A new playwright delving into Collingwood’s newspaper archives for story ideas found sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes an escaped elephant explores Wasaga Beach.
Jan Ferrigan thought she’d be writing about the elephant in the Beach, but a different animal story caught her right in the funny bone: a bylaw offering rewards for rounding up stray livestock from the streets of Collingwood, and an advertisement promising a drugstore remedy for a better love life.
Maybe not a Hallmark meet-cute, but the two newspaper ads came together for Ferrigan’s romantic comedy.
Her play, Wild Goose Chase, is the story of a young man, Basil, who decides to make a few dollars rounding up stray livestock from the street so he can buy the remedy that promises a better love life.
“I’m always intrigued by stories that involve animals,” said Ferrigan, who moved to Collingwood seven years ago. “It was just a very humorous situation, the bylaws themselves are funny and so is livestock on Collingwood streets.”
She found newspaper articles from 1889 citing irked residents asking why there were so many cows on the main street, and noting the disturbance their cowbells were causing.
“It’s just kind of humorous,” said Ferrigan. “More than once there was mention of people finding horses … and there were geese and ducks and chickens wandering around.”
One of the local residents at that time, William Little, started his own pound, and people could bring the livestock they rounded up to him for a reward. He would place ads to say he had the animals and their owners could pick them up.
Using those facts, Ferrigan made up her main character, Basil, and his love interest, Marigold Hodgson, who is the fictional daughter of the real Fred Hodgson, a famous architect with offices in Collingwood and New York. With Marigold on her way back to Collingwood from New York, Basil is anxious to be his best self by her return.
Basil’s attempts to round up wandering livestock and interact with other characters on the streets added fodder for the comedy side of Ferrigan’s rom-com.
When the play is staged, there won’t be any live animals involved. The audience will have to come ready to use their imagination as the Simcoe Street Theatre stage takes them back to 1889 in Collingwood.
The play will open inside a tea room at the McAuley House, which was on the corner of Ste Marie and Simcoe Streets (the same intersection where the Simcoe Street Theatre now stands), also called the Collingwood House Hotel.
Ferrigan’s career is in biology and web design. Her other writing includes non-fiction articles, mostly about environmental science, and some self-published fiction. She enjoyed the spring playwriting workshop with Gaslight Theatre Productions.
“It was great having the support of the instructors, who are experienced playwrights, and then the support of fellow classmates,” said Ferrigan. She’s kept her script close to her chest, thanks to the peer review she got in class, and not even her family members have read it.
This Gaslight Tour will be a family affair, though, as Ferrigan’s husband is part of the cast for a different play written by Anke Lex about a fire at the Tremont Hotel.
There will be four, 20-minute plays performed on stage at the Simcoe Street Theatre for this year’s Gaslight Tour, an annual production by the Collingwood-based Gaslight Theatre Productions.
Wild Goose Chase, written by Jan Ferrigan will be directed by Wyatt MacRae and will be performed at the Simcoe Street Theatre alongside the other three plays between Oct. 23 and 29.
The Gaslight Tour features four plays about local history, all within the theme of “old news.” Tickets sold out a few days after sales opened. This will be the first year the plays are in a theatre, as typically the Gaslight plays are performed at various locations around town and patrons walk to each of the spots.
You can learn more about Gaslight Theatre Productions, the plays and the courses, online at gaslighttheatreproductions.com. Ferrigan is one of four playwrights featured in this year’s tour. CollingwoodToday will feature all four in stories this week.