My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Peter Pasyk spills some of the secrets of Late Company's success


"What I love is that it doesn't leave you with a pat moralization," says Peter Pasyk the director of Late Company. "And it ignites a conversation that is taken outside of the walls of the theatre. There were lots of discussions when we first did it, and that's the most you can hope for."

Late Company was first presented at SummerWorks where it received awards for Best New Play, Best Production, Best Director, Best Ensemble and, most importantly, Audience's Choice. Reviews were equally laudatory with "intense" being the most frequently used descriptor. Pasyk stresses that the SummerWorks production was a "workshop. This one is a fully realized production. There is more of a budget, no corner cutting. Most importantly, we knew the framework. We took a week to re-stage and then dive deeper into it. This is the completed version. So far."

The buzz around Late Company earned it an equally lauded production in Vancouver and a call from Ravi Jain (Gimme Shelter). "Ravi is a big supporter of new generation artists and new work, he approached us and wanted to help." Jain is also the Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre and "the Resident Artistic Director of The Theatre Centre so he has time slots he can program." Jain had already booked Butcher and We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 for November and "The November Ticket," where audiences can see three shows for one low price, was born.

"There are themes across the shows," says Pasyk. "And they're all high-calibre. It let us double, make that triple, our resources. It just felt like a really good fit. Most of the work I've done, the work I've based my reputation on, I never waited around for someone to do it. But Ravi . . . Ravi makes things happen."

Pasyk is less forthcoming about the content of Late Company. "I don't want to give away the story," he says. "Two families gather after a tragedy and attempt to find closure," he begins before realizing that the press releases have already given away that Late Company revolves around a death due to bullying, specifically homophobic bullying. There have been several recent plays revolving around bullying but Pasyk says that Late Company is different, "It's polarizing. It doesn't offer any one conclusion. It challenges people's assumptions, you empathize with different characters and points of views at different times, during different arguments."

The rehearsal process was full of discussion. "I've experienced bullying from both sides," says Pasyk. "Most people have: every bully has a bully. I remember early days in grade school when I was cruel and would then be bullied by others. My form of bullying was words, I used my sharp tongue and then I would get beat up. The undercurrent of the play is investigating the question of fault, it's never as easy as the legal system would like it to be. It's not black and white." 

Pasyk steers the conversation back to more cryptic ground. "The connecting visceral element is that it's all about family. We learn how to socialize, how to interact with the world, how to love, how to negotiate - it all starts with the family. So there is a universal connection to these families and their hope to effect change, to do some good."

Late Company was written by theatrical It Boy Jordan Tannahill (Post EdenThe Magic) and is populated by an unusually stellar cast. "These are all veteran actors at the top of their game," says Pasyk. "They are part of the life force of this production." Richard Greenblatt, Fiona Highet and Rosemary Dunsmore (Tom at the Farm) have been part of Late Company from the very beginning and Pasyk is grateful for their dedication and belief in the play. "Rosemary is amazing. The reason her name is spoken of with such respect is that in rehearsal she's a real actor. She dives into the shit, trying and failing. She's a native animal of the theatre."

Due to scheduling conflicts there are two new additions to the cast. "John Cleland, I worked with when I was an artist in residence at Tarragon. I respect his work and we became friends, so he was an easy ask. Liam Sullivan was in Concord Floral which Jordan wrote and directed. That cast was exclusively teenagers so when the former Curtis went off to theatre school, Liam, because of his skill and talent, was the obvious choice." 

After wrapping at The Theatre Centre, Late Company is heading out on tour across Ontario, a rare achievement. "With this show in particular, I'm really curious to see how audiences who don't seek out theatre or aren't theatre professionals will react," says Pasyk. "I'll be on much of the tour, joining in the workshops and talkbacks." He's looking forward to being "away from town, I have a lot of prep work to do for upcoming shows. My next big project is the Toronto premiere of Tracy Letts' Killer Joe at the Coal Mine."

Late Company runs Wed, Nov 18 to Sun, Nov 29 at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St W.