Moving the biggest island in the world can't be THAT hard, can it?
By Cory Schachtel | October 20, 2022
Reed McColm is an accomplished playwright, and has written episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when he thinks of his upcoming show at the Varscona Theatre, he gets nervous. “It means a lot to me to have it produced in my hometown. And it’s been a splendid experience, so I don’t know why, but I was nervous before rehearsal started, and I’m starting to feel nervous again. Maybe it’s because it’s my first production in Edmonton, but I just want people to see the show.”
The show is The Wrong People Have Money, about York University Professor Martin Delancey, who makes an “impossible” suggestion in his class — to move the country of Greenland to the south Atlantic — and is then tasked with making it happen by rich people who think the feat would make them even richer.
McColm left Edmonton at 19 years old to make his way as a writer in the United States. And he did make it, including in Hollywood, where there are plenty of “wrong people” with money.
He was up for a TV writing job more than 25 years ago, and his friend, a producer of the show, brought him to meet the show’s creator in his Hollywood Hills home when his fourth wife was moving out and his fifth wife was moving in. “It was not necessarily a great fit for me, but it was an advance in my career,” McColm says. “[The creator] had been told by my friend that I had a master’s degree in professional writing, and I could tell he resented me for it. When I first met him, he said, ‘Oh, so you’re a smart guy.’ And I didn’t know how to respond except to think, I am not getting this job. And then he says, ‘You know how I measure IQ? How much money do you make?’ And that hit me very hard. Because I thought, our culture does the same thing. That’s how we measure IQ. When the primary ambition is to just make more money, I find it reprehensible.”
That helps explain the money part, but why Greenland? “It’s a very different life than what we’re used to — there are 57,000 people living there and only seven roads in Greenland, and they’re all in Nuuk, the capitol. The vast majority of Greenland is uninhabited, and still covered by ice that is hundreds of thousands of years old. I felt like Greenland was unexploited, so I started writing about it. And then, after I’d written a few drafts of the play, Donald Trump actually tried to trade Greenland for Puerto Rico. And I thought he’d ruined my play because what I thought was an original, absurd idea became reality all because Americans elected this president.”
McColm returned to Edmonton nine years ago. And after freelance writing and running a theatre in the U.S. without the help of government subsidies for the arts, he says he’s “more optimistic” about the kindness and support (including monetary) he’s received since coming back. At the very least, it’s given him time to reflect on his circuitous route home.
“I didn’t have a good grip on what made me happy. I was just going from job to job saying, This one’s going to break through, this one’s going to break through — it’s lottery thinking, and I really made a mistake by falling into that trap.” But now he’s here, “making no money at all,” and he’s much happier, at home, rehearsing with the cast.
“How many people will see it? Not many. Will it make any difference in the world? Probably not. But I am so proud that we’re all making this community effort in this small way in our city. I don’t regret my life so much as I feel like I didn’t have to leave.”
So, has he ever been to Greenland? “I have not. Getting there actually takes a lot of money.”