To the casual observer, Garry Williams and Amy Reitsma appear breezy and calm as they sit down at a Barrington Street cafe on a sunny afternoon. Reitsma smiles and sips coffee, while Williams orders carrot cake. This all seems fairly innocuous until the pair reveal that they are in the midst of writing, preparing and rehearsing a Fringe show---with five days to go before the first performance.
"I actually haven't eaten yet today," Williams says between mouthfuls.
"We are running on coffee and sheer will," says Reitsma.
Reitsma and Williams had come into the production well prepared---or so they thought. Rehearsals for the off-Broadway show What About Luv? were scheduled to begin nearly two weeks ago. Reitsma and the pair's third co-star, Andrew Chandler, had arrived in town straight from other performances. On Monday, Williams greeted them with bad news: the rights for the script they'd memorized wouldn't be cleared in time for the planned Fringe performance dates.
After some quick decision-making, the actors and their director, Eric Benson, decided the show must go on, but the situation dictated that the cast put together a new show with all-original material. The resulting product has been appropriately dubbed So...What About Love?. (The cast still intends to present What About Luv? later this fall.) Williams and Reitsma say their show bears thematic similarities to the original script written by Andrew Sweet, exploring notions of love through three distinct characters. But unlike the original, it's also a cabaret, with songs linked to brief monologue-styled interludes. And there are some distinct parallels between the plot and the cast's real-life situation.
"The play was originally about desperate people, and now it's still about desperate people---because we've got five days to put it together," Reitsma says. "But it also asks: What is it about love that makes us do the insane things that we do? Love of the theatre, love of another person. We're trying to inform it as much from our own experiences as we can."
"Sometimes in a process, you feel frustrated, like you're not making any progress," says Williams. "But so far, we've found it to be the opposite. An idea for a song will lead to another song. It's just forward motion, and that's promising."
Reitsma, like Williams, is a seasoned theatre performer---both have worked together with Williams' DaPoPo theatre company, and she's a leading member of Metamorphic Theatre. But So...What About Love? marks the first time she's written monologues and songs under such a specific time frame.
"I'm more of a performer than a writer," she says. "But it forces you to go to places you would never otherwise go. It keeps all the synapses firing."
Williams scrapes up the last few crumbs of his cake with his fork. Reitsma finishes her coffee. They are upbeat and even excited. The show clearly represents a dive into the unknown, and they're ready for it.
"The essayist Neil Postman once coined this term called Columbicity---the idea that Christopher Columbus wasn't looking for America when he sailed off into the unknown," says Williams. "It references the things you find when you're looking for something else. I wonder if this is one of those instances. We're finding something and trying not to be blind to it."