When I heard that Paul Calandrino had written a new play called My Happy Hour with Pegoda — as in the Dan Pegoda, as in man-about-town-bon-vivant and Eugene Weekly cartoonist Dan Pegoda — I had to show up.
The following is an interview with Calandrino, Pegoda and actor Ellen Chace.
Why write this play?
Paul Calandrino: The very first germ of an idea was wanting to be in a play with Dan Pegoda — world-famous Eugene actor — and never really expecting to get a chance to do that because I’m not in the echelon of actor that he is. We’ve been in a play together, but I wanted to have more lines with him. And then we met for a happy hour, and I was greasing the wheels and asking Dan if he’d be interested in doing a play with me, and I asked him if he had some stories that I could work into a script. And he didn’t respond.
Dan Pegoda: I couldn’t think of anything.
Nothing interesting ever happens to Dan.
Pegoda: That’s why I do plays.
Calandrino: Dan shifted the focus. He said, “Hey, we could make it about us not having any ideas for a play.” And I said, “Perfect! We’ll start from that point!” And that’s what we did.
And how does Ellen get involved? Where do you drop into this tale?
Ellen Chace: I don’t know the answer to that question, but in the play, I want to be in the play with Dan and Paul.
Calandrino: She happens to walk in. Early on we were thinking, “Just two guys, that’s not very interesting. We should have a female onstage.”
Like the movies The Trip, My Dinner with Andre …
Calandrino: Exactly. And that was the other inspiration; I love the way those actors banter. I wanted to explore that genre — actors portraying themselves or close facsimiles of themselves onstage.
So what is the biggest challenge, creatively?
Chace: It is kind of a challenge to portray your self, because it’s a play. And it’s Paul’s vision. It’s how Paul sees Ellen. I go about it with the same tools as I would create any character. It’s a fictionalized Ellen.
What’s it been like playing “Dan”?
Pegoda: I’m just showing up and trying to be myself.
Dan is a man of few words, but just gives off a kind of quiet genius.
Calandrino: That’s Dan.
Not all of the play is based on Dan, Ellen or Paul’s own personal lives. The creative team leaves it to the audience to try to find the line between truth and fiction.
My Happy Hour With Pegoda runs Feb. 23-25 and March 2-3. All performances take place at Capitello Wines Tasting Room, 540 Charnelton Street. Tickets are $15 and will be available for purchase at Capitello Wines and at capitellowines.com.