I may not be in Theatre School anymore, but boyoboy am I getting an education these days. Want to learn about theatre? Try self-producing an original show at the Ottawa Fringe (or whatever city you choose) and strap yourself in.
Of course, the show I was a part of, Hannah & George, got its start in the Ottawa Theatre School, when I created a silent 5-minute piece called The Flower for presentation there. A fun little bit about a lonely loser trying to ask his local barista out on a date, the character later inspired me to create the idea for Faster Than the Speed of Dating, a 20-minute show that premiered at the Fresh Meat Festival in 2014. For that one I teamed up with co-star Madeleine Hall and director Jodi Morden, both OTS alum and amazing creators. The show went over well, and after I impulsively entered into the Ottawa Fringe lottery, and got in right off the bat..! The idea for Hannah & George was born, expanding on my original character George Q.Simpleman from the Flower, and Madeleine’s fairy character Hannah Glorianna from Dating (ironically, a character we almost cut from the show at one point). We all returned for the show, adding multipurpose SM Rebecca Laviolette to the fold, and got to work.
Production meetings started regularly in January 2015, tho on-our-feet rehearsals would have to wait until April, as Mad, Rebecca and I were all hip-deep in Chamber Theatre’s The Hairy Ape until then. My trips to Value Village and various Dollar Stores for potential props became more and more frequent, and to this day I have bags full of weird junk that was cut from the show as the ‘script’ for our mostly wordless production morphed and tweaked. Cory Thibert was tapped for a chilly promo photoshoot. I picked up a sweet microphone to do voiceover recordings for the soundtrack, a nice investment for future productions. A clunky dresser I was weeks away from throwing out got a second lease on life as our set backdrop and Umbrella-Holder…a bit of a tough sell to my cast and crew at first, but worth it in the end. Our rehearsals took us between my apartment and Rebecca’s, as well as the basement of the Glebe Clocktower Brewpub, to whom I am still most grateful. Posters got designed and printed from Loudmouth Printing, with amazing artwork from Trevor Laforce. A MAJOR sea-change in the nature of the show was introduced with barely a month to go before opening. Palms got sweaty. I contemplate hiring an actor to replace myself in the show during a low moment (happily rebounded the next day). More trips to the dollar store. Last-minute table purchase to replace the crappy one we’d been using at my place. 24 hours before preview night and we hardly had any idea what we were going to do. Tech rehearsal and move-in at Studio Leonard-Beaulne was…an adventure (but major thanks to Andrew Palangio, our tech and now retroactively official lightning designer). Fringe opens. OPENING NIGHT!!!
We opened on Friday June 19th at 8pm to an audience of 42 people, and I won’t lie, we felt rough. First time running the show in the space, and our exits and entrances (so many!) were a little fumbly. A few tech bobbles thrown in for good measure, and we were all kicking ourselves for an evening, even though the crowd seemed pleased enough. By second night we found our footing, and good thing, as Jodi couldn’t be there in the booth for that one! Thank Heavens for Matt Hertendy, who stepped in from SM’ing Magical Mystery Detour and called the show with Andrew like a boss. Finally, we felt good.
By the third show were were firing nicely, hitting marks and nailing transitions (even if I started what would be a recurring fuckup involving my flower prop) and just having some fun with this very fun show. We finished off the second week of shows with mid-range houses, keeping crowds at 20 or over…modest, but always engaged and appreciative. Some incredible people who I’ve admired for years showed up to see H&G, and seemed to really love it. I can happily cross ‘Gemma Wilcox seeing me perform‘ off my bucket list. We got great word of mouth buzz, some terrific reviews, made new friends, and the show closed much better than it opened. We are proud. I am proud.
Hannah & George wasn’t one of the big hits at Fringe 2015, but it sure wasn’t a flop, neither. We got good houses, and we left them smiling, and I’m calling that a big win. I can’t express the love I have for Madeleine, Jodi and Rebecca, without whom I am nothing. To our audiences, every single one of you, thank you so, so much for coming out to our little clown show that we TOTALLY did not flyer for. We appreciate you finding us and making time in your busy Fringe schedule to check us out. Thanks to our many tireless volunteers who kept those tickets tearing. Thanks to Andrew Alexander for some last-minute on-set photography halfway through our run, after a scheduling mixup earlier on. Thanks again to Trevor Laforce, Cory Thibert, Andrew Palangio, Matt Hertendy for their part in our tale. Thanks to everyone I’m forgetting to thank.
Hannah & George has been an incredible experience…and soon we’ll sit down together and drink and chat, and decide if there’s anything more to come from these two clowning lovebirds. Any thoughts from you, internet? Would love to hear what you in the audience thought…and if WordPress is being problematic for comments, feel free to drop a line on the Visitorium or Strange Visitations Facebook pages after I post this link there. I could certainly use the feedback to help keep the post-Fringe ennui at bay for a few more days! Thanks again, everyone…it’s been magic. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (Winston is still at his posh hotel, but sends mildly indifferent vibes your way)