Our Beloved Pete

Our dear friend and most esteemed colleague, Mr. A.R. “Pete” Gurney has passed away. His passing marks the end of an era and the completion of a remarkable collaboration.

The Flea was lucky to produce ten of Pete’s plays over the course of the last fifteen years. Pete was renowned for being prolific, but really, we think he just liked to be in the theater. He was energized by directors, loved actors and liked nothing better than to sit in a darkened theater, watch a run and laugh gleefully at his own jokes. But he was also a remarkable craftsman, with a deep knowledge of the classics, who knew exactly where his plays needed to go and what judicious cuts to make.

The Flea was devoted to Gurney and Pete was equally committed to our aesthetic and our young company. He even wrote four of his Flea plays especially for our early career actors, The Bats. His Flea directors included Flea Founding Artistic Director, Jim Simpson, Tony Award winner Tommy Kail, Theatre Calgary’s new Artistic Director Stafford Arima and The Flea’s new Artistic Director Niegel Smith. The artists who interpreted his words on the stages of the tiny Flea loom large and include Sigourney Weaver, John Lithgow, Danny Burstein, Peter Scolari, Caroline McCormick, Jeff Daniels, Tina Benko, Reg E. Cathey, Rita Wolf, Annette O’Toole, Kathy Najimy, Steve Mellor, Karen Ziemba, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Ismenia Mendes, Dan Amboyer, Rodney Richardson, Nicole Lowrance and some very lucky Bats. Here is the list of the world premieres that The Flea produced in our home at 41 White Street.

O Jerusalem (2003) Mrs. Farnsworth (2004)

Screen Play (2005) Post-Mortem (2006)

A Light Lunch (2008) Office Hours (2010)

Heresy (2012) Family Furniture (2013)

Ajax (2016) Squash (2016)

The Flea is just about to unveil our new three theater performing arts complex and have named our most experimental space for Pete. The white box indoor/outdoor theater is all about thinking “outside of the box,” and the adjacency of the garden and theater spaces will invite audiences and artists to commingle in our new home. Pete loved it.

What did we love about Pete? We loved that he was fearless – but in such an elegant and heartfelt manner. The stories he told were real and true. He gave to his characters much humanity and even more humility. He was a playwright essentially engaged with the world, though he always included his hometown Buffalo in his plays. His taproot was as a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant but he will be remembered and celebrated as having observed and captured the fading of white privilege. It was our privilege to know him and to stand by him. He is sorely missed already.