Fringe New Play Contest winner: Peter Genoway
People are drawn to stories. At bottom, that’s what an audience craves in the theatre.
Peter Genoway uses that idea in The Oak Room, which took first place in this year’s Fringe new play contest, sponsored by Exclamation Foundation and macIDeas.
“I think everyone’s fascinated by narrative,” says Genoway, a film writer and director. Not only is The Oak Room his first play, but he’s also a first-time Fringer.
“We love to tell stories, embellish them and believe them, whether they’re true or not.”
In The Oak Room, he plays with the ambiguity of what’s real and what’s not when a young man returns to a bar in his northern Ontario hometown on a snowy night and has an after-hours conversation with the owner. In a series of stories-within-stories, we learn what happened (or has it?) in another bar.
The idea for the script came from Genoway’s working as a tree planter in northern Ontario and experiencing smalltown life, and also sitting through a winter snowstorm in an isolated English community.
“What was quaint by day became menacing by night,” he remembers. “We could only hang out at the local pub. You never knew who’d next enter the claustrophobic, lonely room, and it made you uneasy.”
Genoway appreciates the freedom of writing for the theatre, something that’s not always possible in the film world. Instead of telling a story with images and sound, The Oak Room allows him to focus on a narrative that’s dependent on character and dialogue.
“It’s amazing to collaborate with theatre artists, who are receptive to material that doesn’t sit comfortably in any one genre. At times The Oak Room is a family drama, while at others it’s a tough-guy comedy or a suspenseful, scary tale.
“That’s the way I like to write, to entertain on different levels and in different ways, so the audience can’t predict what’s coming next.” JON KAPLAN From Wednesday (July 3) at Passe Muraille Mainspace.
C’mon in, Fringers, The AV Side Show wants to entertain you.