Thanks for dropping by!

Death of the Rumrunner King

A one act play by Bruce Robert Johnson


This multi-media, historical-fantasy (with original songs) is a bittersweet and at times, grimly humorous tale of two unfortunate rumrunners, Ben Kerr and Alf Wheat.
It is presumed Kerr and Wheat perished the night of February 24, 1929, from hypothermia after their boat got trapped in ice returning from a smuggling run to the US . . .
. . . But can't we then also presume they didn't perish immediately even under those terrible circumstances? They might have survived for several hours. How did that go?
Stay tuned . . .
The play opens in a producer/writer's office as he works out ideas for his next podcast: A fictional account of how Kerr and Wheat spent those last few precious hours of their lives.


The on-stage action shifts between the writer's office set and his fantasies – which come to life as re-enactments on an ice field set – with Kerr and Wheat trying to get to shore.
When action is taking place in the writer's office (Stage Right), the ice field set (Stage Left) is totally BLACK, and vice versa.
The office set occupies 1/3 of the entire stage decorated with a few props: a desk; a guitar on a stand; and an old dictaphone. A bottle and shot glass are on the desk top.
The ice field (the type you see piled up to the shoreline in February) occupies 2/3 of the entire stage.
The music videos will be projected onto the rear screen spanning entire width of the stage.

Vocalist Debra Tosh

Debra Tosh - One of Her Best

Performances EVER!


The play's eight original songs are presented as pre-recorded videos, used as segues between the writer/rumrunner scenes.

These are NOT pop tunes!

They are folk songs about rumrunner Ben Kerr, his life and times. However,  the songs feature non-traditional backing tracks with styles varying from reggae, blues and swing.

The songs were written, performed and recorded by Bruce Johnson. All vocals by Debra Tosh.


Goodbye John Barleycorn
After prohibition became law in 1920, the speakeasy business grew like wildfire. But thanks to rumrunners like Ben Kerr,  there was always plenty of John Barleycorn to go around.

The Black Ship
"Black ship" was a name given to the type of boat Ben Kerr owned. These were fast boats, usually with black hulls. Most often they would sail off on smuggling runs at night – under pale starlight – making them very difficult for the coast guard to spot.

Ben's World Gone Wrong
When Ben's boat crashes into the ice, he takes a nasty blow to the head. Soon after, he starts hearing things in the wind, like music. And seeing things under the ice, like strange women with glowing eyes.

The Pollywog
Ben's Pollywog was one of the fastest, if not THE fastest boat on Lake Ontario in 1929. This song pays homage to the famous boat that left everyone in her wake, 'specially the U.S. Coast Guard!

Ben's Siren Part I
Mistress of the seas, the Siren with her alluring voice calls to Ben: "Come to me" – as the rumrunners' situation worsen.

Ben's Siren Part II
The Siren gets her wish and takes Ben away with her.

Main Duck Island
40 miles south of Picton (64 km) was a legendary place known to be safe haven for stranded sailors and fishermen – and rumrunners. This song pays homage Lake Ontario's big old swamp with dangerous rocky shores, Main Duck Island.



For a more realistic, theatrical-like sound experience, we recommend you playback the songs through headphones or bluetooth speakers or audio systems other than phone or computer speakers. Thank you!

Contact Us

Thanks for supporting live theatre!
Your Email Address
We will get back to you as quick as we can!