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 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, Fuck Yeah Great Plays!, Broadway World, and more. 


Production History:

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender played at Under St. Marks, from August 12 - 25th 2016, at The New York International Fringe Festival.

Written and Performed by Jesse LaVercombe

Directed by Adam Lazarus
Dramaturgy by Guillermo Verdecchia

Music by Jesse LaVercombe and Adrian Shepherd
Sound Design by Adrian Shepherd
Design by Shannon Lea Doyle and Kelly Anderson
Cheography by Neeky Dalir
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 except for the following:

Stage Managed by Alexa Polenz
Produced by Curtis te Brinke
Presented by Jordan Tannahill and William Ellis (Videofag)

The TEC project was made possible through the financial support of the National Theatre School of Canada

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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." - 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

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender - Videofag, 2016 photo credit: Cesar Ghisilieri

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender - Videofag, 2016 photo credit: Cesar Ghisilieri

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender - Videofag, 2016 photo credit: Cesar Ghisilieri

“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)

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender - Videofag, 2016 photo credit: Cesar Ghisilieri

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender - Videofag, 2016 photo credit: Cesar Ghisilieri

Pre-press, New York:

MUST-SEE LIST, Huffington Post / ZEALnyc:


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!:


"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."


Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender - Videofag, 2016 photo credit: Cesar Ghisilieri

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 GameIn Clamatore; Selected Short Films: "The Try-Hards" (Dusty Mancinelli and Josh Boles), “Longhand” (Winner: Best Actor, Freedom Shorts, Philadelphia).

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 received praise at The New York Fringe Festival 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. 

Shannon Lea Doyle (co-designer) is a scenographer from Toronto. Theatre and performance credits include: The Just, The Heidi Chronicles, The Anger of Ernest and Ernestine, Thirsty Hearts, The Dybbuk, (Soulpepper), Seams (SummerWorks), Objections to Sex and Violence (Praxis Theatre), Faust (Theatre By The Bay), Mary Stuart (George Brown), Vitals (Outside the March). Shannon is a Vazari Dance Projects Associate Artist and an assistant to the 2016 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. She holds a BFA from OCAD University in Sculpture and Installation and is a graduate of the Soulpepper Academy.

Kelly Anderson (co-designer) is a recent graduate of York University’s theatre program, specializing in Design, Devised Theatre, and Playwriting.  She is currently working as a sound, costume, set designer, and playwright based in Toronto. Recent credits include: costume design for Faust (Theatre by the Bay); playwright, set design, costume design, lighting design for The Winter Play Project (Theatre By Committee); composition and sound design for Romeo and Juliet (Guild Festival Theatre).

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. 

Alexa Polenz (Stage Manager - Toronto) is a freelance stage/production manager for indie dance and theatre in Toronto. She recently graduated from York University, where she worked with Peter McKinnon on his book series World Scenography. Selected theatre and dance credits include: Stage and Production Manager for Intangible Trappings (Lester Trips [Theatre]), Audio Guides (Catherine Murray), Chronicles of a Tangled Mind (Rock Bottom Movement), Production Manager for Carbon (LBA Productions). When she needs a break from management she gravitates to the wardrobe department, having worked on Huff (Cliff Cardinal/Native Earth), the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Ceremonies (B5C), and two summers with Shakespeare in High Park (CanStage).

Sold out run at Videofag, Toronto, January 2016

Sold out run at Videofag, Toronto, January 2016