The Play
Louis Riel
The Makers
The Docs
The Awards
2016 META Award Winning Production
Louis Riel Publicity Package
Louis Riel Tech Rider
Louis Riel Study Guide
Dossier de Presse
Fiche Technique
Guide d'Accompagnement

Louis Riel a comic-strip stage play is classic Canadiana; compelling history about a fascinating tragic hero set in the rugged early days of modern Canada.

Based on Chester Brown’s celebrated graphic novel which so beautifully illustrates the story of this enigmatic historical figure, RustWerk ReFinery’s theatrical adaptation simply pops with the vibrant and stunning artistry of the original source. Puppetry, a natural theatrical extension of the comic-book depiction, offers powerful perspectives, rich details, and vivid lively storytelling. Louis Riel breathes in life-sized 2 dimensions, he mourns in shadow-imagery, and rallies his men in the voice of the actor. A piece of Canada’s history is sketched out on stage document by document, fort by fort, prayer by prayer, and battle by battle. Riel himself is nothing if not


conflicted; troubled by visions and personal discussions with God, he is a gifted leader in a time when defying the dominant society was a treacherous affair.

Louis Riel - a comic-strip stage play is at times charged in controversy and irreverent in its depiction of historical figures. None of them are left untouched; and all of us are left to marvel.

The History

Louis Riel is one of Canada’s most controversial figures. Celebrated by some; scorned by others. Known infamously as the leader of the Red River Rebellion, the founder of Manitoba and hanged for treason on November 16, 1885 by the Canadian government.


Riel and the Métis who lived in the Red River settlement believed that the Hudson Bay’s sale of Rupert’s Land (which contained the Red River Settlement) to the Canadian government without their consent entitled the people of the Red River settlement to create their own provisional government. The citizens of the Red River, largely of Métis origin, felt that they had been cheated by the Hudson Bay Company and the Canadian government and wanted a say in their future.

From Prime Minister John A. MacDonald’s perspective the rebellion was largely an annoyance - an obstacle in the way of Canada’s consolidation of the west. MacDonald was particularly eager to put down the rebellion as soon as possible since the United States was on an aggressive annexation campaign of its own. Louis Riel was elected to Parliament three times but never held office for fear of being brought to trial or even lynched. As tensions mounted numerous small skirmishes between the Red River Métis and the RCMP lead to dozens of deaths and Riel’s ultimate trial and conviction for treason. Today, Riel is considered a father of Manitoba

The Book

Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography has won Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best Graphic Album for his compelling, meticulous, and dispassionate retelling of the charismatic,and perhaps mad, nineteenth-century Métis leader. Louis Riel was also nominated for Eisner, Ignatz, and Libris Awards; featured on the Globe and Mail’s list of the 100 best books of the year, and Quill and Quire’s list of the five best Canadian non-fiction books of the year; and excerpted in the comics issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern.

The Author

Chester Brown was born in Montreal and grew up in the nearby suburb of Chateauquay.

Brown has gone through several periods in his comics work. In the 1980s, he gained notice in alternative comics circles for the improvised, surreal, scatological Ed the Happy Clown. He followed this with revealing, confessional autobiographical comics in the early 1990s. His historical-biographical graphic novel of rebel Métis leader Louis Riel was a surprise mainstream success in the early 2000s. In 2011, he released his controversial pro-prostitution polemic, Paying For It.

In 1991, he signed on with Drawn & Quarterly, which has since come to be recognized as an internationally renowned publishing house of literary graphic novels and art books from around the globe.


Development Funding


Production Funding