Heather Sande = first time Fringe (and elsewhere) playwright.

Published on: September 7, 2012

Filled Under: 9-5, The Fringe Edition

Views: 624

Playwright, actor and singer Heather Sande embodies what Fringe Toronto is about: the opportunity for an artist to create their own work and a platform in which to stage it. And don’t let her movie-star looks fool you. Sande tossed her hat into the ring in applying for the Toronto Fringe and took on the challenge of writing her first play (which she also produced and stars in) with tenacity and commitment.

In Driving Home”, Katherine (Sande) and Derek (Daniel Baumander) and are trapped in a car, where Derek is forced to reveal a secret he’s been keeping.  Meanwhile, Katherine is also dealing with the news that her estranged mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Confronted with their new reality, the couple begins questioning their relationship and themselves.

Once her name was drawn from the Fringe Festival lottery, Sande started this play as a dialogue between two characters. She mustered the courage to send it to a couple of dramaturges. “I got a massive kick in the ass,” says Sande. “My work was sent back with a  million questions. That told me it wasn’t working.”
One of the people Sande approached was Toby Malone, a dramaturge who has worked at Soulpepper. “He was so generous with his time,” she says.  “He gave me some good advice on how to edit and make major revisions.”
Feeling like her back was against the wall in delivering a script, Sande tells me, “I just had to figure it out.” And figuring it out meant breaking down each scene and posting that on her wall. The playwright would shuffle her chair along and look at that scene: the major events; what each character wants; and what they did to get it. Write, then shuffle her chair along to the next scene.

It was the run up to her marriage earlier this summer and reflecting on past relationshipsthat initially inspired “Driving Home”.  I thought, ‘Wow. Some things are over now. Like getting dumped,’” Sande says. 

Though her first draft was largely autobiographical,  Sande took the play through various incarnations, adding the character of Katherine’s estranged mother who is dealing with Alzheimer’s. Though this is very much a work of fiction, Sande could draw on her own experience of having a family member with Alzheimer’s. “It’s tragically poetic. People don’t get better,” she says.  “Katherine’s mother might live for another 10 years, but she might not know who she is.”

The overreaching theme that emerged in the play says Sande is one of forgiveness.  “We are taught to we must be forgiving, but how do you? When you’re really hurt?” Katherine’s broken relationship with her mother and how it impacted the character was something Sande had to imagine. Growing up in small town Ontario (“there’s not even a traffic light”) she has a close relationship with her own family. “I was so conflicted,” she explains. It felt it was a betrayal.”

The experience of producing for the Fringe has changed Sande, who tells me one of her acting roles was in a cross-Canada tour of Max and Ruby. “I was in a big bunny head!” she laughs. “Now I’m an emerging artist. So many more options available to me that was there before.”

How in your life are you “on the Fringe?”
Sande responds, “In true self-deprecating style, ‘I’m on the Fringe of believing I can actually do this.’”

“Driving Home” plays at Tarragon Extra Space as part of the   until July 15. For more information visit, www.drivinghometheplay.com

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