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The words I wrote

May 18, 2021

Oh, my goodness. Dress rehearsal tonight, first show on Thursday. This has been such a joyful experience.

Simply the fact that this play (or at least the play-within-the-play), written so many years ago and so long gathering dust is finally going to be seen is a delight.

Then there are the actors, most of whom are good friends. Each of them has embraced their role and they are all having so much fun it will be infectious for audiences. Even though I wrote the play and have watched many rehearsals now, they can still make me laugh out loud.

As Queen Elizabeth says, “You must admit, it is an amusing play.”

This is the third play by me to be performed in the past few years.

The first, That’s Nice, was also an amusing play. Unfortunately getting it to the stage was not an amusing experience. I wrote it, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously, as a piece for my friend Donna and I to do together. There was a great cast. It should have been so much fun to work on it, but there was a director debacle. Another friend, who was supposed to be directing, couldn’t when the time came. A friend of a friend volunteered. We got together for a chat and it seemed she and I were on the same page, but when rehearsals began it became immediately clear that she wanted to turn my clever little play into a Benny Hill sketch. When this was met with firm resistance, she quit. What I should have done at that point is take over directing myself, but I couldn’t see how I could. Directors need to be able to observe the action, not be in its midst. (Or so I thought.) Someone recommended approaching a woman, new to the island, who had considerable theatrical experience. Donna and I met her, had a chat. She seemed to be on the right page. She wasn’t. The rehearsals, which had been so much fun with almost every other project in which I’ve been involved, were not fun. They were awful. The dress rehearsal was so awful I came home in tears. I was so upset I demanded to have a meeting with the director the next day. After I’d delivered my litany of concerns about the many ways in which she seemed determined to ruin my play, her response, in a nutshell, was: “The play isn’t very good. You’re not a very good actress. I’ve been trying to address these problems, but you won’t let me. The play’s going to be a flop and I will be blamed.” Did I punch her in the face? No, but I still wish I had. When we got to opening night, I gathered the cast outside while the first one-act play was being performed and said something along the lines of: “I know the process hasn’t been great, but the play’s ours now, so let’s have fun with it.” And for four performances we did. A lot of fun. Oh, and for the record, audiences loved the play. Fuck her.

Next up was An Unhelpful Complication, which practically wrote itself. I’d just had a great deal of fun appearing with my mate Charlie in an Alan Bennett two-hander directed by our friend Dave. So much fun that I wanted to be able to work with them again the next year. A completely different experience. Dave was a great director, Charlie was great in the role I’d written for him. The whole process, from first read through to the final performance was an absolute joy. And the following year the play was a finalist in the Canadian National Playwriting Competition.

And now to A Divine Comedy. Obviously I wanted to play “the director and the author”, but was I willing to let anyone else direct me (and the rest of the actors in the roles I’d created)? Based on past experience (and Dave couldn’t direct, because I wanted him for the role of the Bishop), the answer was no. What if the director didn’t cast the people I wanted for the roles. Should I let someone else play the director and actually be the director myself?

I adapted the play specifically to be performed on Zoom, but it could actually be readapted to be performed live in a theatre. Aside from missing out on the rapturous applause from the audience, plague time online shows also lose out on the often wonderful interactions between actors rehearsing together in person. This is a definite downside. But on the plus side, the format does make it a great deal easier to both direct and be in the play. So, rapturous applause and in-person rehearsing aside, I’m getting the best of both worlds with this one.

I honestly could not be happier with what these wonderful actors are doing with the words I wrote.

I just wish Richard was still around to see what they are doing with the words that he wrote.

From → Blog

One Comment
  1. Catherine Stewart permalink

    So happy you’re so happy! Break a leg chica 🥂. The script is great – can’t wait for the performance. xoxoxo

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