They said it couldn’t be done, but Jay Peckham didn’t listen and says “they” were wrong.
“Everybody thought we were crazy to choose a play that features eight strong male roles,” says the director of the upcoming Theatre Sarnia production of Shorthanded.
“Finding men to do lead roles is a perpetual challenge for community theatre and I was amazed at all the guys who tried out.”
More than 20 auditioned for the chance to be part of playwright Michael Grant’s award-winning comedy.
“And they were all so good, I could have literally cast this show twice,” said Peckham.
He chose Shorthanded, which was named 2012 Best New Comedy by the Playwrights Guild of Canada, to open Theatre Sarnia’s 89th season.
It’s a play about eight guys who have hung out for a very long time and are preparing for an Old-Timers Hockey Championship. The play takes place in the arena change room as they gear up for a “Game 7” scenario and a chance to redeem themselves for a similar Game 7 loss years earlier.
“So, here we are putting eight guys together who in reality barely know each other, and we’re asking them to act like they’ve known one another for 30 or 40 years,” said Peckham.
“It’s a hard feeling to sell, and especially hard on the two who are absolutely brand new to theatre. But this cast is living up to every expectation.”
Peckham, who has been involved with Theatre Sarnia about 15 years and is its current board chairman, said he was drawn to Shorthanded because it parallels his life in some ways.
“The concepts of being part of a team, maintaining longstanding friendships and enjoying healthy competition are all core parts of who I am,” he said. “I think these themes will resonate with audiences as well.”
While Shorthanded is definitely a comedy, Peckham it can’t be “pigeon holed.” There are poignant moments too, as the play examines the men’s response to lost dreams and second chances. It’s also a story about friendship, loyalty and community.
The playwright himself, who he met during a theatre event in Owen Sound earlier this year, inspired Peckham.
“I learned he was very involved in hockey and that, sadly, one of his hockey pals passed away, making it very difficult for him to finish this project,” said Peckham.
But when Grant finally returned to writing and produced Shorthanded, he had an award winner on his hands.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Shorthanded, Sarnia Theatre’s first production of the season.
WHERE: Imperial Theatre
WHEN: Oct. 23 – Oct. 31 7:30 p.m. except for 2 p.m. Sunday matinee.
TICKETS: $25 adult; $22 seniors; $12.50 students. At the box office, online or call 519-344-7469.