THE HISTORY OF US and KING OF THE CREASE, two one-act plays I wrote, will be stage read NEXT TUESDAY (AUGUST 1st, 2017) from 7pm-9pm at Port Perry Church of the Ascension (266 North St. Port Perry).
Thanks to THEATRE 3×60 for putting this on. I was thrilled to find out that they were doing this with both of the first two one-act plays I have ever written.
If you recognize the title of the first one, THE HISTORY OF US, it’s because it began life as a 10-minute play…which I wrote for DRIFTWOOD THEATRE‘s TRAFALGAR 24 Play Creation Festival. I was fortunate enough to land two incredible actors for the original production of this play. Both Christopher Kelk and Adriano Sobretodo Jr. were phenomenal in their roles as Alzheimer’s suffering Charlie Wilkins and his son-in-law Ben. Making a ten minute play into a one-act was a difficult task, but creating more for and about these two characters was a labour of love. Charlie suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is mourning the recent loss of his wife, while adjusting to the changes taking place in his life. These changes include moving in with his son and his partner…and dealing with the complications this entails with other family members.
In King ofthe Crease, we have retired NHL goalie Frank Eno, who is struggling with aging and chronic back pain. His live-in adult daughter has a suitor who Frank admires while others in his family do not. It’s the story of a father and son, in the end…disguised as more of a family drama.
I hope you will join THEATRE 3×60 next Tuesday to see how these two plays pan out on the stage.
3xCanadians Staged Readings – Kevin Craig, August 1, 2017
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Port Perry Church of the Ascension(266 North St. Port Perry)
Theatre 3×60’s summer company performs staged readings of Kevin Craig’s King of the Crease and The History of Us.
CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO BE TAKEN TO THE THEATRE 3×60 WEBSITE AND A DIRECT LINK TO WHERE YOU CAN BUY TICKETS TO THE EVENT FOR $10 EACH:
A MESSAGE FOR WRITERS AND PLAYWRIGHTS: Staged Readings are interactive and the audience has an opportunity to provide feedback on the plays being read. These readings are GREAT WORKSHOP OPPORTUNITIES for playwrights and wanna-be playwrights. It will be a learning experience for anyone thinking of taking on playwriting. And, yes…it will be a terrifying experience for me, the playwright. I’ve never done anything like this, but I have an open mind and a desire to better my playwright skills. This is just the kind of opportunity that could make me grow as a playwright. For my local writer friends, this is an invaluable experience…come, learn, contribute feedback. I hope to see you there!
Ear-worms are fingers tapping your soul asking you to remember.
And I still find it so hard to say what I need to say.
What follows is mere rumination.
I’ve been imagining myself a playwright of late. Again. I’ve begun project after project…and even completed a couple (DETAILS TO FOLLOW IN THE COMING WEEKS).
When I started writing poetry, which may in fact be my first calisthenics endeavor with words, I thought, ‘this must be the hardest thing to write.’ Then I took on the short story and discovered poetry was easier than I thought…because the short story was near impossible. From there, I took on the novel…because it’s only MORE of a short, right? A longer short, if you will. How much more difficult could it be?
Was I in for a surprise! Culottes are not pants. The novel was difficult in its own unique way. I came upon issues that had nothing to do with the short story, even though they resemble one another in so many ways. I might argue that the short story is more difficult than the novel overall…because of what you have to put into it and the confined perimeters you are given and forced to squeeze those ingredients into. It’s a bit of a magic trick, really. But the novel…the endurance one needs to see it through to the end! The novel is almost a physical feat. It’s so exhausting.
All these word trials combined can’t really prepare one for playwriting. If novel writing is bringing a story to life, then playwriting is bringing characters to life. It’s about getting your characters to say precisely what they need to say. No FAT. No un-wanted words. It’s the novel without the movement, for the characters themselves perform the movement. You don’t get to DESCRIBE…you just get to talk.
My ‘mentor’ and idol, W. Somerset Maugham, once said, “Thank God, I can look at a sunset now without having to think how to describe it.” (Read his THE SUMMING UP) This was said in a sort of elation as he had moved from novel writing to play-writing. He was thrilled to be spending more time in dialogue and less tedious time building up the area around the talking. And I agree with him fully and completely.
But there is also an element of playwriting that is terrifying. It’s like removing all the trees the novel provides for shading. You are starkly naked against the stage. The reader is not going to be taking the description you wrote and running it through their imaginations and making it even bigger and better than what you originally gave them…AND crediting you with the entire picture formed by the marriage of your prose and their imaginations. The characters literally need to carry everything forward in a play. If it’s not seen and heard, it doesn’t happen.
And THIS is what I want for myself? THIS is my ultimate goal as a writer? To write conversations that must have the fortitude to stand alone? I must be crazy. Poetry makes the world prettier, short stories and novels makes the world vivid and in front of you and alive.
Plays, for the playwright at any rate, give only bodies talking. Theatre does not end with the playwright. Theatre merely begins at the end of the playwriting. The breath gets blown into the play via the director and the actors, and the dramaturge before that. The play is merely mud until those elements mould it into existence–words on paper. The playwright provides the mud and the director and actors mould it into the golem. The whole is a collaborative effort. Where a novelist needs no collaboration outside of those who polish their piece and make it its most presentable, the playwright needs a stable of people to carry their work forward. The novelist has to imagine a person sitting in a room, lounging in a chair, book in hand…their imagination knitting with the words on the page to form something greater than the sum of the novel’s parts. The playwright needs to count on the faith of many believers taking to the stage and presenting their words to a person sitting in a room, sitting in a chair, eyes wide open taking in the show. The playwright needs to step back and allow what it is they wrote to take on a new life, to become something other than what it is they wrote…something better.
I suppose there is always a collaboration. The novelist and the reader’s imagination. The playwright and the busload of people injecting the words with imagination, movement, and the business of performing them. I really must be crazy, because I do both of these things. But both are wildly rewarding in their own way. Each one gives back as much as you give into it. To see your words brought to life by actors on the stage is an alchemy I’ll never get used to. And to hear that your novel has touched a reader…untold joy. Every once in a while I reach a place of reflection and realize what these things mean to me. They are everything. The word is the light, indeed.
I’m writing a play right now, writing the conversations that will hopefully be brought to life on the stage. One must believe in that eventuality when writing a play. It is the only way for the play to be born…it must leave the page. Its characters must take flesh.
And with every line of dialogue, I remind myself that nothing can be extraneous on the page. They NEED to say only what NEEDS to be said.
And I still find it so hard to say what I need to say…
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.
The extraordinary Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Currently an all-girls boarding school…
The grand entrance hall leading to the staircase to the 2nd story of the castle…
Standing guard in the main foyer of Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario…
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!
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).