I couldn’t get keys to lower it, but this stage backdrop is the theatre’s pride and joy. It was found, if you’ll believe it, between the ceiling and the roof shingles at the top of the elevator shaft when it was opened for repairs.

Nobody had any idea what it is until preservation experts carefully unrolled it and got a look. Painted by turn-of-the-century set painter William Gill, the “Gill” (actual title: “An Italianate Garden Scene”) is the largest surviving piece of stage art in, as far as I know, Canada. It’s become one of my favourite paintings, and I wrote a short story based on it once. I love the contrast between the garden and the woods in the background, and I particularly love the statue in its enclosure, almost beckoning the viewer into its world. I didn’t use the statue motif, but the Gill’s sense of dual worlds very much inspired the way the theatre has different versions, different times, some more grand and some disused and hidden away.

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