Bed & Breakfast in the Distillery District – Mark Crawford’s Play Comes to Soulpepper Theatre (A Review)

The story of small-town gays leaving home for the brighter lights and safer havens of the big city streets is a well known one. Gays have been escaping the tyranny of close-minded homophobic home towns for so long, it’s a well worn trope. Growing up in the 80s, Bronski Beat‘s Small Town Boy became an anthem for thousands upon thousands of young gays stuck in horrible nightmare existences, fending off bullies at school and homophobic parents at home. The battle was never-ending. The song informed some of a way out, as it reminded others of the way they escaped.

Mark Crawford’s play, BED & BREAKFAST, turns this escape from small-town oppression ass over teakettle. He brings the gays back into town. Brett and Drew are a gay couple who inherit a family home when Brett’s beloved Aunt Maggie passes on. While they struggle with the chaos of their careers in the big city of Toronto, they slowly imagine themselves chucking it all in and retreating to the quieter existence and the more down to earth affordability of the small town in which their newly acquired home is located. Against the better judgement of their ridiculously flamboyant real estate agent friend, they eventually succumb to the notion and leave the city lights behind.

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Bed & Breakfast, now playing at SOULPEPPER THEATRE in the Distillery District (August 11th – September 2nd, 2018)

I want to say hilarity ensues. In fact, if I did I would be hitting the nail on the head. Because HILARITY ENSUES. I actually can’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a play. If Bed & Breakfast were a kid on the playground at recess, it would probably share its snack with NOISES OFF. It’s that kind of high-jinx funny. It’s so intelligent and witty and fast-paced. The same kind of high-camp that brought tears to my eyes while watching the bedlam and madness of NOISES OFF. Bed & Breakfast is gorgeously hilarious. I had a hard time choosing which of the two actors I adored more. They each play a bevy of different characters and the way they transform from one character to another is often as funny as the characters themselves. Both Paolo Santalucia and Gregory Prest were flawless. Just spectacular. If you go, keep your eye out for those first appearances of Santalucia’s earrings and Prest’s hoodie going up. Absolutely delightful.

I think the greatest achievement the two actors pull off is the absoluteness of the character transformations. At times the switches from character to character are so instantaneous and frequent, there’s the equivalent of a crowd on stage…and it is only the two of them, each juggling characters with such accurate perfection the audience never loses track of who’s appearing. How they kept the balls in the air, I’ll never know.

Now for the reason I hesitated in saying hilarity ensues. This play was extremely hard-hitting. As much as I laughed, I also cried. That’s because Mark Crawford nailed small town bigotry in a few brief instances that really took my breath away. This playwright has a powerful way of drawing in the audience with laughter, making them feel comfortable about what it is they are there for…a few great laughs. When he pulls the rug out from under you with the hard-hitting truth that not everything in the gay world is kikis and Cher and rainbows and glitter, you’re unprepared…but you also somehow know it was coming. It’s built into the premise of the play. Problems were bound to arise. The gays dared to return to the small town they escaped.

If BED & BREAKFAST is not yet on your radar, it should be. It’s a heart-wrenching, heart-warming story told with great comedic timing and soul. The depiction of what it’s like to be gay and facing homophobia and bigotry, as well as its opposite when the stakes are raised and support and love flood in, is so spot on it will break your heart if you’ve experienced it yourself in the past. If you haven’t, you’ll see it played out accurately on the Soulpepper stage. Without giving away too much, there’s a scene with a man in his 80s–a neighbour to the gay couple who opened their bed and breakfast–that will tear at your heartstrings. It’s the rub, perhaps of the story itself. When the ugliness of the world shows itself, there’s only one way to tamp it down. LOVE.

GO. SEE. BED & BREAKFAST. As they say, “you will laugh, you will cry.” It will definitely move you.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BED & BREAKFAST PAGE ON THE SOULPEPPER THEATRE WEBSITE.

DIRECT LINK TO TICKETS

BED & BREAKFAST by MARK CRAWFORD

Running at SOULPEPPER THEATRE

in TORONTO’s DISTILLERY DISTRICT

from AUGUST 11TH TO SEPTEMBER 2ND!

Bed & Breakfast Now Playing at Soulpepper Theatre!

Canadian playwright Mark Crawford‘s play BED & BREAKFAST is currently on at Soulpepper Theatre in the Distillery District of Toronto. I’ve been waiting for this one! I can’t wait to see it tonight!

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Here’s the synopsis from the Soulpepper website:

CANADA 2015

When Brett inherits the family home, he and Drew move out of fast-paced Toronto to set up a B&B in a picturesque tourist town. But will these big city boys face friction in their new community? With dozens of hilarious characters, all portrayed by two actors, Bed and Breakfast is a heartwarming comedy about “being out” in small town Ontario, family skeletons in the closet, and finding a place to call home.

Bed & Breakfast is an LGBTQ story set in Ontario. Fantastic to see LGBTQ representation on stage in our city. This was enough to draw me in. It promises to be a hilarious show, too. What sounds most intriguing is that the cast is made up of only 2 actors (Gregory Prest & Paolo Santalucia). “Dozens of hilarious characters, all portrayed by two actor.” Yep! I’m here for that! Especially when it’s Soulpepper putting on the production. Everything I’ve seen from them thus far has been flawless.

You can catch BED & BREAKFAST from now until September 2nd, but don’t wait…I’m guessing tickets will go quickly. And it’s in an incredible Toronto neighbourhood, too! There’s some great restaurants in the Distillery District. We’ll be heading to El Catrin, a Mexican restaurant, ahead of the show for a certain someone’s BIRTHDAY celebration dinner!

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Distillery District in Toronto, a gorgeous neighbourhood…and the home of Soulpepper Theatre!

There’s a bit of a warning on this one>>> “Note: This production contains strong/mature language.”

If I were able, I’d definitely check out the their new interactive feature MATINEE MORNINGS. Matinee Mornings offer an engaging and interactive 90 minute workshop prior to the August 22 matinee performance.” If your Wednesday mornings are free, you can check out the details for this performance HERE.

YOU CAN GO DIRECTLY TO THE BUY TICKETS PAGE FOR BED & BREAKFAST BY CLICKING HERE.

As always, Soulpepper Theatre has an interactive hashtag for you to become a part of the conversation around BED & BREAKFAST.

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Soulpepper Theatre is located right inside the Distillery District in the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION USING #spBedBreakfast

I’m really looking forward to tonight’s performance! Can’t wait to see what they do with this play!

 

Orlando at Soulpepper Theatre with a Book Club Tie-In!

After taking in the amazing production of La Bete at Soulpepper Theatre this past spring, I’ve been keeping my eye on their schedule for new shows. Turns out, they found a way to mash two of my favourite things–Theatre and Books. When I saw that they’re putting on a production of Virginia Woolf’s ORLANDO, I was excited. Then I discovered they’re also running a book club for those who want to read the book ahead of the show. How awesome is that!

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Readers can participate in online book club discussion as they read ORLANDO pre-show. AND on certain performance nights there will be post-show talkback with other book-lovers.

We’ll be taking in one of these shows ourselves. I’m re-reading the book right now to familiarize myself with it. There’s still LOTS of time to do so, if you pick it up right now.

As you read, you can use the #Soulpepperbookclub hashtag to discuss the book with other readers. And it’s quite the book. If you’re not familiar with Orlando, it’s about a poet who lives for centuries and changes sex from man to woman and meets key figures of English literary history along the way. It’s considered a feminist classic, and is often the topic of gender and transgender studies. Pick it up today and read it ahead of the production!

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If you’re a book geek slash theatre geek like we are, this will be right up your alley. After you click on the BUY TICKETS button, don’t forget to use the code BOOKCLUB for entry to the show and post-show discussion group. HERE’S THE LINK:

OH! Also, the book is super cheap at Amazon. Less than $2. I had to buy a Kindle copy, since I long ago lost contact with my paperback. I grabbed THIS VERSION HERE FOR $0.99 for my Kindle. If you DO read along, come to twitter to chat about it using the #soulpepperbookclub tag. I believe the play itself has a hashtag too… #spOrlando

See you there! Psssssst…we’ll be at Friday’s performance if you’d care to join us. Now I have to go do some reading…

LA BÊTE Coming to SOULPEPPER!

I can’t believe we haven’t gone to the theatre yet in 2018! Time to rectify this. Next Wednesday (May 16th, 2018) is opening night for La Bête at Soulpepper Theatre! In case you’re wondering, it runs through to June 22nd…lots of time to arrange tickets and get there. Us? We’ll be there on opening night!

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La Bête – Soulpepper (from Soulpepper website)

I absolutely LOVE a good comedy. And as a playwright, I know they are one of the hardest things to write. The thing about La Bête, which is an award-winning Broadway play, is that it’s written in RHYMED COUPLETS OF IAMBIC PENTAMETER!

Why the ALL-CAPS, you may ask. Because my FAVOURITE PLAYWRIGHT OF ALL-TIME also wrote in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. Co-incidence?, you may be asking. No. Well, not exactly. It’s actually because La Bête is an homage to–or at least inspired by–Molière. He wrote my favourite play, Tartuffe (I wrote a post last year on this blog about seeing Tartuffe for the first time on stage—after loving it for decades on paper). The thing is Tartuffe was first performed in 1664. For the La Bête playwright, David Hirson, to have tackled rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter in 1991?! It blows me away. For the play to hit Broadway and be so well received? Magical!

And NOW we get it here in TORONTO! Courtesy of and thanks to SOULPEPPER.

The SOULPEPPER synopsis of the play:

La Bête is a modern comedy of classical insanity. When the Royal Patron grows weary of their theatre troupe, actors Elomire and Valere fight for survival, as art squares off with ego in a riotous theatrical showdown for the ages.

My own thoughts on the play:

This play was originally set in the France of 1654, which takes us back to 10 years prior to the opening of Molière‘s Tartuffe (see above–because I’m a theatre nerd and I notice these things). I really hope SOULPEPPER goes large with how revolted Elomire is with Valere. Elomire sees himself above Valere, who is a mere street performer. He also sees Valere as an idiot, unworthy of their theatre company. Valere is also large and in love with himself, but a total dolt. He misses the insults. The royal patron foists the two together and they are thrown into a sort of love it or list it situation–save the theatre or lose it. They just have to figure out how to get along long enough to pull off saving the theatre troupe.

I can’t wait!

VISIT THE SOULPEPPER WEBSITE TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY HAVE IN STORE FOR TORONTO THIS SPRING/SUMMER

VISIT THE LA BÊTE PAGE OF THEIR SITE FOR INFORMATION ON THE PLAY AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS!

LOCATION AND BOX OFFICE INFORMATION FOR SOULPEPPER

LA BÊTE

SOULPEPPER

Young Centre for the Performing Arts
50 Tank House Lane
Distillery Historic District
Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

RUNS: Wednesday May 16th – Friday June 22nd 2018

See you there!

A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood Theatre

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS ONE I WROTE FOR THE WCDR WORDWEAVER NEWSLETTER, FOR THEIR MAY/JUNE 2009 ISSUE. It describes my very first foray into play-writing. It’s a little aged today, as I have now had 10 short plays produced…6 of them for Trafalgar24. I just wanted to give a little flavour into the experience from a playwright’s POV. It’s an amazing experience.
Following the article, I have posted some info on this year’s (2017) Trafalgar24 event. GET TICKETS! I promise you, it will be an experience you’ll never forget. One of the best nights out of the year, for sure.
Here’s the article:
A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood Theatre
 
 
 
It’s Friday the 13th and we are in a dark basement corridor of a haunted 19th century castle. Out of the eerie silence come the first ear-shattering shrieks.
 
 
          “Margo! Margo!” A girl runs towards us. She is lost, panicked and terrified.
 
 
          So begins the unfolding of one of my lifelong dreams. The girl’s shouts are words I penned twenty-four hours earlier when I was locked into that basement and forced to write a 10-minute play.
 
 
          Forced is an exaggeration. The fulfillment of my dream actually began a month earlier when I wrote a hesitant e-mail to Ruth Walker. I had received a WCDR e-mail calling for playwrights for Driftwood Theatre’s 6th annual Trafalgar24 event and I ruminated over whether or not I should apply. Actually, I painfully agonized. I asked Ruth if I was completely crazy to even consider contacting Jeremy Smith, Driftwood’s artistic director.
 
 
          When I received Ruth’s encouragement (instead of the expected laughter), I sent Jeremy an e-mail. I began with the truth: I am not now, nor have I ever been a playwright. I followed my confession with much pleading and begging. You see, I had always imagined myself as a playwright. Imagination is a wasted gift when not forced into action.
 
 
          Much to my surprise—and horror—I received the following reply from Jeremy: I am delighted to inform you that if you still have an interest in staying up all night in a haunted castle between Thursday, March 12, and Friday, March 13, we would love to have you.
 
 
          Fast forward a month and here I am in the dark basement corridor, in the back row of a standing-room-only, sardine-packed audience. The young woman is lunging toward us, shrieking out her lost friend’s name. I’d like to say I wrote a dramatic play that would move my audience to tears—I went in there with visions of Blanche Dubois meets Phantom of the Opera—but that would be a lie.
 
 
          When we arrived at the castle twenty-four hours earlier, we playwrights were each given a sheet of paper. Mine included three things: headshots of my actors, the room I was assigned to and the play’s theme—Friday the 13th in a haunted castle. I took one look at my actresses and I knew what to write. I sat on the floor of the basement corridor and attempted to bring my newly acquired vision to life.
 
 
          Within an hour and a half, I victoriously announced: Done. Comedy. Now I can relax about deadline & edit.
 
 
          Throughout the hours of edits that followed, I was comforted by one fact: Lucy Brennan was upstairs. I interrupted her and commiserated with her a few times throughout the night. We even went on a Tim Hortons’ run with some of the other playwrights. She was my unwitting rock. She had no idea how much comfort I took in knowing she was a mere staircase away.
 
 
          Come morning, the playwrights were allowed to go home. As we drove to our beds, the actors and directors swarmed the castle. They only had a few hours to read and rehearse the ten plays we had left behind. It was all very The Elves and the Shoemakers if you ask me.
 
 
          Opening night! The Trafalgar24 play-creation festival is a fundraising event for Driftwood Theatre. What’s special about Driftwood is that they bring professional theatre to Ontario communities for pay-what-you-can admission. Trafalgar24 helps to make this possible. The event had a wonderful silent auction and a dessert table to rival every dessert table ever assembled on this or any other planet. It also had a dizzying array of talented actors and actresses who poured their hearts into roles that did not even exist less than 24 hours earlier.
 
 
          I was now an audience member. Each person in attendance viewed six of the 10 plays. I saw some incredibly heart-wrenching performances. I travelled from the library to the cathedral to the piano room and beyond—Lucy Brennan’s was my favourite! I was mesmerized by the beauty of the night—flawlessly orchestrated by all—including the stage director, WCDR’s own Nancy Melcher.
 
 
          I made my way to the basement. In the hushed moments prior to my character’s screams, I noticed the evening’s emcee standing to my left. Neil Crone, the man who has given me years of poignant laughter, was about to watch my words brought to life. I was suddenly more terrified than I had been when faced with the impossible demand of writing a play in eight hours. But I had forced my imagination into action. I was now a playwright.
 
 
          ‘Lucy‘ made her way onto the set and was startled, poked and prodded by the wickedly playful ‘Margo.’ Neil Crone laughed! I will beg Mr. Smith to allow me to be a part of the next Trafalgar24. If he doesn’t grant me the incredible honour of being playwright, I will be there in the audience watching another year of magic unfold. Only a fool would miss it!
 
END OF ARTICLE
Want to learn more about the 2017 Driftwood Theatre Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival? FOLLOW THIS LINK TO READ ABOUT THIS YEAR’S PLAYWRIGHTS, JUST ANNOUNCED!
 
 
HERE’S A LINK TO THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE WEBSITE. Don’t miss Trafalgar 24 2017. You’ll love it!

I am Tartuffe – It’s 1664 and the Curtain Rises. Or, the Evolution of a Writer.

I am Green Eggs and Ham. I am Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I am Little Women. I am The Great Gatsby. I am Tartuffe.

I don’t know if all writers are the same or not. But for me, there were always signposts along the way. I know precisely the signposts that gave me direction to the writer I have become.

  1. Green Eggs and Ham
  2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  3. Little Women
  4. The Great Gatsby
  5. Tartuffe

These are the stepping stones I climbed to get here. These are the cornerstones that support the burden of my creative existence.

I vividly recall the electricity I felt when, at first, Green Eggs was read to me by my father. I wanted to be this. Whatever this was. I could not yet voice the thing, but I knew. With all my heart, I knew.

I remember first opening Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His grandparents all in the bed. The family’s squalor and despair. Charlie’s compassion and passion for the world. I wanted to capture that. But I couldn’t yet put into words how I would go about doing that. I just knew that it had something to do with creation.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. I was granted a window into their lives. That window allowed for heartache, sorrow, joy, wonder. That I could feel all these emotions simply by reading words on a page. It was alchemy. I wanted to be that kind of a magician. I wanted to control the emotions of others with words.

East Egg. West Egg. Glamour. Lights. One little light, shining beacon-like across the water. Nick Carraway, the gentle observer of decadence. Removed, enticed, sickened. Gatsby became the template from which I have judged all novels since. None stand strong against it, though a great many have come close. You remember your first. That first moment when you know you have met with perfection. Even flawed perfection is made perfect by your own adulation of the thing. No matter the flaws that have been or will be pointed out to me in The Great Gatsby, it will always be that book. I will forever aspire to write THAT book.

With the exploration of words in full throttle, came the search for the perfect play. I had already read A Streetcar Named Desire. I was pretty sure I would not find another. It was my play. Then, somewhere between ninth and tenth grade, maybe. My memory fades. I stumbled upon a book called Tartuffe & Other Plays. Molière. First performed in the Palace of Versailles in 1664. Scorned by the Catholic Church. French. Paris (my lifelong love of the city drew me to anything in its periphery). I quickly discovered that pretty much ANY and ALL creative works frowned upon by the laughably reprehensible Catholic Church ended up being something I admired and liked. The swirling controversy surrounding Tartuffe made it REQUIRED reading for me. I read more about the play before reading the play than I ever read about anything prior to reading the thing for myself. The controversy surrounding Tartuffe when it first came out, culminated in the Archbishop of Paris announcing an edict warning anyone who watched it, read it, or performed in it total excommunication from the church. That’s serious shit. Then I read the play. And I laughed. And I laughed. And I laughed.

These are the books and creative works that formed me as a writer. My signposts, my evolution, my muses of creativity. I mention them today because of a little incident that happened on the way home from work yesterday. Or, perhaps not even an incident…but a happenstance. As I drove by the Scarborough Music Theatre (and I think Community Centre—I never really paid attention to what the building was) at Markham and Kingston Roads, I noticed a sign that has been there forever. On it was flashing the word Tartuffe. It rose above the din and caught my eye as it was meant to do. I got instantly and ridiculously excited. In all the years of re-reading the play, I had never actually seen it performed. It had never once come to life for me outside the page. Long story, short (too late)…I secured tickets for opening night. 353 years after its original opening night, I am attending a performance of TARTUFFE! Writers are such geeks, aren’t we?

From the theatre website:

tartuffe
CLICK ON THIS IMAGE TO BE REDIRECTED TO THE THEATRE’S PAGE FOR TICKETS AND INFO.

The description of the play, from the Scarborough Theatre Guild’s Website:

It is 1699 in Paris and Tartuffe, claiming to be a religious man, is living as a guest in the home of Orgon. His true goal is to acquire his host’s fortune and to seduce his wife. Most of Orgon’s family can see through Tartuffe’s pretense at holiness. Orgon, however, is completely fooled and offers his so-called “friend” all his property and marriage to his only daughter. It is up to Orgon’s faithful wife, Elmire, to expose the evil of their hypocritical house guest.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.

March 10*, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23 and 24 at 8:00pm

March 12, 19 and 25 at 2:00pm.

*A wine and cheese reception will follow the opening night performance on March 10th.

Regular tickets: $22

For detailed ticket information, please see the Box Office page

I wonder if all writers have their building blocks to how they got there…to writer. Do they remember each stepping stone? Do they honour those stones? Do they revisit them? Do they aspire to them?

I’m going to TARTUFFE! If you’re in the area, it’s not too late to get tickets (see above). I promise, you will laugh at this farce. Yesterday was a good day. I see a lot of names in lights, but seeing Tartuffe rise up out of the din of my advertising-thick commute was a godsend I’ll not soon forget. It’s silly, but to see a production of Tartuffe has been an almost life-long dream. As Julia Roberts (as VIVIAN) said to Richard Gere (as EDWARD) in Pretty Woman BEFORE their evening out, I will NOW say to the performers at SCARBOROUGH THEATRE GUILD.

“In case I forget to tell you later, I had a really good time tonight.”

Panic is Behind Me – It’s Out of My Hands!

There is nothing I can do now. I have performed my duties as Elf Playwright. Whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera.

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Just one of the many rooms in Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Tour the castle while you watch plays take place inside 6 of its many rooms!

Right at this very moment there are 12 actors and 6 directors inside Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario. Along with Driftwood Theatre founder and Artistic Director Jeremy Smith. They are reading 6 freshly inked plays. They might be laughing, they might be crying, they might be pulling out their hair, they might be looking for a corner to hide in. I have no concept of what they do for the 8 hours on the day of the Trafalgar 24 event. I write the play and I walk away. It’s their turn in the castle. All I know is that when I go back tonight those 12 actors and 6 directors will have hammered the 6 plays off the page and onto the stage. I still imagine their roles in all of this to be so much more difficult than mine. The real magic happens when the actors take up the words and when the directors take up the action. That’s why it’s so magically incredible to see my own play performed in front of an audience the day after I write it. The actors bring life to the characters and the directors bring life to the characters, the setting, the space. After my very first year at Trafalgar 24, I never again looked at actors and directors the same way. I used to think they had it easy. Now I know they get a rudimentary piece of archaeological hieroglyphs and they see whatever it is they need to see in it and they breathe life into it. They are magicians.

TRAFALGAR 24 TICKETS CAN BE HAD BY CLICKING ON THIS!

Tonight is when the audience converges on the castle. Tonight is when each of the 6 plays is performed 6 times. Tonight is when the wine and cheese and meats and crackers and desserts are spread out before you. Tonight is when the silent auction of awesome things takes place. Tonight is when Driftwood Theatre gets celebrated by the Durham Region arts community. If you live anywhere near Whitby, Ontario…you should click the link above and secure your tickets. Not only do you get your fill of wine and cheese and dessert, but you get to see 6 fresh plays while touring a beautiful 19th century castle. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Doors open at 6:30pm and the performances begin at 7:30pm.

FROM THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE SITE:

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. At TRAFALGAR 24 audience members play a vital role of their own, helping to select one winning play to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre.

March 11, 2016 | 6:30pm Silent Auction Starts | 7:30pm Performances Begin | Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby

NEW for 2016 Trafalgar 24 Royalty VIP Ticket | $100 | Explore TRAFALGAR 24 like never before with a special Trafalgar Royalty VIP ticket. In addition to general admission, your TRAFALGAR 24 experience is enhanced by private pre-show reception with TRAFALGAR 24 playwrights, exclusive Auction Concierge service, and membership to a special VIP audience group guided by a famous Driftwood Theatre artist.

General Admission Ticket | $60

Twitter: #trafalgar24

Hope to see you there!

 

Ideas as Opiates – The Panic Begins! #MNM2016 #Trafalgar24

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” Wait! That’s not what I meant to write. Whenever I start a sentence with ‘Last night…’ I become possessed by Daphne du Maurier in the most peculiar way. I need to complete the sentence that is etched in my memory forever before I can continue on with what I was going to say. How’s that for a digression?!

Last night I went through the harrowing ordeal of registering for the Muskoka Novel Marathon again. It’s a treacherous time…believe me. The marathon takes place once a year (IN JULY) in Huntsville, Ontario. It is a 72hr novel writing marathon. Only 40 writers can attend. There are far more writers interested in attending than there are spaces for them to attend. So you have to be at your keyboard and at the ready come the stroke of 7pm on registration night.

I got in! I secured one of the coveted spots for myself. Then I discovered that all the spots were taken in 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES! That’s when I realized how lucky I was to have mad typing skillz. Gah!

Add to that registration pressure the fact that I will be locked inside a castle in Whitby, Ontario tomorrow, and ‘forced’ to write a 10-minute play overnight, and I’m about ready for cardiac arrest.

BUT. In a good way. I would not be happy if I was not in panic mode during these things. Confidence is the killer of creativity, is it not? Well…maybe not. But it sometimes feels like the anxiety and the fear are the driving force behind the engine that creates. FEAR—I’m getting locked into a castle and I have to write a play in 8 hours. A play that will be produced the following night—performed 6 times in front of a rotating audience of approximately 300 people. No biggie, right? It’s a thing. Confidence would surely threaten the process here, no? I need to go in thinking I can never pull this off…in order to pull it off.

ONE OF MY PAST TRAFALGAR 24 PLAYS

The Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is one thing. I need to go in there blind, without an idea–that’s how the process works. You get a room in the castle, and pictures of your actors. But the timing of the Muskoka Novel Marathon registration is so impeccable. Because today it’s not the play I’ll write tomorrow that I’m most hyperventilating about. Nah…that’s tomorrow’s nightmare. TODAY—I sit here registered and committed to the 72 hour novel writing madness heading my way without the first clue as to what I am going to write. Today is the day I need to begin the idea process that will have me jumping off the cliff into a brave new fictional world come July at the onset of the marathon’s starting bell.

From this point forward, I will be using ideas as opiates. I will smoke them, inhale them, inject them. I will run through a myriad of scenarios, settings, characters, synopses, and genres. I will try to fit puzzle pieces together without seeing the picture. I will reject ideas, rehash ideas, kick ideas to the curb, and embrace them. It will be a constant whirlwind of ideas. Which one will stick? Who knows. Will I pick the right one? Reject the wrong one? Who knows. It really is hit and miss. I have 72 hours to write an entire novel. It is mandatory that I find an idea appropriate enough to see me through those hours. One that doesn’t fizzle after a few hours. One that builds upon itself one idea after another, one sentence after another, one paragraph after another, one chapter after another…until it sees itself through. I need an idea pregnant with possibility.

Sure…I got my coveted spot at the Marathon. But as extremely difficult as it is to secure that spot–as barbarically stressful as it is–it’s nothing compared to the realization that you’ve made it. THAT YOU NEED TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO WRITE!!

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Ideas as opiates. When my writing life is so rife with STUFF, I realize how extremely blessed I am to have this passion. I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night…thinking of the prospects of NOT making the registration cut. Because I WANT IT. I want these stressful situations that are do or die and depend on WORDS. Harnessing words is a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

 

 

Trafalgar24 by Driftwood Theatre! A Return to Trafalgar Castle!

It’s that time of the year again to start thinking about the most magical event of the year! The Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is approaching. Billed as “24 HOURS. 6 NEW PLAYS. 1 CASTLE.”, Trafalgar 24 is that and so much more! It’s a virtual whirlwind of creativity, dished out in the extravagant setting of a mid 19th century castle in Whitby, Ontario.

A little about the Castle: Nelson Gilbert Reynolds built Trafalgar Castle as a private residence in 1859. After losing his fortune to gambling, Mr. Reynolds was forced to sell the castle. It soon became the Ontario Ladies’ College, and eventually Trafalgar Castle School. To this day, it is a school for girls…complete with dorm rooms to house students from all over the world. Once a year, during spring-break, the castle is handed over to Jeremy Smith and Driftwood Theatre for their fundraising gala, TRAFALGAR 24.

From the Driftwood Theatre Trafalgar24 Webpage:

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. At TRAFALGAR 24 audience members play a vital role of their own, helping to select one winning play to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre.

March 11, 2016 | 6:30pm Silent Auction Starts | 7:30pm Performances Begin | Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby

Now, here’s a breakdown of what happens from yours truly. I have had the extreme pleasure of being a playwright for this event SIX times! And this March (2016) I may or may not once again be having the honour of being locked into the castle overnight to cobble a 10-minute play for production the following evening. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. THURSDAY EVENING 10:00PM – 6 playwrights converge on the Castle. Jeremy (Driftwood Theatre’s Artistic Director) corals the playwrights and gives them their instructions. Write a 10-minute play in 8 hours. He gives them headshots of the actors who will appear in their plays and he tells them which room in the castle their particular play will take place in. Jeremy then leads the playwrights on a tour of the castle, stopping in each of the 6 chosen rooms to show them where the plays will take place. Typically, this is the room in which the playwright will write their play. They are allowed to use anything in the room chosen for them…but they are not allowed to add props that are not already there. That is that. 10pm arrives and the 6 playwrights retreat into their rooms and the playwriting begins. Jeremy goes home…plays are cobbled.
  2. FRIDAY MORNING 6:00am – 6 very tired disheveled playwrights are allowed to leave the castle. After, of course, they hand in their plays. 6 new plays. 6 worried, electrified, tired, sleepless, chaotic, changed playwrights. Never the twain shall meet— the playwrights escape and only then do the directors and actors converge on the castle. They all arrive at 6am. They are given their plays to read-rehearse-tweak-enrich-bring to life. I can’t tell you what happens in the next eight hours. I can only imagine that it is a more chaotic and boisterous eight hours than the eight hours before it! The creation really happens in this eight hours. I will always and forever be in awe of the product that comes from these eight hours. Actors and directors are wondrous creatures who should be revered.
  3. The tireless volunteers and organizers then prepare for the onslaught of the audience. This includes setting up the cheese and hors d’oeuvres tables, setting up the wine tables, and setting up the tremendous silent auction tables. REMEMBER–this is a fundraiser. The silent auction helps Driftwood Theatre’s fundraising efforts. They are, after all, a traveling theatre that gives Ontario Shakespeare in the Park all summer long. They need to fund this incredible Bard’s Bus summer tour. Trafalgar24 is the cornerstone of their fundraising efforts.
  4. THE AUDIENCE ARRIVES! I believe the audience is typically 300 people. These 300 are split into 6 smaller groups that will stay together the entire evening (apart from the breaks for hors d’oeuvres and wine, silent auctioning, speeches, and dessert). The 6 groups will wander throughout the castle, visiting each of the 6 rooms in which the plays will be performed and seeing each one in turn. So each play will be performed SIX times. Between performances, everything mentioned above takes place. Basically, it’s a magical night filled with theatre, wining, excellent food, shopping the auction items, and schmoozing. It’s a must see event that sadly only happens once a year.

So, that’s Trafalgar24.

Please visit the TRAFALGAR24 EVENT PAGE ON DRIFTWOOD THEATRE’S WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE.

If you are a member of the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION, you will have a special discounted price for tickets. If you are a member of the WCDR, you can book your discounted tickets WCDR tickets by calling 416-605-5132 or 844-601-8057.

I would like to thank Driftwood Theatre, and Jeremy Smith, for giving me my many opportunities to be a small part of this amazing event. Trafalgar24 is the crowning event of my writing year. Creating a play in 8 hours that will be witnessed ‘on stage’ by 6 audiences one short night later is an exhilarating, frenetic, terrifying, appalling, energetic, insane, impossible. All those things and more. I don’t think it matters what your role in the event is–playwright, director, actor, organizer, volunteer, audience, etc–if you attend, you will be amazed! YOU WILL NOT WANT TO MISS IT!

See you at the castle!

My Return to the Castle! (Trafalgar24)

Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario
Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

I recently mentioned that I had some super secret news. We’re now allowed to talk about it. (-;

On Thursday March 6th I have the distinct pleasure of being locked inside Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario for the 5th time! FIVE TIMES. FIVE! Count ’em! Five! (-:

With the tagline, 24 ARTISTS. 24 HOURS. 6 NEW PLAYS., you just know it’s the one must-see event of the year in these parts. There is nothing quite as extraordinary as Trafalgar24.

outside the castle

I don’t know how I get so lucky. Sometimes, it’s hard being a writer (shhhh…not really). But at other times, it’s quite the fairytale. Trafalgar is my fairytale.

Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario
Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

I enjoy everything about this play festival. I love the anticipation of waiting to see which room my play will be set in, how many actors I will be given to work with, whether those actors will be male, female or both. I love arriving at the castle at night and knowing I won’t be leaving until daylight. I love knowing that when I do leave the castle the next morning, that I leave behind a complete 10-minute play. For one night a year, I’m the elf…leaving behind a hopefully stunning pair of shoes for the shoemaker to discover.

piano

I love knowing that as I’m driving away from the castle, there are a group of eager (and probably a little scared, anxious and excited) actors and directors arriving to rehearse the plays we playwrights leave behind. I love knowing that within those castle walls, for the entirety of the day, there is creation happening…actors are becoming the characters we leave behind, making them bigger and better and full of life. And directors are envisioning the perfect business to attach to the playwrights’ words. SO MUCH MAGIC!

front entrance inside

And as I arrive back at the castle, a little after nightfall, there is an air of highly electrified excitement. The actors are there, the directors are there, the volunteer soldiers of the Driftwood Theatre Company are there. And the opening ceremonies see the castle fill to the rafters with audience members eager to see what delights are in store for them this year! Delights both culinary and theatrical…as the dessert bar at Trafalgar 24 is renown.

The audience, broken into 6 groups, tours the castle and sees all 6 of the plays in the 6 castle rooms chosen for the event.

Playwrights have no idea going in which room they will get to write their play in. To date, I’ve had the basement, the piano room, the auditorium and the lab. I love getting to my room, taking a walk around and trying to figure out what will happen there. So far, each room has spoken to me. I can’t wait to see where I get put this year!

If you have not yet grabbed your Trafalgar24 ticket, I suggest you do it now. This event sells out yearly:

TRAFALGAR24 TICKETS

DRIFTWOOD THEATRE GROUP’S TRAFALGAR24 WEBPAGE

See you at the castle!

From Driftwood’s Webpage:

Trafalgar 24 is a fundraising event in support of driftwood theatre

Every March, 24 playwrights, directors and actors get locked into a 19th century castle nestled in Whitby, Ontario, for a theatre creation event unlike any other. Using the castle as inspiration, their challenge is to create, rehearse and perform six new plays in only 24 hours.

This extraordinary festival is also Driftwood’s signature fundraising gala. Be among an exclusive audience to witness six new site-specific plays; feast on a fabulous selection of wine, cheese and desserts; find spectacular deals on entertainment, electronics, services, art and more at our silent auction; and help discover Driftwood’s next Beyond The Castle playwright.

March 7, 2014 | Trafalgar Castle | 401 Richmond Street, Whitby.

castle front