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Good stuff

July 23, 2021

A pint at the pub the other night with Tom, who played Shakespeare in A Divine Comedy. At the after party there was some talk of staging a live performance, maybe not next spring, but perhaps the one-act weekend the following year. Although I crafted specifically to be performed on Zoom, it could easily be adapted for a live performance. Tom said he had some “thoughts” about this. “Oh, did you?” I replied sardonically. (Normally I am never one to throw around adjectives in dialogue. It’s unnecessary and also reminds me of the appalling writing in the romance novels I was forced to read by an editor at Harlequin when I was trying to break into that genre. “’…,’ she told him breathlessly.” Ugh. But I couldn’t resist here, because I was a bit sardonic.) Told him afterwards that I was actually interested in hearing these thoughts, thus the pint at the pub.

The first area he highlighted was in the play within the play (the original A Divine Comedy) and involved the role of the Dean of London. As Tom described it, the dean is the pure ecclesiastic, the bishop is the politician and Essex is the aristocrat. Tom, who is well schooled in Christianity thought the dean should be genuinely concerned about Shakespeare’s soul and the danger it would be placed in if his “blasphemous” play about the exploits of an archbishop was staged. This thought had never occurred to me, but Tom was fairly persuasive about the thinking of men of the cloth – particularly in the early 17th century. I mulled it over for a while, as we moved on to other things. Somehow it just didn’t sit right with my image of the dean. And then I realised why. The dean isn’t worried about Shakespeare’s soul, I told Tom, he’s actually a lit bit titillated by and envious of the archbishop’s licentious exploits. “Oh, that’s great,” said Tom. I think the crux of that is already in the play, but could perhaps be highlighted more.

The second area under discussion was the opening scene, the one with the actors gathered together for the first read through of this new play about Shakespeare’s long lost religious play. 

That scene was crucial for adapting what was originally a standalone play written for radio and turning it into something that could be performed on Zoom. It’s five pages long and was written in one morning to serve two purposes: to introduce the “actors” and the characters they are playing and to give some credit to my old friend Richard for the inspiration.

Before Tom had mentioned it, I said I knew that scene – written in haste – could easily be twice as long with much more of the actors interacting with one another before the director turns up. Which was exactly what he was going to say. I had, he told me, dropped some delightful hints about the actors and the previous work some of them had done (and relationships they’d had) with some of the others. 

It’s clear Peter (who’s playing the bishop) doesn’t like Mary (who’s playing Queen Elizabeth), else why would he make that panto dig? What’s that about? And poor Dean (who’s playing the dean) is clearly a bit out of his depth, trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to be liked. Jane (who plays Anne Hathaway) is also a bit lost, eager to please and uncertain of herself. The other actors (with the exception of Dean) are clearly more experienced and confident, both professionally and interpersonally. Does she, Tom wondered as we discussed this, have some history with Harry (who plays Essex) that could be developed and feed into their scene together? Interesting idea, well worth some thought.

All good stuff.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember that four years ago I was encouraged to submit my one-act play, An Unhelpful Complication, to the Canadian National Playwriting Competition. It didn’t win, but it made it to the finals and I received some very positive feedback from the judges.  

I’d been thinking of submitting A Divine Comedy this year, although I wasn’t sure how they’d feel about a play written specifically to be performed on Zoom. Checked with someone I know who’s been a judge for the competition in the past. His response was, “A play’s a play.” 

Now I’m thinking I should do some work to adapt it for live performances before submitting it. It doesn’t have to be received until the end of December. If I can get my shit together, that’s plenty of time.

Oh, Tom also asked why I’d decided that Shakespeare, the master of the soliloquy, should be the only character in A Divine Comedy who doesn’t have a speech. Until he mentioned it I’d never actually noticed.

From → Plays

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