Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender
January 31st, 2021: Enter Billy H. Tender, Canadian teen pop idol. Billy is about to play new music for a raging audience in Toronto, but his family is elsewhere. His theatre theorist mother, Stella, has absconded from her research and is secretly soliciting phone sex with strangers. Hal, Billy’s adoring younger brother, hasn’t left his room… and no one is answering his calls.
Following a sold-out premiere at Toronto’s Videofag, this one-man tragicomedy played Kingston, ON and New York City to rave reviews and must-see endorsements from The New York Times, NY Theatre Guide, Huffington Post, City Guide NY, Stage Buddy, Broadway World, and more.
--Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender played at the Grand Theatre in Kingston, Ontario, August 1st - 5th at 7:30pm as part of the Kick & Push Festival.
Written and Performed by Jesse LaVercombe
Directed by Adam Lazarus
Music by Adrian Shepherd and Jesse LaVercombe
Sound Design by Adrian Shepherd
Design by Beth Kates
Cheography by Neeky Dalir
Stage Managed by Meghan Maguire
Produced by the Kick & Push Festival
--Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender played at Under St. Marks as part of The New York International Fringe Festival, August 12th - 25th, 2016, with the same team as above except for the following:
Dramaturgy by Guillermo Verdecchia
Design by Shannon Lea Doyle and Kelly Anderson
Stage Managed by Laura Malseed
Produced by Jana Fredricks and Ned Moore
--Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender premiered January 5th and ran through January 12th at Videofag in Toronto, with the same team as above except for the following:
The TEC project was made possible through the financial support of the National Theatre School of Canada
The New York Times
"...charming, bittersweet... a treasure... [a] comedy about a pop star in crisis, his adoring little brother and their theater-theorist mother -- all played by Mr. LaVercombe."
New York Theatre Guide
"...a sucker punch to the diaphragm that makes you acknowledge what parts of yourself have been shut down... labyrinthine, psychological, tragicomedy masterpiece."
Jose Solis - Stage Buddy, New York
"Billy H. Tender was funny, energetic & punch-in-the-gut moving. Jesse LaVercombe gives three astonishing performances. A real NYC gem!"
Broadway World / Maxamoo Podcast, New York
"Absolutely amazing. [LaVercombe] seems possessed by these characters... he doesn't have any costume changes, he just changes his mannerisms and the tone of his voice, and then he's someone completely different... I was really moved."
Time Out, New York
"He resembles a young Meryl Streep… it’s enough to make you wonder where LaVercombe might be in five years."
Theater in the Now, New York
“Hyper-ambitious… visceral… Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender thrives on precision.”
Theatre is Easy, New York
"Love Me Forever [Billy H. Tender] trades on pop culture riffs and self-conscious millennial humor but quickly detours into sensual and disturbing terrain… probing, sincere, and highly entertaining... has clearly benefited from polished direction and dramaturgy... Adrian Shepherd has not only produced an album’s worth of original pop music, but also a whole universe of perfectly timed digitized blips, swipes, and pulses. It's stunning work."
Ilana Simons, New York Theatre Guide Interview
"What a mind on fire—he lets us in on his play with his own electric genius."
ShowScore.com - FringeNYC Hot List
"Our FringeNYC Hot List highlights the productions that are popular with both critics and members."
The Indie Critic, Toronto
"But for all the humor, the work's texture is unnerving... Videofag should be proud of this one."
Mooney on Theatre, Toronto
"I also really enjoyed the improv elements and the use of audience members. LaVercombe did an excellent job working off of what he was given and in those instances, I was completely entranced."
Show Score, Collected Results, New York
StageBuddy, New York:
NY Theatre Guide, New York:
Theater in the Now, New York:
In The Greenroom, Toronto:
Indie Theatre Now, New York:
“I want to tell you about a day. January 31st, 2021. It wasn’t that long ago, I believe. I remember feeling it on the Internet and in the weather and in my tummy. It was like the zeitgeist finally saw itself in the mirror, and it didn't know whether to fight or flirt, so it kind of did both, and just ate itself. It was a Sunday, clear skies but cold.”
– Hal Tender
(second son of Stella Virginia Tender [former Canadian stage actress, now research assistant in the U. of Guelph’s Post-Audience Theatre Theory and Semiotics Department], younger brother of the one, the only, Billy H. Tender)
Pre-press, New York:
MUST-SEE LIST, Huffington Post / ZEALnyc:
MUST-SEE LIST, City Guide NY:
MUST-SEE LIST, Show Score:
"This tragicomic look at the pitfalls of superstardom is as poetic and poignant as it is funny, and was a hot ticket at its Toronto premiere earlier this year."
MUST-SEE LIST, Fuck Yeah Great Plays!:
MUST-SEE LIST, NYTE Small Press:
"These folks are the real deal: experienced, proven playwrights who surround themselves with professionals and have pertinent and interesting things to communicate to their audiences."
MUST-SEE LIST, BroadwayWorld.com:
The Tender Team:
Jesse LaVercombe (playwright/performer) is an award winning, Toronto-based actor and writer originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has performed across Canada and in New Orleans and New York; Selected Stage Credits: Sequence (Tarragon Theatre, Toronto) The Bakkhai (Marigny Opera House, New Orleans) Our Beautiful Sons: The Matthew Dinning Story (Blyth Festival, Ontario), A Presence of Monster (PuSh Festival, Vancouver), The Ark: Ibsen on Fogo Island (National Arts Centre), Mistatim (Red Sky, Canadian Tour), Hacked (Caravan Stage Company, U.S. Tour); TV: American Gods (STARZ), The Detail (CTV/eOne), Salvation (CBS), Mayday (Discovery), Save Me (CBC); Feature Films: Mary Goes Round, The Telephone Game, In Clamatore.
His first play, Preacher Man, was produced across Canada and in New York, where it won the United Solo Festival’s “Best Short Solo Award," and Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender premiered at Videofag in Toronto and has since played the Grand Theatre in Kingston, ON and The New York Fringe Festival, where it received praise from The New York Times, Stage Buddy, Time Out, Broadway World, New York Theatre Guide, and more; both plays were published by Indie Theatre Now (New York, NY). His short films “Philip” and “Tony”were produced by the Canadian Film Centre, and "The Things You Think I'm Thinking" and The Bup Plays Charades recently received funding from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council/Crow's Theatre, respectively. He also writes for Intermission Magazine and is the 2017 Playwright-in-Residence for Driftwood Theatre.
Training: The National Theatre School of Canada, Canadian Film Centre Actors’ Conservatory
Adam Lazarus (director) is an award winning actor, director and acting instructor whose work has been showcased nationally, in the USA and Europe. He is a sessional instructor at The National Theatre School of Canada as well as a regular facilitator of workshops, including recent consultations for Soulpepper, Theatre Passe Muraille, Ziauddin Yousafzai for his 2014 TED TALK My Daughter, Malala, the Vancouver Olympic Committee, Light Fires, Apostle of Hustle, Buddies in Bad Times, DanceMakers, The Toronto Film School, Pig Iron Theatre, CanStage, Tapestry New Opera Works, The Sibiu International Theatre Festival, and Volcano Theatre. Adam was the artistic-director of the Toronto Festival of Clowns for 10 years and is a graduate of and former apprentice to Master Teacher Philippe Gaulier.
Notable credits include directing the Solo Show Project at the National Theatre School of Canada (2009-13); Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender (Videofag/Jesse LaVercombe); [boxhead] (Crow's Theatre/Mamalian Diving Reflex); Wonderland (SummerWorks Spotlight Award for Outstanding Performance); Le Fain de Partie (Waves festival/Luminato); Appetite (Volcano/Theatre Passe Muraille/Exchange Rate Collective); The Lupe Trilogy (QuipTake); Tyumen, Then (Groundwater Productions); Bleed (QuipTake); andThe Art of Building a Bunker (QuipTake), Daughter (QuipTake).
Guillermo Verdecchia (dramaturge) is a writer of drama, fiction, and film, as well as a director and actor. He is a recipient of the Governor-General’s Award for Drama for his play Fronteras Americanas and a four-time winner of the Chalmers Canadian Play Award. His work, which includes the Governor-General shortlisted Noam Chomsky Lectures (with Daniel Brooks), the Seattle Times’ Footlight Award-winning Adventures of Ali & Ali (with Marcus Youssef and Camyar Chai), A Line in the Sand (with Marcus Youssef), bloom, and Another Country has been anthologized, translated into Spanish and Italian, produced in Europe and the US, and is studied in Latin America, Europe and North America.
Currently an Associate Artist with Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre, where he heads new play development, Guillermo is also a PhD Candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. He has published a number of articles and contributed book chapters on aspects of intercultural theatre practice in Canada. He has an M.A. from the University of Guelph where he received a Governor-General’s Gold Medal for Academic Achievement.
Adrian Shepherd (composer/sound designer) is a Toronto-based performer, musician, and sound designer. His work as a composer and music director has led to collaborations with directors Guillermo Verdecchia, Alan Dilworth, and David Ferry on both classical and contemporary works of theatre. His other sound designs include the video-game soundscapes, dragon battles, and conversations with Captain Picard in Chloe Payne’s Fake Nerd Girl (London Fringe, Springworks Festival, Kingston Storefront Festival) and the fairy-tale forests and sweeping ballads in Aaron James Malkin’s Thunderfoot (Saskatoon Fringe). The documentary short "Every Body Leaves" (Cinefest 2015) prominently featured his electronic musical score combining synthesized and organic sound. As a songwriter, Adrian is focused on the intersection of mechanics and emotionality in populist music, and the evolution of pop music's role in our culture.
Beth Kates (designer/projection designer) is a self-taught, award-winning Lighting, Projection, Set, and Costume designer who started working in rock and roll at 14. She is the co-creative director of Playground Studios, whose interactive installations include LightSpan (Nuit Blanche North), Night Light Travels (NuitBlanche Toronto); and The ToyBox. They also created projections for all the Ross Petty Pantomimes since 2011, as well as Ragtime, Pygmalion, Light up the Sky, and Peter Hinton’s Alice in Wonderland at the Shaw Festival. Other highlights: She co-created and designed The Last Donnelly Standing (with Gil Garratt and Paul Thompson), a commission from the Blyth Festival. It was fully improvised both text and design in each performance, resulting in a fully reactive and dynamic production that was never the same twice; Truth Be Told, SEEDS, Mr. New Year's Eve, Ipperwash, The Pigeon King (Blyth), MacHomer, Bigger Than Jesus, (Wyrd), The Road to Mecca (Soulpepper), SPIN (Buddies in Bad Times), Brimful of Asha (Tarragon); a rock musical about the Donnelly’s - Vigilante (Catalyst); Dora the Explorer (Koba). She also transformed Theatre Passe Muraille into a synagogue for Julie Tepperman’s Yichud. She has lit concerts by The Headstones and Taylor Dayne, among many others. There are many works in development; including a large scale production about synesthesia and memory with Steven McCarthy; a hybrid performance art – dance – theatre piece with Salvatore Antonio; a massive cross platform multi year work generated by Patrick Finn and the University of Calgary and combining scientists, artists, theatre makers and computer engineers; and the continued development of the Dee Snider Rock and Roll Christmas Tale. Her best production to date is her 5 year-old son Aaron. Visit playgroundstudios.ca and bethkates.com
Meghan Maguire (stage manager) Recent Stage Management credits include; Suor Angelica (Centre for Oprea Studies in Italy), Charlotte a Tri-Colored Musical (Theaturtle), The Classical Theatre Project (2016-2017 Seasons), How Black Mothers Say I Love You (Girls in Bowties/Factory Theatre) The Libertine (Talk is Free Theatre), Intangible Trappings (Lester Trips Theatre), Trompe La Mort (Live Lobster Theatre), A Good Death (Cool Megs Productions), Love with Leila, A Very Leila Christmas, Leila's Girlfriends (Laugh with Leila Productions), The Birds(Theatre@York), Schema: An Installation (Schema Installations), Heart of Steele (Aim for the Tangent Productions), SexTape Project (fu-GEN Theatre). Other Credits Production Manger for Vanier College Productions (2013-2015), Production Manager for Theatre @ York (2014-2015), Production Assistant at Lighthouse Theatre (2015), Production Assistant at Theatre Collingwood (2011-2013).
Laura Malseed (stage manager - New York) Past credits include: Tink! (Pearl Theatre Co), Pryor Truth (The Collective NY), How 2 B A New Yorker, Planet Heart (Signature Theatre), Unmentionables (Theatre 54), The Mutilated (New Ohio – Drama League Nomination), Blank Canvas (HERE Arts Center), A Dance for Rylie (dir. Bob Cline). Production Manager for Nylon Fusion Theatre Company. Graduate of Pace University. Member of AEA.