By Mike Anderson

The Queensville Players cancelled the last performances of Disney’s High School Musical at Stephen Leacock Theatre on November 25, after three cast members, from the same family, were killed, and another severely injured in a head-on collision near Peterborough on Tuesday, November 22.

Jonathan MacDonnell, 46, Stefphanie Hart, 52, and their 18-year-old son Riddick Hart were killed after their SUV collided with a pick-up truck on Highway 7 near Drummond Line.

Their 14-year-old daughter, Rowghan Hart, suffered life-altering injuries and was airlifted to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, where she is in stable condition after two surgeries.

The driver of the pick-up, identified as 42-year-old Jason Schmidt of Hastings, was also killed.

The accident occurred just minutes from the family’s home as they returned from Walmart.

Police have not released any information as to the cause of the crash.

The family, known as the MacHarts (MacDonnell and Hart), were cast in The Queensville Players’ High School Musical, which was set to finish its run on November 27.

Riddick played Troy, one of the lead roles; his father, Jon, was cast as Coach Bolton, his mother, Stefphanie, as Ms. Tenney, and his sister Rowghan as Martha Cox.

Jon, Rowghan, Riddick and Stefphanie
Riddick (left centre) as Troy in High School Musical

“They were overjoyed to be cast,” said Karin Simpson, president of the Queensville Players and the show’s producer.

“It takes about an hour and a half to get from Peterborough. They did that three times a week to be part of our play.”

“Riddick auditioned for Troy, and he was amazing. He was full of life, full of promise. He wanted the theatre life to be his and was on his way to achieving that.”

“Initially, it was just him, but we also needed a Coach Bolton, and Jon just hopped into the role quickly, and then mom and sister came along as well. They were a one-car family who did absolutely everything together. So they said we’ll be here anyway; we might as well be in it and have some fun.”

“Stefphanie and I became very good friends over these months of rehearsal. I had said it must be exhausting and expensive for you to be travelling three times a week. And she said she wouldn’t change it for the world because Riddick would leave for university next year. They felt this was a unique opportunity to experience as a family.”

Simpson, an English teacher at Keswick H.S., broke the devastating news to the remaining cast members at a hastily called meeting last Wednesday, the day after the crash.

“As people arrived at the theatre, I took them aside, one at a time, and told them. Then, we all met inside the theatre. With the help of my principal, I arranged for grief counsellors to be on site, and we stayed from 9 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m. just being in a circle, sharing stories, and grieving together.”

“This is the darkest situation we’ve ever faced,” said Simpson.

“There has been an outpouring of condolences from members and other theatre company groups.”

“The people in a show become bonded together in a way that is unless you’ve experienced it, not something that can be easily articulated. Everyone in the cast is deeply affected by this loss. We all feel we’ve lost part of ourselves and part of our family.”

“But we will persevere. We have plans to move forward. The Laramie Project will be in February, Beauty and the Beast will be in April, our Q.P. Factor will be in May, and our variety show in June. The Q.P. Factor or variety show will be promoted to support Rowghan.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise funds for Rowghan’s recovery and has raised more than $80,000.

The family has set up an email account to send letters, pictures and short videos that will be shared with Rowghan, letterstorowghan@gmail.com.

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