A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood TheatreIt’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!
Another year goes by, another 10-minute play is written. I really scraped by this year, I think. I thought I was writing a comedy…but I think I totally missed the mark. When it came time to submit it at the end of my 8 hours, I called it a DRAMEDY.
I had a chance to speak with the actors and the director of the play, and they seemed to genuinely love it. They did a FANTASTIC job in the performance I saw. Flawless. During the Trafalgar 24 evening, they performed the play 6 times…to a rotating audience that amounted to approximately 300 people. There was some laughter, but not exactly what I was going for. It’s a chance you take, when you write comedy. I really did lean on the drama side of dramedy this year. I just hope it was okay. I love the event…and I loved having a play in it…my 7th Trafalgar 24 play! And IN THE CHAPEL! The most beautiful room in the castle.
The prompt given to me prior to writing the play was:
The bride and groom have just left for their honeymoon. The groom was late to arrive at the wedding, and, the groom may or may not have struck the priest during the ceremony.
THE TRAIN WRECK (Originally written for the 2016 Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival in Whitby, Ontario)
TITLE: The Train Wreck
SYNOPSIS: After a bad wedding experience, Emily and Jarod are ready to avoid them at all costs. Or are they?
EMILY LANCASTER (Mary Krohnert) FORMAL WEAR
JAROD MAXWELL (James Dallas Smith) CASUAL WEAR
DESCRIPTION: Emily and Jarod are Maid of Honour and Best Man at a train-wreck of a wedding. Could this turn them against weddings forever?
[EMILY and JAROD walk up the aisle together, exhausted. Defeated.]
EMILY: Thank God that’s over!
JAROD [sits on the stairs at the front of the chapel, head in hands]: Oh my god. That was the biggest disaster I’ve ever seen. How did it crash and burn so quickly? [Looks up at Emily] What even happened? I just don’t get it.
EMILY: You tell me, Jarod. Isn’t the best man supposed to be the one making sure everything runs smoothly? Wasn’t it your responsibility to make sure the groom was in line?
JAROD: I will never get married.
EMILY: You’re preaching to the choir, believe me. I hate weddings. But it was still your responsibility.
JAROD: You have no idea how much I tried. I wanted everything to run smoothly. Honestly, I did. Have you even met Arthur?
EMILY: He just married Rachel. My best friend since we were practically fetuses. Or is that feti? What’s the plural for fetus? We were neighbours before we were born. Anyway, of course I’ve met him.
JAROD [stands up and paces in frustration]: Huh? The point is I had no control over what happened. Arthur was a one man wrecking crew. I just could not save it.
EMILY: Well, look on the bright side. They’re married. It’s over. Besides, I suppose all weddings are gonna have some glitches and bumps along the way. Right? Overall, I think it was rather grand.
JAROD: Glitches and bumps? Grand. Really? Which part of that fiasco on legs did you think was grand, if you don’t mind me asking?
EMILY: I’m not loving the sullen defeatist attitude you’re wearing. They both showed up. They walked down the aisle. They’re married.
JAROD: Rachel is your best friend. Since you were plural fetuses. Don’t you feel bad for her? Before he went insane this morning, Arthur was worried sick about screwing it up. He said she dreamt about her wedding her entire life. He had nightmares for weeks about pulling an Arthur on his wedding day. And if she’s not devastated by how it played out, I’ll eat my inappropriate wedding attire.
EMILY: That was one of the questions I had for you, actually.
JAROD: I know. I saw you ogling us throughout the ceremony. I felt the hostility. I’m sure everyone wondered.
JAROD: The tuxedos went over the balcony at the hotel this morning. It was an accident. Don’t ask.
EMILY: Why didn’t you just go downstairs and get them? How difficult would that have been?
JAROD: It would have involved swimming.
EMILY: Really? They fell into the pool?
JAROD: The deep end. I hate weddings.
EMILY: Well, at least you’re wearing pants. Did you see the look on Rachel’s face when Arthur walked in wearing his Bermuda shorts?
JAROD: They were a compromise. It was either Bermuda shorts or actual swim trunks. The loud theme of the Bermuda shorts had to be overlooked. They covered way more leg than the trunks.
EMILY: When you’re getting married and you lose the tuxedo at the eleventh hour, a compromise is dress pants, chinos, slacks. Christ, jeans would have been better. If there’s going to be bare legs at a wedding, they should at least belong to the bride.
JAROD: In his defense, he was packed for Bermuda. It is where they’re going today.
EMILY: I’m sure she’s pleased with him right now. She’s probably killing him in the back of the limo as we speak. I can’t say I’d blame her.
JAROD: Remember that time when you said Arthur and Rachel’s wedding was grand? Why, it seems like it was just five minutes ago.
EMILY: Well, yeah. When you start nitpicking at the flaws and put them under the microscope, I can see where it might be construed as a fiasco. I mean, I’ve been to saner weddings in the past.
JAROD: Saner? [JAROD walks to the podium, clears his throat. Theatrical] Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to celebrate the holy matrimony of Art and Rachel. [makes the motions of punching himself in the side of the head and flailing from the impact] [mimics Arthur’s deep hostile voice] It’s Arthur, asshole! [returns to his own voice] I rest my case.
EMILY: [trying not to laugh] Well, yeah. But did he really hit Father Frank? I mean, you seem to be over-interpreting that situation.
JAROD: Really, Emily? Am I? How does one over interpret a punch to the side of the head?
EMILY: There’s really no need for embellishments or exaggerations. That was hardly a punch.
JAROD: Why are you sticking up for my best friend and throwing your best friend under the bus?
EMILY: I’m not, really. It’s just, Rachel hides behind a constant resting bitch face. I can’t tell when she’s upset, because she always looks upset. Maybe Bermuda shorts and a sucker-punch aren’t really enough to put a damper on such a huge moment in her life. I mean, has she ever looked happy to you?
JAROD: She’s your friend, not mine. I hardly know her. Something tells me these things would be devastating to any girl who always dreamed of the perfect wedding.
EMILY: Maybe she should be happy with what she got. She could do worse than Art.
JAROD: Careful. Don’t call him Art to his face. You saw what happened to the last guy who did that.
EMILY: Are you even going to tell me why you were so late?
JAROD: We were earlier than we thought we’d be.
EMILY: But you were still over an hour late. Father Frank was ready to call it off. Rachel’s grossly overweight Aunt Helen was in her pew fanning herself, hyperventilating and mumbling, “Land sakes!” over and over again like she was about to meet Jesus.
JAROD: After we decided there’d be no way to dry the tuxes on time, I had a hard time getting Arthur out of the pool.
EMILY: So you did try to rescue the tuxes?
JAROD: Well, it was more like Arthur saw an opportunity to go for a swim. You know, I think he might have been still drunk from last night’s bachelor party.
EMILY: That’s what Rachel kept saying. “What if he’s drunk? What if he’s dead? What if he’s changed his mind?” It was fun to be here with her while you were out there swimming.
JAROD: I told you, I tried. And I was never in the pool. You seem to be waffling. Either the wedding was grand or it wasn’t.
EMILY: I’m just asking the questions I know Rachel would want me to ask.
JAROD: Right. Since you were friends ever since you were feti and stuff.
EMILY: Don’t make fun of me. I don’t have to listen to this. [turns and heads down the aisle] I’m not the one responsible for wrecking Rachel’s wedding. That’s your distinct honor.
JAROD: Wait. No. Don’t go. I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated.
EMILY: [stops and turns back to face JAROD] It was kind of funny when Arthur tripped up the aisle. [walks back toward the front and fakes a trip into one of the pews] I thought his mom was going to have a heart attack over that one.
JAROD: His mom is a heart attack. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m surprised she didn’t show up in a grass skirt or a tutu. Your friend doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into. Arthur’s family is messed up.
EMILY: Anna Karenina?
JAROD: Huh? Are we naming Russian Lit novels? I see your Anna and raise you with a War and Peace.
EMILY: No. The line. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The thing that’s broken in the Middleton family causes their son to wear Bermuda shorts to his own wedding. Rachel may have shown up in the right outfit, but her family is just as messed up.
JAROD: How so? I mean, Arthur punched a priest today.
EMILY: Last night, Rachel called off the wedding. Just to me, of course, but still. She said she didn’t deserve him. She thought he was marrying beneath himself. The drunk thug swimming in the hotel pool with his tuxedo was too good for her.
JAROD: Ah. I get it. Unhappy families.
EMILY: We all have our crosses to bear. Some of us are so mad at the world that we punch priests for saying our name the wrong way, and some of us just take it all out on ourselves.
JAROD: You’re bringing down the mood, Em. We still have a reception to get through.
EMILY: That’s another thing. Who doesn’t go to their own reception? They’re probably at the airport by now. If she hasn’t killed him and dumped the Bermuda shorted body, that is.
JAROD: Arthur’s dad insisted. That’s how the Middletons have always done it. From the chapel to the plane. La tee da.
EMILY: [looks at JAROD and gets an idea. Smiles] Come here. [they get in line with one another] While I have you here, I just want to try something out. [she walks him up the aisle arm in arm. She begins to hum Here Comes the Bride. He joins in while they stand at the front of the church]
JAROD: Um. Weird. That felt kinda good. It felt right, or something.
EMILY: Yeah. Um. No. Let’s not get carried away. We hate weddings, remember? I just wanted to know what it felt like. You were the closest available arm. That’s all. Don’t read anything into it.
JAROD: Well, yeah. I just mean…yeah. Whatever.
EMILY: When I get married, everything will run smoothly. My wedding will be absolute perfection.
JAROD: Mine too. Like clockwork.
EMILY: You probably should find someone other than Arthur to be your best man.
[they turn to walk back down the aisle to leave the church.]
JAROD: We really should be getting to the reception. With no bride or groom, won’t that make us the guests of honour or something?
EMILY: Hmph. I guess so.
[they start to leave the church, at first separately. They fall in together and lock arms, humming the wedding march again.]
JAROD: I’m surprised by how good this feels.
EMILY: Ack. Weddings are so damn romantic, aren’t they?
[they exit arm in arm at the back of the church]
As is always the case, feel free to use this or any other 10-minute play posted to this site. My only request is that you email me at kevintcraig @ hotmail.com and ask permission (let me know).
There is nothing I can do now. I have performed my duties as Elf Playwright. Whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera.
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.
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
Hope to see you there!
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.
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!!
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.