I’ve told this story many a time, but here goes once again. In 1994 I was an unknown playwright, although I at least had one hit under my belt, my play “Some Assembly Required,” which premiered at Alberta Theatre Project’s playRites Festival early in the year. Some may remember the old slogan: “The Hottest Six Weeks in Winter.”
After the run of the play, the theatre made me their Playwright in Residence, a position I held for ten years. All told, I wrote six plays for ATP, 3 of them were done first at the playRites Festival and then brought back for regular season productions. That’s a lot of productions of my work in the Martha Cohen Theatre.
But back in the day, when I was relatively young and an unknown, I was asked to attend a function for something or other on behalf of ATP who had recently become my employer. It was the usual assembly of upper end corporate types in the audience and low end celebrities who ended up on stage: some kind of dog or hound, a mascot at sporting events; a third string, injured offensive lineman from the Stamps; Miss third runner up to the Stampede Princess crown; and a drunken weatherman. And me.
Well, they all got a great intro, but they are all truly famous in Calgary, I guess. When the MC got to me — all I remember about him is that he was very short and was wearing a huge black cowboy hat — with no doubt a huge black pickup truck in the parking lot — he said this:
OK, next up we have a guy named Eugene (You-GEEEEEN) Strickland, says here he’s a playwriter whatever that is (wait for laugh) and he works for an outfit called Alberta Theatre (Theeee-ATE-er) Projects, whatever that is.
Well, you get the idea. I made up my mind right then and then I would change things, people would know how to spell my name (there’s no R, ever, in my last name) and they would know what Alberta Theatre Projects was, was what we do there. Either that or move back to Regina. But 17 years later I’m still here, and I think I made all my points.
So, to this day, when a “celebrity” event comes up, I like to take it. I like to think I can still make a difference and that I still have a message to deliver. Which is, simply stated: “The arts exist in Calgary, we the artist are here to stay. Deal with it.”
Because I took the trouble to go to the Kingsland Farmers Market on Saturday, I ran into some old friends — Ald. Brian Pincott, with whom I worked at ATP a lifetime ago. He was one of the best lighting designers in the country before he gave that up for politics. Ahhhh, but I would have him throw lights on one of my plays, any day.And I met some great new friends as well. Trond Franzen, for example. I know him only because he befriended me on Facebook. But he seems like a great guy. I have no idea what he does, or why he was there, or why I was there.One of these days I’ll find out more about him.
So, what seemed like a corny event turned out to be great way to pass some time on a Saturday afternoon. And the corn! It was like I was tasting corn for the first time.
It’s a cool market. Check it out some time. Macleod Trail and 78th Ave.