- Rachel McGrath
Rock 'N' Roll Saved My Life
Thu Sep 7-Sat Sep 9, 9pm
Gus' Pub, 2605 Agricola Street
Sam Horak is mid-run of Rock 'N' Roll Saved My Life, a scrappy, fearless slice of Fringe that mashes up her two artistic loves, music and theatre. This afternoon, holding an iced tea in a north end cafe, she's warm and direct, with a little lisp and smoker's voice that make her sound like Emma Stone. At night, on the battered, grimy stage of Gus' Pub, she sings, she flails, she reads her childhood diaries aloud, she fights with her boyfriend, she details her battle with anxiety, she talks about her sexual assault. She swoons over her favourite artists: Bikini Kill, Wendy O. Williams, Black Flag, Joan Jett.
It's loud, brash and provocative, a bold and brave performance that offers up intimate details, directly into a headset microphone.
"I didn't think it would be this tough. I don't want to sound like a wimp or anything, but it's really intense," says Horak, artistic director of Rolling Bold Productions, who's also working full-time at her restaurant job throughout the run. "And I'm not really sleeping. I guess I overlooked that."
Horak moved here from Toronto for Dalhousie's acting program and was kicked out for a handful of reasons ("some of it was my responsibility, a lot of it"), but that's where she met Laura Vingoe-Cram, who helped shape and directs the show, which is a work-in-progress.
"I've always wanted to work with her," says Horak. "You know when you're younger and you ask someone to be your partner? It felt like that. 'I wrote this play, will you be partner, will you be my friend during this play?'"
Rock 'N' Roll Saved My Life was sparked by a Facebook meme, "people were posting their top 10 albums that were important to them in their youth," she says. "I was like, 'I don't have 10, they're all different moments from my life. And it's in Halifax where they're really important to me—the people I met, people that introduced me to music that is really important to me. I started reading old journal entries and writing about it."
Horak was further inspired by January's women's march, saddened and enraged by the alleged rape of a Halifax woman by a taxi driver. It all started coming out. "I threw up a draft and was like 'This is my life'—it was triple the length it is now," she says. Vingoe-Cram "was like 'Oh wow, this is a lot.' She really helped me sort and package all these ideas."
Horak is joined in the show by Michael Kamras as Rock N Roll, a literal personification of the patriarchy. "You're a metaphor!" she screams at him. She closes by singing and playing a song written by her friend Jess Macdonald called "Straight White Guy." They play in The Femdoms together (Horak is also in The Mankos).
"Our band is a safe space, and it's amazing to just talk," says Horak. "We vent, and then we play, and it's so lovely. It's one of the best experiences—I've been in horrible states running this show and then gone to band practice and it's like"—she exhales, leaning back in her chair—"yeah, fuck, what a release. Seriously, I mean that so sincerely. It's why I wrote the show."