I’m on a Panel! At the December WCDR Monthly Network Meeting

I’ve been talking about the WCDR ever since I began blogging. For those who missed it, the WCDR is the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. They are one of the most vibrant writing organizations in Canada, if not the world. I’m biased, I’m sure…but it’s a very active writing community just outside Toronto (East of the city). They’re about 300 members strong and they meet once a month in Whitby, Ontario for an interesting and informative hands-on writing event. Each meeting, there’s a guest author/speaker/agent/publishing professional/etc that leads the group into a morning of writing craft discussion. I’ve been a member since 2003. I am currently serving on the board of directors for the organization, as Membership Coordinator.

On Saturday December 8th we’ll be meeting for our annual special holiday gathering. This is the month where the WCDR puts together a panel of WCDR members who have some knowledge of their own to share with the rest of the writing community. As all families do, we also celebrate the holiday season at this last meeting of the year. I’m honoured to have been asked to sit on the panel this year. I’ll be there answering any writing related questions that might come up from the membership and guests in attendance, alongside RICH HELMS, JACKIE BROWN, and BARBARA HUNT.

It’s not too late to register for this meeting…and you don’t have to be a WCDR member to attend. Come check it out. It’s worth getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning and it’s ALSO worth sneaking across that chasm east of Scarborough into the land of Durham Region. I know…it’s hard to imagine there’s a world EAST OF THE CITY…but there is…and it’s extremely friendly to writers of all levels of achievement. If you’re on the writing path or even just considering jumping into the path, the WCDR is the place for you!

REGISTER FOR THE WCDR HOLIDAY PANEL NETWORK MEETING HERE!

Registration for this meeting is $15 for members online or $17 for non-members. You can even just show up at the door and pay $18. Typically the December meeting is the most populated one…so I suggest registering early!

Learn more about the WCDR HERE

 

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!

Canadian Writers’ Summit! Big Issues in YA Writing…

CWS

The Canadian Writers’ Summit is scheduled to take place this coming June at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, and it is HUGE! This is being billed as a SUPER-CONFERENCE, as it is hosted by a bevy of Canadian writer organizations. Members of all of the writing organizations hosting the event (and there are many), as well as anyone interested in writing, are encouraged to attend.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been added as a last minute replacement to participate in the BIG ISSUES IN YOUNG ADULT WRITING panel discussion on Friday June 17th. This is especially pleasing to me because I dedicate my novel writing life on tackling young adult issues. It’s what I do. I have no idea whether or not I’m good at it, but I am 100% committed and passionate about doing it. Everything I write for the YA market is issue oriented.

From the CWS website, here’s the write-up for the panel discussion:

Jump into the world of young adult literature. The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experiences of the main character, but YA literature spans the spectrum of literary genres and themes. Hear more about the big issues of today in YA from Canada’s YA literary writers.

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I hope to contribute some helpful wisdom to the conversation and look forward to discussing the importance of tackling issues in YA literature. It’s a delicate thing to do in fiction, especially when writing for today’s intelligent teens—injecting issues into story without preaching or talking down…and without making it obvious that the issue is there. One needs a delicate balance to do this—as, in the end, story and entertainment value are paramount. Issues kinda sorta need to be there without being there. So looking forward to this Super-conference…visit the website today. It’s a super packed conference that most definitely has something for everyone!

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CLICK THIS IMAGE TO VISIT THE CWS WEBSITE – Hope to see you there!

To check out my own issue-centric young adult novels, click on the covers to visit their Amazon pages for details and to read the openings through the LOOK INSIDE feature:

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My other titles, Sebastian’s Poet & The Reasons, are definitely ISSUE stories facing children as well…but they have mature themes and are NOT considered Young Adult.

See you at the CANADIAN WRITERS’ SUMMIT at Harbourfront this June!

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!