Story of life-long friendship with Hank Snow gets Fringe Festival premiere

by Michael Lee

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>From left, Hank Snow and his long-time friend Marge Fortune.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Actress Kimberley Cody will perform the role of Marge Fortune in the play <em>In My Wildest Dreams</em>, which is set to debut at the Halifax Fringe Festival this September.</p>

The 1950s proved to be a fruitful time for country music legend Hank Snow.

The singer would release his hit songs I'm Moving On and I Don't Hurt Anymore, and meet a young up-and-comer named Elvis Presley.

But beyond the fame and stardom, Snow would also forge a budding friendship with a young woman from Halifax, a friendship that would last until his death more than 40 years later.

The story of Snow's chance encounter with Marge Hemsworth has become the subject of a new play called In My Wildest Dreams, which is set to debut at the Halifax Fringe Festival this September.

Set in Halifax in 1956, the play tells the true story of how an 18-year-old hairstylist built a decades-long friendship with her idol Hank Snow.

Marge Fortune, who went by her maiden name then, travelled to Tennessee to meet Snow in the hopes of seeing him perform.

Along the way their paths crossed and the two hit it off right away, said Charles Salmon, who co-wrote the play with Hemsworth.

"Never in her wildest dreams did she think she was going to meet him and she never ever dreamed she was going to become life long friends with him."

Although Snow was in his early 40s at the time, his relationship with Hemsworth seemed closer to that of a father and daughter, tethered by their familiar life stories and overcoming of abusive childhoods.

"As I've come to know about Hank Snow, what really impresses me is his perseverance and his determination," said Salmon.

In the 10 years he has known her, Salmon has become familiar with Hemsworth's personal stories about Hank Snow and the admiration she had of him as a friend.

He suggested they write a play about their friendship and last year, he and Hemsworth spent four months in the spring and summer crafting the script for what would become In My Wildest Dreams.

But having her life recreated on stage has proved to be an emotional experience.

"That part of it, I think, has been a challenge for Marge because like Hank Snow, she's private, and I truly believe in listening to the stories Marge has told me that I think when Hank Snow met Marge, I think that he saw in her a kindred spirit," said Salmon.

"I've been fortunate to work on a number of shows in my life, but this show, I have to say, is extra special and we're very, very grateful for it."

Kimberley Cody, who will perform the role of Marge Fortune, was born and raised in Dartmouth.

Cody graduated from Dalhousie University with an honours degree in neuroscience and theatre and has performed throughout her life, including in Shakespeare by the Sea and while working on her masters degree at the University of Edinburgh.

Having taken a break from acting for the past three years, Cody thought fringe would be a good way to get back into theatre.

"Theatre is a great way to tap into those feelings and memories and experiences and put those out into the world. It's been great in those regards."

Cody said she didn't know much about Hank Snow at first and it wasn't until she met Hemsworth that she truly began to connect with Marge's character.

Their conversations, said Cody, made it seem as if they had known each other for years.

"Marge is a natural born story teller," she said. "If you sat and chatted with her, she could talk for ages about all of her stories."

But what was most fascinating to Cody was the relationship between Snow and Hemsworth.

On the surface, their friendship, while platonic, can appear to be a foreign concept today given the age difference, but Cody said the layers were much deeper than that.

"She had morals, she had values, she held herself in high regard even if she was timid and insecure at the time, but that clearly shone through. Plus, she was a beautiful young lady," said Cody.

"I could tell at the beginning that this was a project of love for Charles and Marge, and just to be able to be a part of that and make that come true for them, honestly, it's an honour."

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