Not only is Marcus Mosely a member of the traditional gospel group The Sojourners, but he’s also an experienced actor. His road story harks back to 1986, soon after he moved from the U.S. to Vancouver and landed a part in Ain’t Misbehavin’, the popular tribute to the music of jazzman Fats Waller.
The gig proved to be a great introduction to Canada, as he and eight other actors piled into a van and toured from Vancouver to Thunder Bay in the dead of winter. “We hit all the ‘big cities,’” Mosely says. “Brooks, Fort MacMurray, Red Deer, Swift Current. We called it the ‘Raisins in the Snow Tour.’ We’d come in off the highway and pull into these towns, and people would look over at us in the van and do a double take—oh my God, look at all these black folks!! I don’t think they’d ever seen that concentration of black people before. Of course, once we got the show up and running, everybody just loved us. It was just the initial reaction that was kind of funny.”
Mosely marveled at how every Canadian town had a hockey rink. “That was strange to me,” he says. “No matter how small it was, it had a rink at the centre of town. I had traveled through Europe a number of years before, where every town, at its highest point, has a church with a big steeple. But in Canada it was the hockey rink—sometimes we even did our shows in there, because it was the only big building they had. We’d use the locker rooms for our dressing rooms.” (Ah, the inspiring smell of stale sweat....)
But it wasn’t all hockey rinks and small-time motels—or at least it wasn’t supposed to be. The last show of the tour was in Thunder Bay, where the cast had been promised a stay in a luxurious hotel before their final show and subsequent departure back home to Vancouver. Of course, any Canadian could tell you that the words “Thunder Bay” and “luxurious hotel” aren’t exactly congruous—but The Sojourners, who had yet to sojourn out that way, were still blissfully unaware of the fact.
“We pulled up to the hotel late at night and... well, put it this way. Some of the lights were out on the sign, so we called it the ‘Crust Hotel’ instead of what it was supposed to read. As you walked down the hallway you could smell urine. In my room someone had scribbled ‘Johnny + Marie Sue’ in the ceiling. The towels had holes and frayed edges. And you know the cups that have wax paper bags around them that say ‘sanitized’? I opened mine up and it had cigarette ashes in it.”
Needless to say, the cast was not very happy. Their management quickly booked them in a different hotel for the next night, but they still had to spend an evening at ‘The Crust,’ sleeping fitfully on top of their bedsheets for fear of catching diseases by crawling inside.
“In those situations you just sink down inside yourself and go into survival mode,” Mosely explains. However, he makes sure to note that Thunder Bay at least had a very nice theatre—a significant improvement from a hockey rink.