“A moment of true joy, some mime, a few lies and at least one truth. A regular surprise, a bad surprise, a moment of silence, a scorpion, a few gay little songs, a coincidence, a trip to the library and maybe someone gets lucky.”
According to gay playwright and actor Stewart Legere, that’s what audiences can expect at the July 18 debut of El Camino or the Field of Stars. Aside from this unusual list, the audience does not have many hints about the play. After all, the director of the one-man play does not know what to expect himself.
“We don’t really know what’s going to happen on the night,” says Christian Barry, of the 2b theatre company. “It changes every night.”
Both Barry and Legere are wary about giving away plot details. As they rehearse in north-end Halifax, the 30-page script changes hour to hour. The typed pages are scrawled with pencilled-in drawings of scissors and circles, corresponding to Legere’s unique key to decipher the script.
The story follows the journey of a young gay man as he ponders a failed relationship. El Camino is a reference to the Catholic pilgrimage in northern Spain that sees the devout walk to the tomb of St James.
“What [the character] is looking for is what we are all looking for, in a way, which is to be accepted by people [and] to unburden himself,” says Legere.
Paring down his original script to half its size has been the biggest obstacle for the secretive, first-time playwright.
“There are lots of tangents and lots of themes that came out one day in writing, and they really didn’t have a home,” says Legere. “It was really a process of cutting and cutting and cutting and cutting.”
Legere wrote the script off and on over 18 months, working intensely on the project only for the past two weeks. This was a thrilling challenge for director Barry.
“It’s actually quite exciting to be creating at this pace, to be honest with you,” he says. “A wise theatre maker I know once said, ‘If you want to make a play, book a venue.’”
Trained at Dalhousie’s theatre school, Legere has spent most of his acting career in Halifax. He wanted to debut El Camino for his peers during Pride at the city’s Queer Acts Theatre Festival.
After the play’s five-day run, Barry hopes the script will continue to evolve. He calls the play’s opening a “world preview” rather than a “world debut.”
“The notion that we would do it for five days and just be finished with it just doesn’t make sense to me,” he says. “Stewart is putting a lot of himself into the writing of this piece.”
After starring in another one-man show, Thom Pain, 28-year-old Legere knew he was prepared to write his own play. Discontent with other scripts and plays he was seeing, he started writing without a clear story in mind.
With its lack of a linear story line, Legere calls El Camino an “event” and an “experience.” Throughout the 70-minute play, he addresses the audience directly and hopes they will get to know him, as they would a new friend.
When asked what he wants the audience to get out of the play, Legere laughs, saying, “I guess I just want them to like me.”