International Festival of Authors – Paul Quarrington: A Life in Music, Words, and on Screen

by John Bourke

quarrington09This year marks the 30th annual International Festival of Authors (IFOA) held at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Part of this 11 day long event was a tribute on Saturday to Paul Quarrington: A Life in Music, Words, and on Screen.

You might be asking yourself why a theatre website is writing about an author’s festival, but here at Mooney on Theatre we look at the idea of what constitutes ‘theatre’ in a very broad way. So that it includes a very wide variety of ‘performances’. Speaking of a wide variety of performances, the tribute to Paul Quarrington seemed to cover all the bases. It had speeches, live music, the occasional quotes from scripts, and even family slideshows.

I suppose it’s appropriate that an event celebrating the achievements of Paul Quarrington would feature Quarrington himself providing some of the entertainment for the crowd. It’s an example of the kind of a person who would receive the Matt Cohen Award, which is awarded annually to someone who is “dedicated to writing as a primary pursuit”. Quarrington seems to have spent more than a person’s worth of energy on his music and fishing as well.

The three hour event was at times an award celebration, celebrity roast, rock concert, birthday party (Christine ‘They have a sister?’ Quarrington’s birthday was celebrated on stage), and reunion. The only thing it wasn’t, was boring. The obvious and heartfelt affection that everyone on stage had for the man kept it from ever being that, even out in the overflow seating area where the only view I had was floating white blobs on a projection screen.

The trap that events such as this can fall into is that they can tend towards being rather funerary, but I never did get that feeling at this event. Any tendency towards the maudlin was counteracted by the sheer variety (and improbability, but who could doubt the honesty of some of the world’s best writers of fiction?), of the experiences related by Quarrington’s friends.

Quarrington said that it had been the best afternoon of his life. If even half of what we were told about his life was true, then that’s high praise indeed.

The International Festival of Authors runs at Harbourfront Centre from October 21st to 31st, with further events across Ontario from November 1st to 3rd. More information, schedules and tickets can be found at the IFOA website.

Picture of Paul Quarrington by John Bourke