Snowman by Greg MacArthur, directed by David Oiye, with Paul Dunn, Philippa Domville, Eric Goulem and Veronika Hurnik. Presented by Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Previews from Tuesday (September 21), opens September 23 and runs to October 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $17-$19, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555.
PppEeeAaaCccEee written and directed by Darren O'Donnell and Rebecca Picherack, with Greg MacArthur, Ngozi Paul and Maiko Bae Yamamoto. Presented by Mammalian Diving Reflex and Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Previews from Tuesday (September 21), opens September 24 and runs to October 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $23-$32, previews $16, Sunday pwyc-$16. 416-504-7529.
Forget the cliché about playwrights nervously pacing back and forth on opening night. When Greg MacArthur's play Snowman opens next week at Buddies, he'll be across town performing in another play.
"It's just as well," he says. "It's so nerve-racking watching an opening. As an actor it's tough enough, but as a writer you just feel hopeless. I'm sure I'd be drunk by 7:30 pm. I'll go to the party for my play afterwards."
Considering that September is turning out to be Greg MacArthur Month at the theatre (he's reprising his role in Darren O'Donnell's pppeeeaaaccceee at Theatre Passe Muraille), the actor/playwright is handling it all pretty coolly.
"This feels like 10 or 12 years of constant work finally coming to fruition," he says. "I guess in your 30s you see the rewards of everything you did in your 20s. But it's also the result of moving to Montreal."
MacArthur, known locally for his work with indie troupe House of Slacks (U.I. Or Die), and for Buddies shows like Stem, has lived in Montreal for the past four years.
"I was feeling a bit bitter and stuck here and thought a change of geography would help," he explains about the move. "The anglo theatre scene is so much smaller there. Sure, there are other distractions, like strip bars. But there aren't as many openings and parties."
He got the idea for Snowman one freezing night. Fascinated by news items about the discoveries of frozen ancient bodies - one in northern BC and another in the Alps - he thought of writing a piece about a Canadian ice man. He didn't want to approach it scientifically - he detests research - but he was struck by the image and the metaphor.
"To me, the play's about being in your 30s, that time of self-examination where you stop to take stock of what you've done," he says. "I imagined these characters running from something, being emotionally frozen and stuck. They're drifters, and I wanted to dig up what went wrong in their lives, what got them there and how they could move forward."
The play has been developed everywhere from Toronto's Rhubarb! Festival to Banff's playRites Colony. It's been produced in Vancouver, Montreal and even Cape Town, South Africa. In October, a production is going up in the Yukon.
"I don't think this would have happened if I'd stayed in Toronto," he says. "Here, you're concerned about the four mid-sized theatres - it's hard to think outside of that. But in Montreal there are so few theatre companies, it forces you to make contacts and get work elsewhere."
But MacArthur's glad to be back, if only to return to O'Donnell's free-floating political experiment, pppeeeaaaccceee, which played at the Six Stages Festival a year and a half ago.
"Being in a Darren O'Donnell play is like going over to his house for a dinner party and having intense conversations about politics and art and then smoking a big joint, turning off the lights and putting on music," he says.
"There's a terrific sense of play and experimentation, of throwing things out the window and just saying, 'Fuck it, let's just try.'
"Last time I never really understood what it was all about, and this time it's the same. It's a challenge and sometimes frustrating. But I'd much rather be doing this than Biloxi Blues."