SUDBURY -- More than 45 years ago, Sudbury Secondary School alarms were blaring as two A.Y. Jackson paintings were stolen from the school's office.

Decades later, a play that includes actors from Sudbury's theatre community, a few high school students and a former broadcaster, could help solve the mystery.

"All we know is that in the morning the custodians discovered that the alarm was going off and the school had been broken into," said writer and director Judi Straughan. "They were still in the school, but on the other side of the school. So, whoever did it, must have known where the custodians would be at that time.”

Jackson was a founding member of the famous Group of Seven, a famous group of Canadian landscape painters.

The break-in took place in 1974, when Sudbury Tech and Sudbury High were combining to become Sudbury Secondary School. Two paintings by Group of Seven Artist A.Y. Jackson were stolen from the school's office.

The principal at the time, Len Yauk, told CTV News that blending the two rival schools was his main focus at the time, but hearing about the stolen paintings was a complete shock.

"I was completely bewildered," said Yauk. "I wondered why, did that happen? Of course, it happened it had happened because A.Y. had just passed away, and everyone wanted his (work)."

One of the stolen paintings was of Onaping Falls, the other of Lake Superior.

Insurance payment

Yauk said the school received $60,000 in an insurance payout and it went to purchasing other artwork for the school.

As for Straughan, she wonders if the theft had anything to do with the two rival schools becoming one.

"Nobody wanted that, they just hated the idea," she said. "They had rallies. It was just a terrible time for them."

The two-act play is designed to be entertaining and acts as an effort to try to solve the mystery and possibly rediscover the paintings.

"Someone knows something," said Straughn. "Maybe at this point someone is going to say, 'you know what, I heard something at the time and now I'm going to say something … Who knows what will happen?" 

Act 1 of the play presents the facts, and Act 2 provides theories about who may have done it.

The play was filmed Nov. 8 on stage at Sudbury Theatre Centre for a limited audience and due to COVID-19, it is airing online through a fundraiser with Laurentian University's radio station, CKLU.

The play airs from Dec. 4-7, and can be watched anytime from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Virtual tickets are $16 each.