Graeme Gerrard was sick of looking for love in all the wrong places. So he decided to try a gay matchmaking service.
The Guelph-based playwright’s new piece, Dating Yourself, which opens March 15 at Bread and Circus, was inspired by his experiences of dealing with the matchmakers, meeting various men and failing to make a love connection.
“All of my writing is sort of fictionalized reality,” Gerrard says. “I know and the people involved know what’s going on.
Some details I have to fudge to protect people’s identities. In this script I’d say I’m approaching 80 or 90 percent reality.”
The piece follows Allan (Chris Cornish), a 30-something bartender with greater, though undefined, aspirations, as he goes on date after unsuccessful date hoping to meet the man of his dreams. Allan gets support and some occasional criticism from his gal-pal and co-worker Janice (Blair Kay). Brandon Sim, who performs all the other male roles in the show, rounds out the cast. The piece is directed by Sam Snobelen.
The play had its beginnings about a year ago when Gerrard’s last show, Closing, had its Toronto premiere.
“As the show was coming close to opening, I realized that I didn’t have a date to bring, and that got me thinking about possible ways in which to meet guys to go out with,” he says. “I had tried all of the usual avenues, and in January 2009 I signed up with the matchmakers to see if I could get any better results.”
As it turns out, the results delivered were worse than some of those he’d found by more conventional means.
“I went on 13 first dates in my first year of being with the company, and not one ended up turning into a second date,” he says. “I suppose the upside is that I’ve become really good at going on first dates.”
Another issue Gerrard had with the company was that it seemed to be staffed almost entirely by straight people.
“They had queers in a few key places, like the matching department,” he says. “But most of the folks I had my primary interactions with were all straight, or at least they seemed that way to me. I had the feeling when I was in the office that they were catering to the gay community more because it was a great market from a financial perspective than out of genuine interest.”
In one scene late in the play, Allan finds himself having a surprisingly romantic encounter in a bathhouse with a man named Craig.
He decides to part ways without exchanging numbers because he feels that people don’t come to the bathhouse to make connections.
“I live in Guelph and we don’t have a bathhouse, so if I’m at a bathhouse it means I’ve come into Toronto,” he says.
“I use it as a sort of mini-vacation, sometimes a place to warm-up. I don’t know that that’s true of everyone else’s approach, but that’s how it is for me.”
“I actually see that scene as a bit of a glimmer of hope,” he says. “The character gets a taste of what he really wants, but admits that he’d like to experience it in a larger room.”
The play comes to a somewhat ambiguous conclusion, which Gerrard admits was intentional.
“I try to position myself as someone who can make fun of himself while at the same time trying to be brutally honest,” he says. “I didn’t intend the play to read as cynical or holier-than-thou, or to suggest that everyone else is fucked up and I’m normal. I think we’re all kind of fucked up, and we just have to learn to deal with each other if we’re actually going to find a connection.”
WriteNOW! Festival of New Works runs March 15-20 at Bread and Circus (299 Augusta). Gerrard’s Dating Yourself plays March 15, 17 and 19.