Monthly Archives: May 2011

Interview with Jim Burke about writing Bestiary

Where do you live?

On the Plateau, Montreal.

Where are you from? Hometown?

Manchester, England

When did you start writing?

I regularly wrote songs for a punk band I was in during my late teens, but I began writing professionally in the late ‘80s – articles and film/ theatre reviews for various newspapers and magazines. I started writing plays some time in the early ‘90s. Most of my early plays were spoofs written with a fellow drama student – a spoof skinhead musical, a spoof British gangster thriller, an evening of spoof horror tales – all great fun to write, and a useful grounding in genre conventions. My first “grown-up” play was Cornered, a two-hander about those guys who do the rub-downs and rally the fighters during boxing matches.

Why did you start writing?

The good answer is “because I had a lot of things I wanted to say”, but the true answer is probably “because I wanted to get out of a lousy factory job making specs”. The punk songs didn’t do it, but the newspaper writing finally got me out of there.

What inspires you?

A variety of things, really, but it’s often just an image, or even the sound of a word. For instance, the impetus for writing Cornered was having spotted the word “cornermen” in a boxing article. I’m really not interested in sport, but that one word seemed to conjure up something almost Beckettian in its image of people stuck just outside the place where real life is happening. Direct inspirations would include the great playwrights like Ibsen, Pinter, Mamet, the Jacobeans etc. I’m also taken with playwrights who have no pretensions to greatness but who are fantastically entertaining (Martin McDonagh for instance).

What inspired this play?

Although I wrote it in 2003, the idea for it came to me about ten years before. I think I was in a bad mood over some break-up and was listening to a Nick Cave album (as you do), which put me in a twisted Old Testament mood, which made me think of the Jonah and the Whale story, which made me wonder what the hell was in it for the whale. I wanted to expand the idea of seeing religion, politics, morality, etc, from the points of view of sacrificial animals, and when I came across a photo of Laika the Soviet space-dog, it all came together. The “monkey” episode was an after-thought, because I felt as though the play had to be a triptych structure, but I think its pretty crucial thematically to the whole piece now, as well as being such an incredible-but-(allegedly) true story.

What do you write other than plays?

Writing regular blogs about theatre and related topics on my website has been keeping me busy. I often write just for myself to keep ideas bouncing around, stuff I would never dream of showing to other people, but a lot of it leaks into my plays at some point.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

I teach Creative Writing at Dawson’s Continuing Education dept. I also teach English for a couple of companies. I’ve started a theatre company called Theatre Funhouse for which I have lots of plans (both realistic and implausible ones), but it’s early days yet.

What time of day do you write best?

Basically, if I haven’t sat at my desk by 9am, that writing day’s probably gone, no matter how convincingly I tell myself I’ll catch up later.

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?)

If I don’t do that 9am thing at home, then the only hope I have of writing is finding a quiet coffee shop. Too many distractions at home, like dirty dishes, wallpaper, empty space, etc.

How long did it take you to write this play?

About four months, but it was originally a BBC commission, so they were pretty much on my case to give it a quick turn-around. Usually it takes anything from a couple of months to a couple of years (or two decades in the case of one as yet unfinished and maybe entirely imaginary masterpiece).

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

Having your writing picked to pieces by actors and directors then performed in front of complete strangers is a much more reliable guide to how it stands up than having a pal read a short story in front of you and say “mm…pretty good…er…interesting ending…” Theatre writing gives you the best of both worlds – the solitude of writing and the camaraderie of putting it on.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?

Maybe an overload of information these days, which can make you bounce around from subject to subject without anything actually sticking. Things must have been a lot easier when the world was smaller and our horizons narrower. Or maybe not. Related to all that, of course, is the internet – the fact that most people’s writing tool is also a window onto the world and therefore the perfect procrastination machine.

What kind of support do you have for your writing?

I’ve had a lot of support from Playwrights Workshop Montreal, and since coming to Montreal, I’ve had a lot of generous reactions to my work from various theatre folk, which has definitely kept me going. Before that I had tons of support from an English new-writing organization called North West Playwrights.

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

I’m on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/funhousetheatre.  And Twitter, though I’ve kind of let that one lapse. My website/blog is on www.theatrefunhouse.wordpress.com. You can contact me on theatrefunhouse@yahoo.com

 

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In The Yichud Room

Welcome to another C’est La Vie Theatre podcast.  Today we have In The Yichud Room : a play about secrets from your past catching up with you by Joel Fishbane.

Listen to it here: In The Yichud Room

Or download it on iTunes 

In The Yichud Room was written by Joel Fishbane.

Today’s performance was directed by Sarah Mahoney.

Amy was played by Rebecca Babcock

Sutler was played by Scott Humphrey

And

Chesterton was played by Spencer Thompson.

Sound recording was done by Conor Wiese-Hansen, and Chana Ellman was the project manager.

In the Yichud Room was originally produced as part of the 2004 New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre in Toronto, Canada. It was directed by Andrew Lamb. A copy of the play is s available from Signature Editions in the anthology Three on the Boards. For production information, please visit http://www.joelfishbane.com.

You can get a copy of Three On The Boards here:

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Three-On-The-Boards-Kit-Brennan/9781897109199-item.html

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Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!

Three podcasts out, and three reviews out too!

The Charlebois Post has been kind enough to review each of the podcasts we have published. I am posting them here because I would love to hear what you you are thinking about the podcasts, or the reviews. Do you agree? Disagree? Have something else on your mind about the play?

Review of Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Review of 8 Words That Ruined my Relationship. 

Review of Oreo.

So please put your comments below. We would love to hear them.

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Interview with Joel Fishbane about “In The Yichud Room”

Where do you live?

Montreal.

Where are you from? Hometown?

Originally from Thornhill, a suburb of Toronto, which is only slightly more interesting then being from Toronto itself.

When did you start writing?

If you believe my mother, I started when I was three. But she just wants you to think I was some sort of genius. I actually started when I was four.

Why did you start writing?

I wrote a short story when I was a kid and my mother told me it was really good. She was probably lying, but it everyone likes to be complimented, so I kept writing.  Now if only she had told me that writing involves a lot of rejection too….

What inspired this play?

There was a year when all my cousins were getting married and every time it happened, they’d disappear into the Yichud room. One day I asked what went in there. A few weeks later I was participating in a 24 Hour Playwriting Contest at the Toronto Fringe. This was the only idea in my head, so I went with it (if you’re interested, it won 2nd Place)

What do you write other than plays?

Short fiction, novels, screenplays, TV – anything but poetry. I’m terrible at poetry.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

I moonlight as both a cook and an accountant.

How long did it take you to write this play?

The first draft took me less then 24 hours (that was the nature of the contest, after all). But there were plenty of drafts afterwards, so I’d say about a year.

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

Theatre is immediate and demands a certain kind of narrative; “In the Yichud Room” has a narrative style that wouldn’t work in film or TV. It has to be a play. That’s the sort of theatre I like the best: the sort that can only exist on the stage.

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?

The same one as always: being persistent.  Writing takes a lot of perseverance, both to create the work and to sell it. There’s a lot of rejection. Maintaining one’s self-confidence is a tremendous struggle.

What kind of support do you have for your writing?

Playwrights Workshop Montreal is the best place in Montreal (and probably  Canada) for the developing playwright; it offers consultation, script-reading, workshops, classes and other means of support.  They are an invaluable institution.

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

You can find me at www.joelfishbane.com or read my musings about literature at www.somebookmarkings.blogspot.com.

 

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Oreo

Listen to Oreo

Welcome to another C’est La Vie Theatre podcast. Today we have Oreo : a play about racial identity, dildos, and delicious snacks by Nadine Thornhill.

Enjoy.

Oreo was written by Nadine Thornhill.

Today’s performance was directed by Sarah Mahoney.

Kaye was played by Olivia Blocker

Sidney was played by Rebecca Babcock

David was played by Joel Foshbane

Bea and the Female customers were played Carolina Alves- Bruni

And

The male customers were played by Spencer Thompson.

Sound engineering was done by Conor Wiese-Hansen, and Chana Ellman was the project manager.

Oreo was originally produced for the 2009 Ottawa Fringe Festival by Silent QUEMB* Productions

Directed by

Chantale Plante

Featuring

Nadine Thornhill as Kaye

Robin Guy as Sidney

J.P. Chartier as David

Iyono Ede as Bea

Colleen Sutton as Female Customers

Sterling Lynch as Male Customers

Nadine Thornhill can be reached via e-mail at: dramaqueen@rogers.com

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Interview with Nadine Thornhill about Oreo

Where do you live?

Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA

Where are you from? Hometown?

I was born in Toronto, Ontario. My parents moved our family out to Ajax, an east-end suburb, when I was a toddler, which is where I grew up.

When did you start writing?

As soon as I learned how to print, I began writing stories.  Of course, I only had about a dozen words in my person lexicon, so those early tales all had to do with “Nadine” “breakfast” “cat” and “spaceship.”

Why did you start writing?

By the time I started kindergarten, I’d already been reading and writing for a couple of years. My teacher was impressed and kept giving me gold star-shaped stickers, so I kept cranking out the stories. Even as a five-year-old I was a slut for validation.

What inspires you?

I think everything I write is some variation on the importance of living authentically.

My parents had a difficult marriage – one that ultimately ended.  When I was growing up, they spent a lot of time and energy trying to make their lives and marriage conform to an ideal that didn’t suit either of them. They were very loving, kind parents, but they were also unhappy which affected me profoundly.  After I grew up and they parted ways, they both found the happiness that had eluded them for all of those years when they had tried so hard to make this “perfect” family.  They have a much more functional relationship with each other as friends than they ever did as a couple.  My relationship with each of them is much healthier than it was when I was young.

My two big guiding principles in life are, “try not to screw over other people” and “live your life the way it makes sense for you.” I write about that last one a LOT.

What inspired this play?

A few years ago, I remembered how, growing up, people would occasionally call me ‘Oreo.’ I thought, ‘That would be a GREAT title for a play!”  I have the worst time coming up with titles for my plays, so once I had a name I pretty much had to write the script.

I used to be very self-conscious, sometimes to the point of being apologetic, about the alleged incongruity between my ethnicity and my behaviour.  Oreo is largely (but not completely) autobiographical. Writing about those experiences and putting that story in front of an audience went a long way towards helping me feel better about a lot of that stuff.

What do you write other than plays?

I write and perform spoken word poetry.  I have a blog, Adorkable Thespian, and I write a sex-advice column for an Ottawa-focused website called Apartment 613.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

During the day I work as the Insight Theatre Co-ordinator at Planned Parenthood Ottawa.  I have a four-year-old son, an amazing partner, Phil, and a surrogate family of dear friends.  I’m training for my first half-marathon, so I run several times a week.

What time of day do you write best?

When my son is sleeping, napping or at preschool.

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?)

At home.  I try to write in coffee shops, because it seems cool, but when other people are around I want to talk and when baked goods are around I want to eat, so it’s not a productive environment for me.

How long did it take you to write this play?

About eight months.

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

I can produce my scripts quickly with relatively little money.  I’m all about cheap, quick gratification!

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?

I think it’s the greatest challenge most writers have always faced: getting out of your own way and writing.  I’ve been writing virtually my whole life.  I’ve dreamed of being produced or published since high school.  But I didn’t do it until a few years ago.  I started things and didn’t finish.  Sometimes I’ve never started at all.  Even now, I agonize over every script I write and I’m never fully convinced I can finish, until I do.  Writing, at least for me, can be scary, risky and rather than face the fear, it’s sometimes easier to tell myself I can’t do it.  But I can.  It’s just a matter of putting words on the page.   It’s simple, but it isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

My blog is http://nadinethornhill.wordpress.com (watch out for typos!) I’m also on Twitter as @NadineThornhill

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