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.

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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.

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.

September – ALWAYS a busy month! (Updates)

I don’t remember a September that wasn’t action-packed. Historically, it just seems like one of those months where everything happens at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This September is no exception. Things started to roll today, and it’s looking like yet another exciting September for me.

September 1st – My poem WHEN VENUS TAKES A RIDE was posted on the website of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. It was chosen as the Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Pierre DesRuisseaux. It will be featured for the month of September, and archived on the site for two years. I wrote this poem after my first day on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. I went there this past December with the Summer Literary Seminars, as part of their Kenya writing program. We took a plane to Manda Island from Nairobi and then hopped a dhow over to the island of Lamu. Once there, the group was given a walking tour of Lamu Town. During this tour, one of the poets in the group, Venus Thrash, was given a ride on a donkey (there are no cars on Lamu, but there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of donkeys). The poem is about that experience.

September 11 – Just like the second Saturday of every month (except for August), the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) hosts it’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. If you’re a writer in OR NEAR the Durham Region, these are NOT to be missed. The September Breakfast Meeting speaker is Neil Crone. Personally, I think he’s one of the funniest people in Canada. It’s a DON’T-MISS month! Neil will be talking about writing humour.

September 24-25Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts. It’s a 25-year anniversary celebration of the vibrant artistic community of Uxbridge, Ontario. And when I say vibrant, I mean electrifying. I’m constantly amazed by the artistic community in this small town just west of Port Perry, Ontario. I’ve been drawn there on several occasions for BIG TIME artistic endeavors. This time, I’m partaking in the fun. I’ve been chosen to be the playwright for the 25-year anniversary celebration. On the 24th of September I will be given a prompt and I will have 25 hours not only to write a one-act play, but to send it off to my director, Jessica Outram, have her run through rehearsals with the actors AND have it performed live on stage at the Uxbridge Music Hall at the 25th hour. So I’m giving myself about 5-6 of those 25 hours to actually pen the script…as I think they’ll need the bulk of the hours to rehearse. This is the kind of thing I absolutely love! I was fortunate enough to do this type of playwriting on two other occasions, for Driftwood Theatre, as one of the playwrights for their 2009 and 2010 Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. I can’t wait to find out what I will be writing about! AND…the best part…watching it come to life just a few hours after it’s written. I am constantly amazed by the talent of the directors and actors that I am fortunate enough to work with!

September 26th– I will be MUSKOKA BOUND! It’s the wrap party for the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. This event, held every July, has quickly become one of my favourite writing related activities! You sit in a building with approximately 30 other writers and you write a novel—in either 48 or 72 hours. How amazing is that! It was a great group this year (as it is every year). We had a lot of fun, and it’s hard to believe at the end of the weekend that there was actually time to put together a manuscript between the fun. I wrote a Young Adult novel this year – HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I’ve been editing it since July. The wrap party is on the 26th…all the writers regroup and award trophies for various different things–BIC AWARD for Bum in Chair, Most Prolific Writer, Spirit Award, Rookie of the Year Award and the Remy Award for most money raised. Most money raised, you ask? The marathon is a double-edged sword. It is a huge benefit to those writers brave enough to participate, but it’s also a marathon of hope. Each writer raises funs for the Muskoka Literacy Council…it’s writers helping readers. The marathon raises funds and awareness for the council—it helps them to spread the joy of literacy. Another prize awarded at the wrap party is the BEST NOVEL AWARD—awarded, actually, in different categories—Best Adult Novel, Best Young Adult Novel and Best Children’s Novel. The manuscripts are sent to 6 industry judges immediately following the marathon…and they read and judge them over the summer. The winning novels get sent to participating publishers for consideration. The benefits of this event are just neverending! I have my eye on the hands on favourite for Best YA this year—I’m not going to name names (she will not be mentioned here!), but I had the opportunity to read one of the manuscripts and I found it STELLAR. We will see what the Wrap Party brings us. I consider this wrap party the official end of summer, even though Huntsville is already quite in bloom with turned foilage by the time it rolls around.

Month EndMuseitup Publishing is preparing to launch! My Young Adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE will be published by Muse in July, 2011…but the publisher is launching in October. We’ve been talking excitedly about this launch behind the scenes. September is bound to thrive with chatter between publisher and cover artists and editors and writers. It’s a great family to be a part of! I’m really excited about the launch…and can feel the tsunami of its approach! September is THE month to be a Museitup member!

Not to mention! September is another month of busy planning for the 2011 ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. This is an ongoing labour of love that factors into every month on the calendar. We want to organize the best conference every year. To do this, we must be dedicated to putting in a lot of volunteer hours. It’s worth it, though…so rewarding to see the happy faces of writers on the day of the conference!

And I’m certain there will be more excitement along the way. Like maybe a reading from author friend Karen Cole  somewhere in Uxbridge, maybe! Or maybe some poetry read by friend Barbara Hunt!  (-;

What’s New…

There are a few things going on at the moment. Time for a short list!

1) The Writers’ Circle of Durham Region is a fabulous writing group that I have held a membership in since 2003. They have helped my writing path in far too many ways to mention. I would definitely not have experienced most of my successes without this vibrant group behind me. A truly wonderful ballast for any writer—anywhere! They have changed their name. They will still be known as the WCDR (the acronym remains the same), but they will now be known as the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION. A name change the organization felt was needed to reflect the growth and popularity it has seen in recent years. A circle suggests a small tight-knit group of writers at a table…not what the WCDR is. We are a vibrant community approaching 300 members strong. The group is now known throughout the world…and it has members far far from its umbrella hub of Durham Region, Ontario. Hence, the decision to change its name. Still the great nurturing organization it has always been…just a slight name change to reflect its burgeoning-ness. (-:

(Check out the community at the above link. Any writer looking for a group to join that will help propel their writing need not look any further than the WCDR.)

2) Today I was notified by a representative of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate that one of my poems – When Venus Takes a Ride – will be featured as Poem of the Month on the Library of Parliament website. The poem will be added to their website on September 1st of this year. It’s such an honour to be recognized in this way…and for a poem that means a great deal to me. I wrote it on the day of my arrival to the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. It was such a magical time for me…and to be able to share the poem on such a prestigious site is a thrill!

(check out the website for the Parliamentary Poet Laureate here: PARLIAMENTARY POET LAUREATE)

3) I am crossing my fingers. I am hoping that I am chosen for a play writing gig that I submitted to. If chosen, I will be writing the play in September and it will also be performed in September. I will find out on or before the 21st of June if I made the cut. Fingers crossed! More to come…

4) I did a reading this past Saturday at the WCDR breakfast meeting. Nerves like crazy…I have to get more comfortable with this kind of thing! I read an excerpt from my completed YA manuscript Summer on Fire…which is currently being considered. It felt like the reading went well, but who knows. At any rate, I did not pass out!