The second play in this year’s FireWorks series is Taylor Marie Graham’s Cottage Radio, directed by Julia Haist. It’s the story of a fictional Ontario family dealing with real events: the tornado that hit Goderich in the summer of 2011. The show runs Nov 11-15 in the Studio.
Q: What inspired you to tell this story? What was the germ of the idea?
A (Playwright Taylor Marie Graham): When I started my MFA in Creative Writing with the University of Guelph, I thought I would be writing about my life currently, in Toronto, living the life I live today, but it turns out my subconscious had other plans. I started writing about the small Ontario town I grew up in, and the tornado that hit there in August 2011. I became obsessed with the town of Goderich and the destruction and resurrection that the tornado forced on the community. What is home and what happens when it’s destroyed? Can it be rebuilt? Will it be the same? These are the questions that drove the development of the play that eventually emerged from the writing projects I put together for the following year.
Q: FireWorks is a showcase for full-length plays which have been workshopped and/or dramaturged through Alumnae Theatre Company. What’s the history of your play?
A: A version of the play – at that time called Rotating Thunderstorm – was read as part of the New Ideas Festival in 2014. I was writing the play for my MFA thesis, and really enjoyed having the festival to use as a deadline of sorts while putting the script together. Writing for this festival really was great for my writing process! As I was writing I had a group of talented actors and a great director who worked with the script which meant I could immediately hear what I was writing. This is crucial for me as a playwright as I need to put voices to the words to give them life. The process at the New Ideas Festival gave me the opportunity to really hear was what working, what others found intriguing, and what was falling flat. This process also made it possible for the play to be ready for its premiere in Goderich, Ontario on the [third] anniversary of the tornado in August 2014.
Q: Julia, how did you get involved? Did you work on any of the play’s previous incarnations?
A (director Julia Haist): I had participated in Alumnae Theatre Company’s Write Now event [a weekend-long playwriting challenge devised by the company’s New Play Development group, which culminates in a staged reading of the scripts] and through that, I was contacted when the theatre was looking for directors for the FireWorks festival. After I expressed interest in directing, they sent along copies of the scripts, and though all three scripts were fantastic, I fell in love with Cottage Radio; I recognized and connected with these characters as someone who grew up in Southern Ontario. I felt I understood the relationships, as well as the frustration and futility that can come with being a young adult in this generation. I also loved the original music that came along with the script, and was so excited at the possibility of playing with it. After meeting with the whole creative team, I met one-on-one with [playwright] Taylor Marie Graham and had a wonderful connection with her over shared experiences and these characters. I originally signed on as assistant director, musical director and dramaturg, but after the show’s original director had to step down due to unforeseen circumstances, I was called on rather suddenly to man the helm, and I’ve been gleefully absorbed in Cottage Radio ever since.
Q: Anything specific you would like the audience to know, or to watch out for in the production?
A (Taylor): I’m really excited for what [director] Julia Haist and the actors have done with the script for this production! I mean, it’s always pretty amazing to see your script interpreted and performed by a group of talented individuals, but I think there’s something truly special happening in the rehearsal room this time around. From what I have seen there’s a lot of raw talent combined with solid hard work going into this show and the result is, well, remarkable. Their ability to bring these characters to life and make them as real as possible makes a writer like me feel like sitting all alone in a room making people up is worth all the trouble after all!
A (Julia): Taylor has done a beautiful job of paying homage to Goderich by incorporating the true events of the tornado into the writing. Many of the details of the storm that are written into the script are either directly factually accurate or inspired by first-hand accounts from the community members who were affected by the tornado. There are also plenty of metaphorical parallels between the events of the tornado and the story that takes place within the cottage. Many of the designers followed her lead in taking inspiration from the tornado, and we’ve tried to incorporate elements of it in the performance as well. I think that those would be interesting to keep an eye out for during the show.
Q: Taylor, do you have future plans for your play?
A : This play has brought me on such a colourful journey so far and continually surprises me with the next chapter of its development. I’m always excited to have new audiences hear the work, and am so lucky to have been able to see the play go through the journey it has so far.
FIREWORKS SHOWTIMES: 8pm Wed – Sat; 2pm Sat & Sun.
TICKETS: $15 except Sun – PWYC.
Purchase tickets online (except for Sunday PWYC matinees) or reserve seats and pay cash at Box Office. No credit or debit cards accepted for in-person sales.
Consider a 6-play Flex Pass – for $75, you get 6 admissions to be used however you wish. So one person could see 6 plays, or share the tickets with friends and all 6 of you come to one play!
RESERVATIONS: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 416-364-4170 Box 1.
POST-SHOW TALKBACKS – “Behind The Curtain”:
Thursdays: Directors Pamela Redfern, Julia Haist or Neil Affleck with their Assistant Directors Melissa Chetty, Lisa Alves, Ingryd Pleitez.
Fridays: Lighting Designer Gabrielle D’Angelo and Sound Designer Bill Scott.
Saturday Matinees: Costume Designers Peter DeFreitas, Toni Hanson, Trish Worrall.
Saturday Evenings: Set Designers Marysia Bucholc, Mark Cope.
Sunday Matinees: Playwrights Chloe Whitehorn, Taylor Marie Graham or Charles Hayter.
For more into, and to purchase tickets online for this and the last FireWorks play – Charles Hayter’s Radical (Nov 18-22) – please go to http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/fireworks.html