Chase Padgett loves Canadians and Canadian Fringe Festivals. “I often feel that I’m a Canadian trapped in an American’s body,” he said.
Padgett is returning to Vancouver with his new show Nashville Hurricane after last year’s successful Vancouver Fringe Festival show, 6 Guitars, and he is looking forward to being back in this city.
“Canada is very, very lucky to have the fringe festival circuit it does,” said Padgett. “There are a lot of fringe festivals in America that are poorly run, that don’t give 100 per cent of the proceeds to the artists. It’s just so beautifully Canadian that people had the compassion and the empathy for the arts long ago, so now it’s really blossoming into a performance circuit that is kind of unlike anything else in the world that I know of.”
Padgett describes the fringe festival experience as an invaluable education in theatre where artists learn things that theatre school won’t teach them. “The fringe festivals made me, out of necessity, learn WordPress and Photoshop, because you’ve got to do your own promo. If you want to get media time you better learn how to write a decent press release. Those are things that — I don’t care what theatre school you go to — they don’t teach you that.”
There are a few other things that theatre school won’t teach you, said Padgett, such as how to still do a good show when four people show up. “Sometimes small houses are a way better experience to perform for,” explained Padgett, “because I would rather have 10 people who are 100 per cent with me than 100 people who are 10 per cent with me.”
So far, Nashville Hurricane has delivered. “The show is really clicking into place in a way that took 6 Guitars longer to do, and I’m really happy about it,” said Padgett. This new show is also about the guitar, but it is very different in terms of the story structure and characters. The only character from 6 Guitars who reappears in this show is Tyrone.
“I would rather have ten people who are 100 per cent with me than 100 people who are 10 per cent with me.”
Chase Padgett, Nashville Hurricane
This show is much more of a narrative and each character tells their side of the same story, but those perspectives are often conflicting. Unlike 6 Guitars, which featured six different musical genres, Padgett said that this show features two: “The whole story centres around a young guitar prodigy named Henry who then becomes known as the Nashville Hurricane.”
The characters in Nashville Hurricane each go through a transformation, and their relationship with the audience changes as well. Henry, the Nashville Hurricane, is a young boy at the beginning of the story, telling the story in hindsight as an adult. He is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, although it’s never fully diagnosed and Padgett never says it out loud.
“The way I play him and the way he just shows a passion for these very esoteric interests like electricity and science in particular, and the fact that he never makes eye contact with the audience — people understand it,” said Padgett, “He starts off very shy and afraid of the world and by the end he learns how to be his own person.”
Padgett describes Henry’s mother Brenda as “straight up country trailer trash hilarity” and “a whisky soaked tornado” who has no qualms telling it like it is and being crass the entire time. By the end of the show, Padgett said that she ends up understanding what it’s like to be a loving, protective mother.
He premiered the first version of the show at the Orlando Fringe in 2012: “I’ve got to be honest with you, it wasn’t that good. I was doing this whole show and the audience in front of me would laugh at certain things, but I could just feel I was losing them at certain times. The music was okay, but the character was off and the story was a little off.”
Padgett rewrote the entire show and premiered it in Calgary with a completely different reception. “I really turned — at the time what was a defeat — into a victory, and then when I did it in Edmonton, it got the same kind of response 6 Guitars did when I first brought that there. It was really an incredible experience all over again and it was important to me to prove that I could do it a second time.”
“If I got to tell 18-year old Chase what 30-year old Chase is doing, 18-year old Chase would be thrilled beyond belief because this is exactly what I want to do with my life, and I’m doing it.” There’s nothing better than that.