Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden Speak about McQuaid’s TALE “Speaking In Tongues”, written by McQuaid and regular collaborator April Snellings, performed live in Montreal in 2017 and now available at TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE The Podcast.
LF: SIT is one of the more literary TALES. It feels like a gothic short story. What were the inspirations? And how was the collaboration with April?
GMcQ: I am obsessed with demonology, and in particular demonology that moves past dogma, that moves past any concern with the idea of heaven and hell. To me demons are vastly more intriguing when they’re adhering to rules that we, as mere mortals, simply don’t comprehend. Also, I like the idea that these kinds of worlds are intertwined with the working class. The early works of Clive Barker are an inspiration, The Damnation Game and a lot of the Books of Blood brought dark fantasy to a blue collar world and, that being the world I’m from, always sparked my imagination. That pathways can open up to kids growing up in council estates, or to jaded workers in dole offices, or cruisers looking for a ride in public toilets- to bring a fantastic majesty to the humble, salt-of-the-earth corners of the world excites me. And so I tapped into the idea of someone who finds themself caught up with a demon through their line of work.
I love working with April Snellings, she’s one hell of a writer, very sharp and intuitive and her imagination is as dark as my own. I’m always bugging her with my ideas and hoping she has the time to jump onto something with me. I think we complement each other nicely and she’s a much better writer than me so she definitely ups my game.
LF: The dual language is so interesting listening again, just wonderfully rich. Was it strange directing the French-speaking actors
GMcQ: The idea to include French language in the piece came from Stephanie Trepanier, I mentioned that we were going to be in Montreal doing Tales, this was before I had settled on an idea, and Stephanie suggested that the audience up there would really appreciate hearing some local tongue. I knew I didn’t want to do a completely French piece so the idea of an interpreter popped into my head and the ideas started to flow from there. I tend to use Tales as a means to experiment, and this was something we had never done before, playing with language in this way.
The actors were all bilingual, so directing them was not so strange. Kaila Heir, Mitch Davis and Ted Geoghegan were all incredibly helpful in getting me the support I needed to pull off the piece up in Montreal. Kaila introduced me to Virginie Lamoureux who translated my words to French, and it was a real thrill to hear my work in French.
LF: Perhaps you could describe the wacky experience putting on this show. One of three Tales, mad Rain outside, musicians, loud bar, and Doug Buck and Tony Todd! Truly epic… Maybe the craziest live Tales ever, yes?
GMcQ: I think it may have been the craziest show we’ve ever done, yes. Even the run up to it was interesting to say the least. I remember thinking it wasn’t going to happen at one stage but it all came together on the night as they say. I think I was a little moody trying to organize all three Tales the day of the event. I remember Jenn Wexler beaming about the experience of being in Montreal with all the creativity that was going on around Fantasia, and just needing to check myself, take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves, roll with the punches and enjoy myself.
As well as the ambition of my own piece, Doug Buck’s Hidden Records was a huge undertaking and I was primarily responsible for all of his sound design and effects which needed to play in tandem with a lot of live musicians. That was first up, then came my piece and finally there was Barricade, which, to your credit, let go of a lot of the more formal structure we tap into and felt more like a punk show. I really enjoyed letting go and making some noise with everyone, it was very cathartic after all the stress. I got so wrapped up in the production of the night that I completely forgot I was to read the end credits and to my shame I couldn’t pronounce many of the names, it was not my finest hour but thankfully the audience were very kind about it, looking back, that’s my one regret about the night but all in all I am very proud of the night and think we put on a very diverse and sexy show.
LF: You’ve suggested this character I played connects in some way to the Demon in Reappraisal. Could you explain…?
I feel they’re both of the same world though I’m not sure yet if they’re the same demon, perhaps they used to be and somehow splinted off from one another. Sometimes I find myself intrigued with the greater world of something I wrote and in that respect SIT paved the way for Reappraisal and some other writings.
LF: The ending has that strange McQuaid whimsey, after all the listener has been through. Any thoughts on how it came about?
I find the end of Speaking in Tongues to be really moving. I tear up at Wayland’s joy at the simplicity of his plan, his triumphant call-to-arms that we simply “carry on” is really profound to me. As mentioned, I think I was pretty run-down in the run up to the show so the idea of the “show must go on” sort of infiltrated the writing, and we were both writing up to the curtain call! I remember talking to you during rehearsals and saying I really wanted the audience to think that you were having an uncontrollable fit of the giggles up there, that you, Larry Fessenden, were corpsing, because if the audience felt that from you they might join in on the laughter, and I have to say that you really nailed it, it’s an authentic and infectious performance. What could have been a dumb joke ending became transcendent, I was, and am still, so proud of this production and how it played.
photos: arriving at the border • Packed to the Gils • McQuaid’s crib notes • live fan art of Fessenden’s character