High Performance Rodeo & Lunchbox Theatre presents
Six Guitars @ Lunchbox January 10-28 at various times
For most musical mythologists, Ottawa isn’t exactly the crossroads – but don’t tell Chase Padgett that.
The Portland-based writer and performer behind Six Guitars, which opens Tuesday at Lunchbox theatre (Padgett had to cancel Monday’s opening performance to attend his grandmother’s funeral), found himself wandering around an Ottawa guitar shop one day several years ago, when he discovered the guitar that actually plays the crucial role of six different guitars in the show.
“It was perfect,” he says.
“It was right out of a biopic (of some rock star),” he adds, “where someone picks up a guitar and a spotlight appears above you, and there’s a whoosh of wind. – amazing. I loved it.
“I (now) have a single (Paul Reed Smith Studio) guitar,” he says, “that runs both electric and acoustic sound into a pedal board, but then mimics all of the greatest amps that history has ever produced – in a single box – and it goes right into the speakers.”
“It might be,” he says, “my favourite possession in the world.”
Audiences will hear Padgett transform, over the course of the show, into a variety of different characters, performing a half-dozen different genres, ranging from an old African-American American bluesman, a metaphor-mangling jazz professor, in addition to classical, rock, country and folk.
What makes 6 Guitars, which Calgary Fringe Festival audiences flocked to back in 2013 (it was the toughest ticket of that year’s fest) is a show that lovingly explores an insight Padgett partly gained performing at Disney theme parks in Orlando after graduating from The University of Central Florida back in the mid-2000’s.
“People love music,” he says. “It really is a universal language – so if you have a show with music in it, you’re always going to have a leg up (with them).”
Performing for hot, cranky families, from all around the world who pay a lot of money to visit Disney theme parks, it turned out, was terrific training for the fringe festival circuit, which often takes place in hot venues where outside events must be baked into the show on the fly.
And for Padgett, the all-time Fringe nightmare took place here, during the 2014 Calgary Fringe, when he returned with Chase and Stacey’s Joyride, a sketch comedy revue with his partner, Stacey Hallal, at the Lantern Church in Inglewood.
Opening night was a hot, muggy Saturday night on the August long weekend – and as it turned out, the humidity was the least of Padgett’s problems.
“Not only was it brutal weather-wise,” he says, “but…there were two skunks mating outside!
“(It) just smelled like two skunks,” he says, “for the entirety of the show.”
The show, however, had to go on, and Padgett and Hallal gamely did their best.
“My girlfriend and I still talk about that (show),” he says. “We’ll never forget that.”
Later that night, Padgett stumbled across a sign posted by the entrance to the Lantern gym, a second (sweltering) fringe venue, where the audience for a later show was being admitted.
“It said, Please Keep Door Closed,” he says. “Trying to Keep Skunk Smell Out. Wish I were Kidding.’”
(Those overheated skunks didn’t keep Padgett away, either: he returned to the Calgary Fringe in 2015, presenting Nashville Hurricane, which also was named a Best of Fringe show.)
Padgett relates the tale with the good-natured tone of a real road warrior – and improv comic, which has also created a bond with Calgary and Edmonton over those various fringe tours.
“Calgary really has a special place in my heart,” he says. “That was the first time I ever got embedded in an improv scene wasn’t my own – (over the years), I did stuff for the Calgary Improv Guild, (and) I have friends over at Loose Moose (as well).
“I would be jumping into (different) shows while I’m (performing) there,” he says.
“It’s almost like Calgary and Edmonton are these other cities that I live in,” he adds, “but don’t really.”
And if life on the road occasional delivers you mating skunks under the venue, in 2013 it also delivered Padgett a new hometown – and a new girlfriend.
That happened when he hit Portland to play a gig at the Curious Comedy Club.
“Not only (did) I fall in love with the space,” he says, “but I fell in love with the woman (Hallal)!”
Recently, the club received a $172,000 grant, to upgrade its sound system and install a state-of-the-art multi-camera video setup, transforming it into a soundstage for creating top of the line digital productions.
“We’re going to be able to build a bridge,” he says, “between the best fringe shows and the best independent live comedy/theatre/music whatever – and bring that to a digital audience.”