CALGARY – Theoren Fleury says he considered playing himself in a stage play about his life, but then decided an actor should portray him instead.
Alberta Theatre Projects is developing a one-man play based on the former hockey player’s life story called “Don’t Quit Before The Miracle.”
Fleury played 15 seasons in the NHL despite his hard battles with drugs and alcohol. He won a Stanley Cup in 1989 and an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
He doesn’t have acting experience, but initially wanted to present the many highs and lows of his life to a theatre audience.
“I really felt it would have more bang for its buck if it was me there, going through all these different phases of my life,” Fleury said Monday in the Martha Cohen Theatre.
“But obviously not having enough acting experience, it was really bizarre trying to get to those same places and those same feelings and bringing those out. We’ll leave that up to a professional actor and I’m sure he’ll be able to get to those places that I couldn’t.”
The 41-year-old from Oxbow, Sask., made headlines last fall after alleging in his autobiography “Playing With Fire” that he was sexually abused several times by his former junior coach Graham James.
Those allegations have not resulted in any charges and nothing has been tried in court. The allegations are under investigation by police in Winnipeg.
Kirstie McLellan Day co-authored Fleury’s autobiography and also wrote the script for the stage play.
“The theatre is just another avenue to present the story, to tell people that it’s OK, you’re going to be OK and that you can survive this and in the end, have a really great life despite everything that’s happened,” Fleury said.
Fleury sat in Monday during a workshop of the play, with Calgary actor Christian Goutsis in the role of Fleury.
If the play makes it to stage, Fleury said the actor chosen to portray him will have to go to dark places emotionally. Fleury contemplated suicide in 2004 and went as far as putting a loaded gun in his mouth.
Fleury tried to rehearse that moment while he was considering acting in the play.
“I picked up the gun and started laughing because I’m just not there anymore,” he said. “I worked at it for a couple of days. I eventually said to Kirstie ‘this is not for me. Let’s get someone who is professional that can do this.’
“The first thing I would say to (the actor) is, I used to have a saying and it was ‘it hasn’t gotten weird enough for me yet.’ The places that I went and the people that I hung out with and the people I associated myself with, were all people similar to me. We were kind of lost in the world. We were abusing alcohol and drugs.
“It makes for great theatre and great drama and in the end, it’s a really happy story. There’s a lot of comedy in there.”
McLellan Day was inspired to write a play for Fleury while watching Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show “Wishful Drinking” and Will Ferrell’s portrayal of George W. Bush in “You’re Welcome America” on Broadway in New York.
“I turned to my husband and said ‘this is perfect for Theo,'” McLellan Day said.
“The one-man play is so interesting if you have a character that is well-rounded, funny and charming, yet has a lot of drama in their lives. I think theatre audiences would fall in love with him.”
ATP artistic director Vanessa Porteous says if the project goes ahead, the play won’t make it to stage until after the theatre’s 2010-11 season.
“We have a fantastic character in Theo Fleury,” Porteous said. “We had someone who had to struggle against all kinds of odds and fight lots of battles with the world and within himself.
“He’s a complicated person and he’s got lot of contradictions, which is always really great in a play. There’s moments of great triumph and great despair. It makes it very dramatic. Ultimately it’s a story of change and survival.”
Fleury says the paperback version of his autobiography yet to be released will contain six new chapters detailing his attempted NHL comeback with the Calgary Flames last year.
Another creative outlet for Fleury is songwriting. He says he’s written, sung and recorded four songs and is aiming for 10 more.
“My experience has taught me that if I put my mind to something, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish,” Fleury said. “My experience going through this has made me a very empowered person and a very powerful person. I carry a very strong message.
“It’s been an interesting 11 months since the book has come out.”