Beyond Ken Dryden

A new play by Oren Safdie
Directed by Padraic Lillis 
Performed by Max Katz

“I can hear people through the walls of the apartment next door screaming with joy, horns honking in the streets 20 floors below. The Canadiens have come back and won 7-5!  How could I have doubted them?”

Critically acclaimed playwright Oren Safdie returns to Montreal with the world premiere of Beyond Ken Dryden, a solo show about a boy’s idolization of his sports hero Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens as his own family and the province of Quebec are coming apart. At the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, June 6-16, Studio Multimedia, for ages 12 and up.

Ken Dryden goalieThe 1970s were a wonderful though tumultuous time to be growing up in Montréal. The rise of Separatism and the coming to power of the Parti Québécois led to thousands of Montrealers migrating south on the 401 to Toronto; Jean Drapeau’s Olympics in 1976 nearly bankrupted the city; and the era of disco, free-love and counter-culture revolutions, combined with more women entering the workforce and easier access to divorce, challenged the traditional family like never before. For Safdie, the decade saw his parents break up and get back together again half a dozen times before parting ways for good. Through it all, Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens remained steadfast in his life; connecting the city and lifting his and everyone’s spirits by winning six Stanley Cups in nine years.

This deeply personal memory play opens on the night the Canadiens play their last game at the Montreal Forum, and looks back to a time when the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge were truly Les Habitants de Montréal. Safdie’s newest work is influenced by his stepfather Roch Carrier’s children’s classic, The Hockey Sweater. The beloved book speaks to Canadian children, not only because of how a young boy growing up in small town Quebec idolized his hero Maurice Richard, but it also shows how important it is to defend your principles.

There is something about looking back on one’s childhood with a certain degree of clarity that sharpens with age. Beyond Ken Dryden comes out of the playwright’s need to record this important chapter in his life and write his truth in the face of others who saw things in a different way. “Carrier came to my daughter’s school in California and read the story to the class; I was amazed how many of the kids related to it,” said Safdie. “My hockey idol might be of a different generation, and growing up in Montreal in the 1970s was very different from Sainte-Justine in the 1940s, but the writing of this play was my own way of standing up for myself and my history.  I never met Ken Dryden, but like in The Hockey Sweater, it sometimes felt like he was right by my side.”

“I imagine the man behind the mask to be fierce, with scars all over his face, broken teeth, and a raspy voice. Like if you skate too close to him, he might slice off your head … But wait … surely this can’t be him. Perhaps it’s Dryden’s agent or accountant ….”

A huge sports fan himself, New York City director Padraic Lillis appreciates linking the relationship of fandom to the emotional need for connection, community and family. “Oren does a great job of tying in the main character’s discovery of hockey and the steady, rookie goalkeeper Ken Dryden, to a time when he was experiencing an unstable home life,” said Lillis. “What inspires me about the piece is the writing, the storytelling. The importance that sport plays in getting the main character through a turbulent time in his life is vital and touching; it’s not only about winning and losing—it’s belonging, about being part of something.” Also poignant in the play is how the Montreal Forum building itself holds memories of love, victories, losses and childhood.

Native New York actor Max Katz has lived in many places, including Montreal. While attending McGill he became a Habs fan. “To tell a story that is so personal to the city of Montréal, a love letter to its favourite team, let alone one about a boy in adolescence with themes of sports heroes and finding out what home means, is really meaningful to me,” he said. “I think all audience members will find something to relate to. Sports—with their highs, lows, heart and drive — are a well-suited allegory for life and its challenges. I’m also super excited to return to the Montréal Fringe where I first acted professionally after graduating.”

“I nicknamed my father’s girlfriend ‘Mike Milbury’ after the dirtiest player on the Boston Bruins who once came back out after a game at Madison Square Garden, ran up into the stands, and whacked a fan over the head with his shoe because he had hit his teammate with a program.”

Safdie has brought Montreal controversial hits Unseamly, a nervy play that deals with sexual harassment in the garment industry; Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, a rollicking farce that jumped head-first into the Palestinian/Israeli conflict (both produced by Infinithéâtre); and Gratitude about an innocent high school crush that snowballs into a life-changing moment. All three received subsequent productions in New York.

“Oren Safdie is one of a handful of playwrights I would travel to any city to see his work.” – Terry Teachout, theatre critic, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“What you won’t be able to say is that [Safdie] doesn’t know how to put together bracingly provocative and ferociously entertaining theatre.” – Jim Burke, MONTREAL GAZETTE

To purchase your tickets visit:

Studio Multimédia
4750 Henri-Julien
H2T 2C8 (Metro Mont-Royal)