New plays frighten me. As a writer, I have all the requisite anxieties to put me in a state of terror if trapped in a dark room as part of an audience, watching a cast of actors do The Robot in time to experimental whale music and multi-coloured strobe lights. I’ve since discovered that not all plays are like this, thank god. Only the ones I erroneously think look “fun”.
There’s something about the immediacy and inescapable act of theatre that has kept me from jumping into playwriting. A lot of credit is given to the author here. To a Canadian screenwriter, that can either be ruinous or an extremely empowering experience.
I started writing “Prodigals” as a way to avoid completing other projects. Initially, I sent 10-15 pages of this play to the Cold Reading Series in 2006. They were holding a special night for students from Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program (where I was studying at the time). Despite the fact that these few scenes went over surprisingly well, I quickly abandoned them to return to my mounting screenwriting demands.
Flash forward to 2008. After seeing Twenty-Something Theatre’s call for submissions (a phrase that’s like a bat signal for writers), I immediately recalled that play I flirted with two years before and quickly-yet-artfully dumped another 20 pages onto the previous 10 and hoped that amounted to something.
I’m extremely grateful Sabrina Evertt found a glimmer of a story worth telling in that mashed-up Frankenstein of a play I sent to her. With her help, alongside the talents of some amazing young local actors and the ever-patient dramaturgy of Peter Boychuk, we turned “Prodigals” into a story I now desperately want to bring to the world.
After expanding the play’s depth and scope, we kneaded each role into shape through table reads, one-on-one story sessions, and most recently, an intimate staged reading that proved the kind of straightforward drama and comedy I want to write isn’t interesting just to those directly involved in “Prodigals”. I think there’s a lot of potential here to appeal to a broad, young audience who – like me – might skittishly avoid more experimental theatre or the same handful of rehashed productions from other companies.
Rewriting this project has helped unearth new creative ground for me: I don’t believe my writing has ever been more personal. And because of that, I think this is a very truthful “dramedy” about a group of young adults marred by small town life, each trying to make the transition from irresponsible youth to contributing members of society.
I can’t give enough thanks to Twenty-Something Theatre. Without the Spotlight Series initiative to find new plays from emerging writers, I wouldn’t have finished “Prodigals”. The hardest part now is waiting until the spring when we get the play on its feet in front of audiences. It’s going to be great.