A few months back during the Ottawa Fringe Festival, as I was winding down my marathon attending and reviewing of 40+ shows in two weeks or so, a couple of friends of mine started bugging me to do something. The friends were Emily Carvell and Madeleine Hall, and they were both working on the upcoming third installment of the Fresh Meat Theatre Festival in October. They were prodding me to take the plunge and apply for entry, because what the Hell did I have to lose? I pretty much didn’t think about it, until the very last day of applications was upon us, I downed some trusty Jameson’s, said ‘Fuck it!’ and e-mailed my application under my invented Production company blazon of Strange Visitations. Couldn’t hurt, right?
Well, a week or so later I found out I got accepted, and holy shit, I guess I had to start writing a show! That started a whole month-long adventure of me starting and halfway finishing about 4 separate treatments for shows that, while I liked them, weren’t quite the right fit for the fest that I wanted. Still, some of them may see the light of day yet (THE MAN IN THE AUDIENCE and STONE THE CROWS will return someday, I’m sure of it..!), but that didn’t help me at the moment. Until my pal Karina Milech (OTS grad and co-founder of Vacant House Theatre) got in touch with me…she and pal Patrick Kelly were having a fundraising party for their cross-Canada audition tour, and she asked if I would perform my short piece THE FLOWER at it. The Flower, a silent 5-minute bit about a nerdy guy trying to ask out his fav’rit barista, was initially my first year ‘vocal masque’ at the Ottawa Theatre School during my short but sweet time there, which I later reprised at the Visitorium’s 4th Anniversary Foofarah Live party in June. I said yes, but that I might try and think of something new for my lonely, sad-sack character to do. I ended up doing the original piece again after all, but in the brainstorming process I came up with the idea of him (or ‘Simpleman’ as he’s come to be known in my head, and in the script) going to a speed dating event. Because speed dating…that’s weird, right? Why not? The more I worked it, the more I liked it, and the more I realized THIS was my Fresh Meat show.
Working it a bit more on my lonesome, I realized eventually that doing a show about a man interacting with lots of different women at a Speed Dating event as a one-man show was seriously stupid, which led to me sending one of the better e-mails of my life to the aforementioned Madeleine Hall (at that time in France studying with the legendary Philippe Gaulier), asking her to be my co-star in the project. She happily agreed, and shortly after that I lucked out again and convinced the amazing Jodi Morden (recently seen in PrettyUgly’s production RACHEL & ZOE at the Ottawa Fringe) to be stage manager/director for the show. We’ve since had a helluva rehearsal process, I’m guessing way longer and more intense than the average Fresh Meat project, and we’re still tweaking a few odds and ends right up until the last minute. I’m one proud papa for this show, as FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF DATING has turned into something way cooler than I ever hoped for. Working with Maddy and Jodi has been wonderful-wonderful, and I’m extra-thrilled that my first created show is going up with an all OTS cast and crew (what can I say, I’m true to my school). I almost still can’t believe I’m doing this…but then again, this is what I do, now. Welcome to my new normal. It’s way better than the old one.
Major, major thanks go out to the Clocktower Brewpub, Carleton Tavern and Chamber Theatre Hintonburg for their invaluable help with rehearsal space and, in the case of the Clocktower, loaning us our ‘set’. And of course my Mouse, Kathryn Paige Reeves for our boffo early promotional photography. Special shoutout as well to Nancy Kenny for some terrific last-minute dramaturgy (not to mention a key prop assist), which has, in a way I didn’t see coming at all, brought this show very weirdly full circle. I’ve learned a ton on this project, and I’m forever grateful to the gang at the Fresh Meat Festival for giving this opportunity not only to me, but to so many other newbies, creators, performers and assorted theatre lunatics. This year continues to astound me, and it ain’t done yet. Our show (as well as the other amazing Fresh Meat week 2 shows from May Can, Norah Paton, Seedling Theatre and FG[squared]) will be playing at the Arts Court Library from the 23rd to 25th, doors at 7pm, advance tickets available at the Fresh Meat Website. We hope to see you there.
Faster Than the Speed of Dating. You will believe a man can date. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)