You might not instinctively make a connection between hosting an early morning radio show and a romantic comedy at The Gladstone, but Teri Loretto sees one.
Loretto, who stands in for CBC’s local weather guru Ian Black, is also occasional host of the popular 6-9 Saturday morning CBC Radio show In Town and Out, a community-focused program where she recently wrapped up a four-and-a-half month stint.
She’s also a familiar presence on the Ottawa theatre scene and is directing Phil Porter’s Blink at The Gladstone, April 5-14. It’s a love story about a couple of shy millennials who have a virtual relationship that takes some unexpected turns.
Well-received critically, “it’s a super-funky little piece,” says Loretto. “It’s a real look at how kids, students, people are so concerned with their online profile that they’ve kind of forgotten how to talk to each other.”
And while she’s the last person one would imagine living an online-only existence, Loretto says that as host of that early morning show, “it’s really nice to have this lovely dialogue, not unlike the play, with invisible people … You’re in your space and the audience is in theirs.”
There are other similarities between her radio life and Blink, she says.
The two characters in the show – Jonah, a timid fellow who’s friendless in London after growing up on a commune, and Sophie, an introverted techie whose father has recently died – are people “without glamour,” says Loretto. They’re “shattered human beings” but also the kind of people you’d pass on the street without giving them a second thought, people Loretto likens to the blue-collar Kramdens and Nortons in the mid-1950s sitcom The Honeymooners.
“All these people have stories to tell,” she says, and the play is a window into the lives of two of them.
Likewise, she relishes, as a radio host, talking to people whose stories might otherwise never be widely known.
“I talked to this guy from Dunrobin who’s going to be one of 15 people riding motorcycles 1,500 kilometers through Patagonia to deliver the motorcycles to park rangers in need. The only reason I found him was a woman working in the office upstairs was talking about him. The fascinating stories that happen in obscurity are the ones I like to tell.”
You’d think, though, that Loretto, who has also acted on stage, would find working in a radio studio on a Saturday morning isolating. Live theatre, after all, includes interaction, sometimes intense, between an actor, the other performers and the audience.
Actually, says Loretto, there is a kind of interaction with listeners.
“I’m constantly thinking about the audience at home. I actually imagine my perfect listener. I think, ‘It’s 6 in the morning and what do I want (from my radio)? Not drums and noise and someone talking at me. I’m in my pajamas, having a coffee, looking out the window, planning my day. What do I want to hear?’”
It’s what makes radio – or at least the kind of radio she works in – “warm,” says Loretto.
Whether Jonah and Sophie connect in a similarly warm fashion will be discovered when the show, which is the Canadian English-language première, opens here.
However, Loretto does point out that while a virtual relationship such as theirs may seem odd to many of us, it’s increasingly in keeping with real life for lots of people. She references, for example, a study that found that college-aged folks check their smartphones an average of 150 times a day.
When she bounced that number off college students, they told her, “’Yeah, that sounds about right.’”
“For them, it’s completely realistic to desire a relationship over one that happens in real life,” says Loretto, who’s in her late 40s. “What’s great about the theatre piece is that (the online relationship) doesn’t change grief, it doesn’t change love. It just changes what it looks like.”
“What I love about this play is it doesn’t judge. It just says, ‘Love is whatever you feel it is.’ I had to rethink how I criticize the relationships that the younger generation are cultivating.”
Blink is at The Gladstone April 5-April 14 (preview, April 4). For tickets and more information: Box office: 613- 233-4523; thegladstone.ca.