Driftwood, Driftwood Theatre, Kevin Craig, Ontario, Play, Play Festivals, Playwright, Playwriting, Playwriting Festivals, Theatre, Trafalgar 24, Trafalgar Castle, Trafalgar24, Whitby

Trafalgar 24 – Playwriting Most Frenetic (With Driftwood Theatre!)

Driftwood Theatre is…ahem…drifting into Whitby, Ontario once again! And guess what?!

I GET TO PLAY!

The play’s the thing. And with Trafalgar 24, that statement is never more real. Because with Trafalgar 24…6 plays are the thing.

Trafalgar-24-header-2015-wide-fb-759x280

I look forward to this weekend all year long. And I hope and I pray and I pray and I hope that I will have the opportunity to be a part of this most amazing of events.

The extraordinary Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Currently an all-girls boarding school...
The extraordinary Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Currently an all-girls boarding school…

Deets:

24 ARTISTS. 24 HOURS. 6 NEW PLAYS.

From the Driftwood Theatre Website:

Twenty-four artists receive a scant 24-hours to write, rehearse and perform six site-specific plays in Whitby’s beautiful 19th century castle. TRAFALGAR 24 is a theatrical event unlike any other, where the audience is right on top of the action as each of the 10-minute scripts play out around them in locations throughout the castle.

This is THE must see GTA event of the year. Trust me. You do NOT want to miss it.

6th Time’s The Charm (All Six Times Are the Charm!)

There is a theme to this particular Trafalgar 24 and my involvement in it. It takes place MARCH 6th, there are 6 playwrights and this will be my 6th kick at the Trafalgar24 can! 666 –  I can’t even put into words how honoured I am to be chosen as playwright this many times. I live for this event. Let’s see if I can recall all the rooms I have written in thus far…

  • 2009 – The creepy cold dark hallway in the castle basement where the screeching pipes and spiders kept me company. I wrote a comedy about 2 bumbling women lost in the castle and out of their minds with fear and worry. It bordered on slapstick. I had fun. The play was titled PANIC IN THE BASEMENT
  • 2010 – There are two rooms in the front hallway of the main floor with pianos in them. One has two pianos and one has one piano. The lovely and infallible Lucy Brennan was in the room with one piano. She had ONE actor and wrote a stunning soliloquy based on the true history of Trafalgar Castle that the actor pulled off flawlessly. I was in the room down the hall with two pianos. For the life of me, I cannot remember which of these rooms is called the Piano Room, but I think it was mine? I remember there being some confusion at the time too. I wrote a comedy about an overbearing insane maniacal megalomaniac. The play was titled MAID OF HONOUR
  • 2011 – I got a room with an actual stage this time around. What fun I had with this one! It was in the Assembly Hall/Cafeteria…the main room where the wine and cheese and auction and announcements for Trafalgar24 takes place. I wrote a comedy about a woman terrified of public speaking and the man who tries to coach her at becoming a better speaker. The play was titled THE SPEECH
  • 2012 – The Lab! I got people to come up to the lab, to see what was on the slab…as it were. The play was in the hallway leading to the in-house cathedral in the castle. Don’t look at me like that! Every castle needs a cathedral, buddy. The laboratory is a science room for the all-girls school, when it’s in session. Despite the myriad of props in the room, I went with character driven plot. I wrote a comedy about a woman on the precipice of new age wisdom and insanity, and her pessimistic Doubting-Thomas friend. The play was titled ACRONYMS FOR HAPPINESS
  • 2014 – I returned to the castle in March of 2014 to attempt my first dramatic play. And I had the LIBRARY! I always wanted the library. (-: I had Christopher Kelk, too. A legend. An exquisite actor, I feared pulling his name as much as I envied the playwrights who had. I couldn’t imagine being tasked with putting words into Christopher Kelk’s mouth. I felt like I had made it to the show! Not to mention the amazing and equally intimidating Adriano Sobretodo Jr., who was to play alongside Kelk. I knew I had to try my hand at drama. I wrote a play about dementia, and how if effects its sufferers and those who love them. The play was titled THE HISTORY OF US.
The grand entrance hall leading to the staircase to the 2nd story of the castle...
The grand entrance hall leading to the staircase to the 2nd story of the castle…

There you have it. The history of my time at the castle thus far. I have no idea what will happen this year. Zero. Nada. Zip. I go in on a hope and a prayer. Once the 6 playwrights report to Driftwood Theatre’s Artistic Director, D. Jeremy Smith, we will be given the room in which our plays are to be written and performed, as well as head-shots of our assigned actors. That’s it. Then the locking up will ensue. We will be sent to our rooms and we will each have 8 hours to write and polish our respective plays. Anything can happen! In a castle that is as haunted as it is creepy and beautiful…usually anything does happen. But we don’t speak of the things that occur on the Thursday nights in Trafalgar Castle. That’s playwright confidentiality. Just picture us as the elves to the actor/director combos who will enter the castle on the Friday morning as the shoemakers. They will take our words and make them into life.

Standing guard in the main foyer of Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario...
Standing guard in the main foyer of Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario…

That’s where you come in. But you must act fast! This event, naturally, sells out every year. It’s magic to witness. And a shame to miss. So pick up your tickets today! ONLINE TICKET PURCHASING – GO TO TRAFALGAR SITE LINKED HERE AND CLICK ON THE BUY TICKETS BUTTON.

If you are attending the WCDR (Writers Community of Durham Region) February Roundtable Meeting at the Ajax Convention Centre, please know that my fellow Trafalgar 24 playwright RUTH E. WALKER will be there and have tickets available for purchase.

Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is a fundraising event for Driftwood Theatre. Driftwood brings theatre to parks all summer long with their BARD’S BUS tour…an Ontario staple. From Driftwood’s site:

As Driftwood Theatre’s signature gala event of the season, TRAFALGAR 24 raises over $20,000 annually in support of bringing the magic of accessible, live theatre home to audiences across Ontario.

March 6, 2015 | Trafalgar Castle | 401 Richmond Street, Whitby, Ontario.

10 Minute Plays, Bard's Bus, Driftwood Theatre, InspiraTO, InspiraTO Festival, Play, Play Festivals, Playwright, Playwriting, Playwriting Festivals, Stage, The Summing Up, Theatre, W Somerset Maugham, Writers, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Dialogue, Writing Tips

How to Write a 10-Minute Play

So, I’ve been writing the ten minute play for a number of years now. I’d like to think I’ve been doing it with a bit of success, too. Though one could never be sure. I can attest to the fact that the audiences seemed to like my work. Being in an audience when they’re laughing during the unraveling of a comedic play you wrote is extremely rewarding. I consider myself blessed to have experienced that. But I’m rather hard on myself, as a writer…so I tend to allow the actors and the directors to take the blame for the laughter. (-: After all, the script is merely the scaffolding. Right?

So, now that I have had seven 10-minute plays produced…I feel I may be able to offer some advice for others considering the 10-minute play market. It is a favourite of mine. A good 10-minute play can contain the world within its rigidly timed existence. You just have to work like hell to contain it.

1. I learned the hard way that there is a world of difference between a sketch and a play. If your characters are not transforming and going through some kind of self-revelation, you could very well have written a sketch. A play is a complete story, whether that play is 10-minutes long or two hours long. You need an arc. A conversation where nothing really happens and no wisdom is gained and no change takes place is simply a conversation. A lot of first time 10-minute playwrights make the mistake of creating a sketch when they attempt a play, myself included. Last year, during the InspiraTO Festival in Toronto…there was a last-minute call for a play in one of the festival’s satellite locations. As I already had a play in the festival, to take place on the Alumnae Theatre stage, I received the call automatically. I jumped on the opportunity. By the end of the day of the call, I sent in what I mistakenly thought of as a play. Fortunately, it seemed to have some good bones. The Artistic Director, Dominik Loncar, worked with me to flesh out my idea and bring the sketch into the realm of play. I think working with Dominik to create this play was one of the most educational experiences I had in the playwriting process. So, always make sure your play is a full story which culminates in a character change.

2. This one is so easy, it seems self-explanatory. But I have often struggled with it myself. So, I know it needs to be said. For those of you who follow guidelines to a tee, this rule should not be a surprise to you at all. For those of you who think it’s perfectly natural to send a 7,000 word story into a magazine whose submission guidelines clearly state ‘stories should be no more than 3,000 words’, please take heed. There are guidelines for a reason. Ignoring them is the first opportunity the publisher/producer/what-have-you has of culling the pack and rejecting you. Don’t make it easy for people to reject you. ALWAYS read and follow the guidelines. I know from personal experience that well over 50% of submissions are sent in by people who prefer to think of themselves as above submission guideline parameters. As a past acquisitions editor, my job was made quite easy by those who ignored guidelines. I’ve gone on long enough. I tend to get ranty when I discuss writers’ inabilities to follow guidelines. #2 of my advice is that you ensure your play is 10-minutes in running time. NOT ELEVEN. NOT TEN AND A HALF. TEN. End of story. I ‘perform’ my plays over and over again to ensure they meet this criteria.

3. Stage Direction. Use it wisely. Actors are brilliant. While developing their character, they soon learn everything about who that character is. From that place, they can see how that character moves. You don’t want to fill your play with minor business (BUSINESS is the term for what is happening within the play that is not dialogue). If there are necessary directions you feel would move your play forward, by all means include them. But please trust implicitly in the actors and director. They’ll know how to include the right business. I’m sure it infuriates these people no end to be told through stage direction each and every step and movement they are to perform.

4. Give your character a WANT/DESIRE. And then put obstacles in her way. This will create tension. Tension is good. Tension is necessary. Your character needs to propel–be propelled–into the heart of the play. Nothing moves a character more than a shiny carrot dangling just outside of their reach.

5. I think there’s a fine line between KEEP IT SIMPLE and GIVE IT PIZZAZZ. Keeping it simple is required. You only have ten minutes to tell a full story, to bring a character from one place in their life to another. This is not a movie. You can’t have extraordinary props. Your goal is to get to the audience’s raw nerve–be it through comedy, drama, fear, what-have-you. Leave the glitz of the movie world on the silver screen. But this is not to say you can’t give your play pizzazz. You want to make it theatrical, larger than life. You can do this without explosions and special effects. You need to find a perfect balance between simple and exciting. Think of simple as budget-related. Often, you’re working with bare-minimum stage props. Think of exciting as character-related. Give your characters great dialogue and a great compelling story the audience won’t be able to tear themselves away from. Make the walk to the climax a dazzling crescendo.

Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.
Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.

The best advice I could give someone who aspires to get into the 10-minute play business? Surround yourself with people in the know. Approach theatre groups. Take in 10-minute festivals in your area. Nothing teaches one more about writing than reading. Nothing teaches one more about 10-minute playwriting, than watching 10-minute plays. Don’t be afraid to write a play and submit it. There are 10-minute festivals all over the world, now. You don’t have to have the title of playwright to write a play. That comes after. Just dive in!

Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.
Scene from Perfect Timing, one of my 2013 InspiraTO Festival plays.

(I’ve had some great opportunities from people willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity. 10-Minute festivals are a great way to get your foot in the door of live theatre. Without people like Jeremy Smith of Driftwood Theatre and Dominik Loncar of InspiraTO Festival, I’d still be dreaming about being a playwright…instead of being a playwright. Go forth and find your way in.)

Scene from Perfect Timing, my 2013 InspiraTO Festival play.
Scene from Perfect Timing, my 2013 InspiraTO Festival play.

Suggested Reading: The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham

Photos are from PERFECT TIMING, one of my 2 InspiraTO Festival plays. Those involved in bringing it to life include:

Dramaturge / MC Thompson
Director / Kim Sprenger
Cast / Liam Doherty (Carl)
Cast / Jennifer Gillespie (Melissa)

 

You can check out my novels at my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE They are: Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, and, Half Dead & Fully Broken. The horror anthology Purgatorium, which includes a short story by me, is also listed there.

Life, On Writing, Play, Play Festivals, Toronto

The The – Perfect (Or How To Scare Yourself Into Fulfilling Your Dreams)

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you wake up with The The lyrics playing in your head. The following lines float in my mindscape quite often, a little threat to suggest what could happen if I don’t take risks and chances at every opportunity that comes my way:

Passing by a cemetery,
I think of all the little hopes and dreams,
That lie lifeless and unfulfilled beneath the soil.
I see an old man fingering his perishing flesh.
He tells himself he was a good man and did good things.
Amused and confused by life’s little ironies,
He swallows his bottle of distilled damnation.

Yep. There it is. All the threat you need to never say NO again!

I often use those lines as a means to motivate myself into doing something I’m more than a little terrified to do. Say, public speaking. Do I really want to be a bag of bones lying lifeless and unfulfilled beneath the soil? NO. I want it to be said that I took risks, that I pushed beyond my own imaginary limits. I don’t want to live in my comfort zone anymore!

It’s harder than one would imagine. Trust me. But the rewards far outweigh the terrifying fear I sometimes find myself in. And…it does get easier. Those things you think you could never do. Do them. Do them once. Do them twice. Do them whenever the opportunity arises. You’ll find that the sixth time is just a little bit easier than the fifth.

One day, I hope to master this public speaking thing. I’ve been having a lot of opportunities lately to speak. Last month I did a writing workshop on Pantsing and Plotting. I was constantly waiting for the wall of nervous jitters to hit. The thing is…it didn’t. I was comfortable. Admittedly, some of the things I wanted to discuss in the workshop left my brain. I stumbled and stuttered a bit with the odd brain fart. But…here’s the thing…I did NOT pass out. I remember the first time I read in front of the writing community I am a part of. I had to sit down with my back to the audience. How insane is that. If I didn’t sit, I would have fell…my legs were made of that much jelly.

So, whenever fear strikes I just sing The The lyrics to myself. I have those lines chase me into submission. I will not cower away from opportunities I know I will enjoy. I will not cower away from opportunities I know I will enjoy. This conquering of my own will has brought me to a lot of cool places in recent years. I laugh when I think of the way I begged a play festival producer to give me a chance to be a playwright in his festival. ME! A playwright. That would never happen! And five years later I now have two plays in an upcoming festival in Toronto. These will be plays number 6 & 7. And did I ever imagine that I would be in a recording studio at the CBC building, actually recording something I wrote for the radio? Not in my life! But after getting over the initial horror, I think that experience went okay as well. Thankfully, I had a fellow writer friend with me!

What’s this all about? Taking chances. LIFE OPENS UP WHEN YOU OPEN UP TO LIFE. Just keep on singing those terrifying lines I quoted up there.    ^  Nobody wants to get to the end of their life and think, “I wish I would have done all those things I was too afraid to do!” Take chances. Push yourself well beyond your limits. You may just enjoy doing those things you’re a little nervous to try. (Disclaimer–if this prompts you to go jumping out of an airplane and your parachute doesn’t open, please don’t pin it on me.)

Go forth. LIVE!