Same Day Theatre Company History
by David Frisch, Artistic Producer
I don’t think of myself as being particularly entrepreneurial. But when that’s what it takes to make something happen, I find the way.
1974: Having become active in my high school’s student-run Drama Guild, I was cast as Nick Burns, the son, in A Thousand Clowns at Toronto’s Forest Hill Collegiate. When the production was canceled due to organizational problems, I said, “I’ll produce it next year.”
1975: I did so, this time playing Murray Burns. The most memorable part of the experience was walking into the auditorium a week before opening. Sets were being built, props were being organized, actors were conferring about scenes, costumes were being fitted. “Wow,” I thought, “I started this!”
I didn’t produce again for many years…but curiously, it was not producing that stayed with me...
The Middle Ages
During my years in Boston, I saw a reading of a play called Spitting Into The Wind. It had “great bones,” as they say about houses. It dealt on a human scale with the era of McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist, and it had a fabulous role in my casting range.
While the play had its weaknesses, the playwright gave me carte blanche to adapt it as I saw fit. For more than 10 years, I made occasional attempts to bring it to the stage, but never pushed at it hard enough. Eventually, I aged out of the range where I could believably play the part.
It was a lost opportunity, and an experience that would figure heavily in the creation of Same Day Theatre.
Dawn of the Modern Era
The prospect of outgrowing a role stayed with me, and 2004 proved to be a productive year.
That spring, I produced and acted in a concert reading of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons as a fundraiser for Performing Arts Lodge in Toronto. I felt that this would be my only opportunity to play – if only for one night – the role of Chris Keller.
Meanwhile, there was Below the Belt. In the mid-1990s, during my years living in Chicago, a friend’s company produced this brilliant, absurd and darkly funny workplace comedy. It read like the illegitimate love child of Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter and Vaclav Havel. Again, a role jumped out at me: Hanrahan, the cynical, acerbic but lonely and romantic lifer.
In 1998, I’d moved home to Canada and became enamoured of the Fringe circuit. Fringe performance slots are awarded by lottery. In 2004, after three unsuccessful attempts to get a slot in one of the Toronto festivals, it was suggested that I could mount a site-specific (or Bring Your Own Venue) production, which is both part of, and independent from, the Festival.
Below the Belt was mounted in a woodworking cooperative in Toronto that just happened to be the original home of the Factory Theatre. All the way back in 1970 – at a time of great cultural provincialism – Factory was the first theatre company to exclusively produce Canadian plays. I had sat in that theatre as a high school theatre student. Returning theatre to that historic venue was a nice sidebar to the success of the production; Toronto’s NOW Magazine honoured us for both Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Use of A Performance Space.
The Nine-Year Ice Age
A flattering sidebar to the artistic success of Below the Belt was the compliments of those who’d seen it and enjoyed it. While there was encouragement to remount the play, I couldn’t see a way to take it to the next level. Producing it again as a Fringe-level production didn’t seem like progress.
While there were a couple of attempts to produce plays, I went back to waiting for other people to create work for me.
In the ensuing nine years, I ended one relationship and began another. This time, it was with a woman from Ottawa. Long-distance romances are tough, but Ottawa seemed manageable, and the woman in question more than special enough. In 2010, we were married!
Throughout 2012, I’d been trying to get a production going in Toronto. That was when there’d been six years of this travel, and I realized I had a large number of our friends and relatives in Ottawa who had no sense of what I do. I realized that until I could act where they could come and see it, I’d be Kim’s-husband-who-says-he’s-an-actor.
So in autumn 2012, I explored the idea of producing a play first in Ottawa, then in Toronto. I toured Ottawa’s venues and found The Gladstone Theatre in Little Italy was available for the spring 2013.
Then I learned the playwright wasn’t licensing any productions of the play. (Let this be a lesson to all you junior producers out there!) I relinquished my rental slot at The Gladstone.
Two weeks later, they called me back. They had another play that they were anxious to produce; if I’d accept a smaller role, this could give me a chance to learn more about the dark arts of producing and be walked into the party that is Ottawa theatre.
The Modern Era
I accepted their offer, and co-produced In the Next Room, or the vibrator play with Plosive Productions (embodied by producer/actor David Whiteley) and Counterpoint Players (director Bronwyn Steinberg).
But I also wanted something in return: In exchange for agreeing to produce that play, I wanted two slots in the following season. Affected by the lesson of Spitting Into The Wind it was the chance to do shows that I had always wanted to do: Ethan Claymore and ‘Art.’ The people at The Gladstone were glad to agree, especially since they were having trouble filling out their season.
As sometimes happens, ignorance can be a great asset. For better or for worse, I had committed myself to producing three shows in a 13-month period. As frightening as that was, it was also exhilarating.
For December 2013, Same Day produced a Christmas story with an edge. Ethan Claymore by Norm Foster is a play I’d auditioned for in 2001. I’d only missed being cast due to a scheduling conflict with a prior booking. Its story about reconciliation between estranged siblings touched me.
The following month, nominations were announced for the Prix Rideau Awards, Ottawa’s peer-given theatre awards. In the Next Room received five nominations: for Best Production, Best Director (Bronwyn Steinberg), Best Actress (Sarah Finn), Best Set Design (Nancy Solman) and Best Costume Design (Patrice-Ann Forbes).
In April, 2014, In the Next Room was honoured with the Rideau for Best Production.
The following month, Same Day produced Yasmina Reza’s ‘Art’, the modern comedy classic about the nature of friendship and its sometimes-dark undercurrent of competition.
In May 2015, we will present another script that has fired my imagination for many years: George F. Walker’s The End of Civilization. Amazingly, the script – one of Walker’s finest – has never been produced in this city where his works have always been well received.