by Gordon Pengilly
I’ll be going into rehearsals soon for my play Tom Form And The Speed Of Love which is being produced by New York’s Broad Horizons Theatre Company for the Edmonton Fringe. I haven’t had a fringe show for more than a decade, and though I’ve had several of them over the years I’ve never been involved in any of the productions. As for this one, I’m deeply involved.
My relationship with Broad Horizons goes back to 2010 when they workshopped my play Flesh & Ghost and showcased it at the Manhattan Theatre Club which was pretty exciting. It was one of those Who You Know situations. A close friend had become literary manager of Broad Horizons and gave my play to A.D. Lewis Magruder to read. Their mission is to develop and promote promising new scripts, and, while producing readings is at the core of their work, they will occasionally do full productions too. Like so many small theatres down there, they don’t mount seasons per se. They don’t receive any grants so they spend a lot of time raising money from investors and private donations toward the production of a single play which can take quite a while. The idea behind the reading of Flesh & Ghost was to attract a co-producer or some more development opportunities. It was an invited audience of theatre professionals and while it didn’t pan out, or hasn’t yet, it was still a great experience. Lots of good feedback. Good feedback builds belief and without belief you’re sunk anyway.
Meanwhile, I had this other play Tom Form And The Speed Of Love which I’d adapted from my own radio drama that Bill Lane produced in Toronto back in 1996. We workshopped the script ten years later at Factory Theatre and read it for Ken Gass, particularly, hoping he’d take it on, which he didn’t, and the project took a nap for another seven years. Actually, I’d pretty much given up on it until Lewis asked me what else I had going on and I showed him the script. Well, it just so happened he was coming to the Edmonton Fringe (this was two years ago) to do some research for a piece he was writing on fringes and their function in the development of new plays and we planned to meet there. After two or three conversations, we decided to target Tom Form for the Edmonton Fringe as a step toward a New York production in a year or two.
Producing a play for the fringe, I’m finding, is rigorous and time-consuming, made even harder by having a producer/director from out-of-town. We thought it essential to hire someone from Calgary with some fringe experience to help us pull it together and that became Jacqueline Russell (Evergreen, Urban Curvz) who’s been great. Soon after that, I approached my old friend and collaborator Jan Randall from Edmonton to compose the music for the show. This was followed by a blizzard of emails, Skypes and conference calls between Calgary, New York and Edmonton, then a workshop of the script in New York to get me going on a vital rewrite. On that note, I can’t say their workshop process or dramaturgy is much different than what we do in Canada: all the same questions are asked. If anything, for us anyway, it seems more intense than most of the workshops I’ve had up here because the stakes are so high. Every dollar and hour spent on the project is very meaningful and crucial. As I write this, we’re in really good shape. We have a great cast, designer, composer, stage manager, costumer and the script is ready for rehearsals.
If all goes as planned, it’ll be my third production in the Big Apple though this one would be much different. My first one, Hardhats And Stolen Hearts, a co-creation with Theatre Network, was at the tail-end of a tour and the second one, The Work Play, was part of a small one-act festival, neither of which I had anything to do with and the risks were low. As a direct result of that production, The Work Play was made into a short film which does say a lot for exposure down there, though. I don’t want to put a hex on Tom Form (but here I go anyway) if the play doesn’t do well at the fringe then this chance at a New York production probably shrinks a lot as nobody will invest in a show that doesn’t promise some returns. So I hope my play does well; I believe it will. After all is said and done, hope is all you have. Lots of hope is akin to belief and lots of belief is something like a promise. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. See you in Edmonton in August for our cool offering:
A scornful private detective decides to help a strange woman recover her memory. When the trail leads him into his own dark past he is forced to dig deep to let love back into his life while finding a way to win the impossible day. A film noir post-apocalyptic hybrid with original music and songs Tom Form And The Speed Of Love navigates the street-life of two teenagers and asks us to consider the existence of angels.
Playwright, Gordon Pengilly; producer/director, Lewis Magruder; associate producer, Jacqueline Russell; composer, Jan Randall; stage manager, Olivia Brooks; designer, Anton DeGroot; costume designer, Shannyn Dowsett; featuring Brian Jensen, Natascha Girgis, Andy Curtis, Cassidy Waring and Matt McKinney.
Tom Form and the Speed of Love performing at the EDMONTON FRINGE FESTIVAL. Dates and ticket information can be found here.
Watch the TRAILER!