moved to Germany to perform in Cats.
He has also appeared in the following shows: Kiss Me Kate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Dreamgirls, Seussical, Evita, Sweet Charity, Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Ross Petty’s Beauty and the Beast and for the Stratford Festival, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and My One and Only.
He has worked as a director and choreographer for European/world tours with CORPUS Dance Projects and even taught at George Brown College and the Randolph Academy of the Performing Arts in Toronto.
Hogg remembers wanting to dance from age five when he saw the Nutcracker on TV. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. I want to do it’.” At that age he had a bad reputation of picking up hobbies and dropping them. “So when I asked my mother, ‘Can I do ballet?’ her immediate response was, ‘No! You’re just going to drop it’.” It wasn’t until he was a teenager that he and a friend joined a ballet class in a church basement. “17-year- old me and a whole bunch of 12-year-old girls.” He later went through Ryerson University’s dance program.
Hogg is now leading Rainbow Stage into its 60th anniversary and plans to get the GLBT* community more involved. The company’s name is such for its original 1954 arch in the front, not the GLBT* community. But Hogg says the community might be interested in the shows this year, such as the season’s opener, A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline from June 5 to 15. “The actress who’s playing Natasha O’Brien is out of this world. Jessica Rabbit body — the gays will love her. The gays do love her and so will everyone else, because she’s just flawless.”
Hogg said The Producers, the company’s second production, is “very gay. There’s a lot of boy butt in it.” The performance runs from July 4 to 19. “If it’s not the gayest, it’s the second gayest musical known to man. One of the songs is ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it.’ Give me a break. That’s like my mantra.”
The season will end with Disney’s The Little Mermaid from Aug. 13 to 29. “It’s a gorgeous girl in a red wig, or it’s Ursula — a crazy diva.”
Rainbow Stage is also celebrating its diamond jubilee (60th anniversary) with the Diamond Lounge — a new exclusive area for pre-show and post-show receptions. “I hope all the gay people in Winnipeg come to see it.” He also encourages everyone to come talk to him. “I love nothing more than to chat with people and meet new people.”
Visit www.rainbowstage.ca for tickets and more information about the shows.
– Danelle Cloutier is the music editor at OutWords.