Music and memories: Darrin Hagen's Metronome opens Workshop West's 43rd season

· The Pulse
By Paul Blinov
in the Arts Roundup

Acclaimed performer Darrin Hagen fell in love with music at the age of seven, with a visit to his grandma's house that found him toying around on a piano.

"I figured out On Top of Old Smokey and I did it really fast," Hagen told Taproot. "Even my great aunt, the music teacher, was amazed. She said to mom, 'You need to get that kid music lessons.'"

Those lessons led Hagen to a life as a composer, drag queen, author, and playwright — and now to the world premiere of Metronome, a new solo show that marks the beginning of a new season for Workshop West Playwrights' Theatre.

Throughout Hagen's life, music has been a prominent force, and the autobiographical Metronome collects memories and pivotal moments that surround — and were surrounded by — music.

"Every one of those pieces of music takes me to a very specific moment in my life, in my friendships or my relationships or my experiences," Hagen said. "When I go into that piece of music, all that stuff comes back. They're like doors or portals that you can time travel through."

Workshop West Playwrights' Theatre 43rd season

Workshop West's 43rd season features two world premieres. (Supplied)

Initially, Hagen wasn't sure if his stories would be a play or a book; his enduring work The Edmonton Queen has gone back and forth between the two formats. It was a phone call from Workshop West's artistic director Heather Inglis that helped him make a decision.

"Heather called me up and said, 'I have a feeling you might be working on something. What are you working on?'" Hagen said.

"We hadn't really worked together much before this. So that was a beautiful surprise as well, to know that I was on someone's radar."

Metronome, running Nov. 11-21 in The Backstage Theatre, is one of two world premieres featured in Workshop West's new season. The other is Michelle Robb's Tell Us What Happened, which won the 2020 Alberta Playwriting Competition Novitiate Prize, and will run in May 2022.

The company's season also features the Springboards New Play Festival in March and The Shoe Project in June.