Tag Archives: plays

Love in a Time of Zombies – Vagabond Alley Productions

The flyer for the show - you can still get tickets!

The flyer for the show – you can still get tickets!

On Saturday I drove Mrs Dim down to Seattle. For the first time in years, a play of mine was being produced within driving distance, and I was determined to see it in person. Despite having over eighty scripts available, and those plays being bought and produced somewhere in the world every month, it’s rare to get a chance to see a production.

Susan (D'Arcy Harrison) nearly brains Brian (Jason Sharp) as he comes home from foraging.

Susan (D’Arcy Harrison) nearly brains Brian (Jason Sharp) as he comes home from foraging.

D’Arcy Harrison, the Producer and one of the actors in the show, had been in touch a number of times to check details. Since the script was very British, there had to be a number of adaptations for the North American setting D’Arcy planned to use. I was keen to see how this turned out. Mrs Dim was keen to spend a night in a hotel and get the chance to visit Seattle.

When we were checked into our hotel and were dressed for Seattle nightlife, Mrs Dim and I met a couple of friends in a place opposite the venue. We shared a great meal and a lot of talk – one of the friends was at school with me, and his wife is great fun and a Seattle native. They came to the show with us, and we took seats in the front row.

sexymessyheart

The performance space is downstairs, provided by Pocket Theater. It was black walls and bare lighting bar, with the simple set only separated from the audience by a couple of feet – no raised stage. The whole thing felt very intimate. There looked to be seating for about forty people, and the seats were already half full. The director, Amelia Meckler, came over to shake hands and say hello. She was very excited and a little nervous, which made two of us.

It’s been a few years since I wrote the script, and I haven’t re-read it recently, so I was interested to see how much I would remember, and whether the little changes that had been made would stand out for me. But the lights went down, and the soundtrack started up, and I forgot all about comparing the script with the show. The soundtrack was a mish-mash of radio broadcasts showing the spread of the Zombie Apocalypse. Not something I’d written, but a device concocted by VAP, and it worked brilliantly. The mood was set, and when a hand came through the blinds of the window at the back of the set, the audience was hooked.

Brian isn't as pleased as Susan when a handsome and apparently NOT dead visitor (Robert Hankins) comes to call.

Brian isn’t as pleased as Susan when a handsome and apparently NOT dead visitor (Robert Hankins) comes to call.

VAP used a simple set, just the sofa, a suspended window, a table and chairs and a stairway behind a curtain. The entrance to the house was a blocked off door, but the door wasn’t there – just the heavy chest that blocked it. Everything was neat and spare and worked very well. Jason Sharp opened the play as Brian, entering after another day’s hard foraging and fending off zombies, and he was welcomed home by D’Arcy Harrison as his terrified wife, convinced he’s either a zombie or a hostile survivor.

The dialogue flowed brilliantly, with the pair communicating as much through their expressions and body language as with their words. They were clearly a long-married couple with many unresolved issues. Those issues were already a problem before the handsome stranger, Harry (played wonderfully by Robert Hankins) arrives and pushes things over the top.

It was a terrific evening. The show was captivating, and came with the bonus of enthralling Mrs Dim. She has never seen a play of mine that I wasn’t acting in. It’s one thing to say to people “My husband is a playwright.” and to see the royalties come in from time to time, but it’s quite another to see people cheering an applauding a production that he wrote, to hear from the actors how much they loved the script, how much fun they had.

For me, it was what I imagine authors feel when they see their novels in the bookstore. This is what my scripts are for. Although I write them, they aren’t complete until they are performed, and it’s the actors and directors who bring the words to life. For that, I will be forever grateful to them.

The show is still running, playing on the 14th, 21st and 28th of June at 2220 NW Market Street, Seattle. See the rave press reviews here: 

http://www.dramainthehood.net/2014/06/love-time-zombies/

http://www.heedthehedonist.com/this-one-act-zombie-apocalyptic-romance-not-to-miss

http://www.thehorrorhoneys.com/2014/06/love-undead-style.html

For more information, check out Vagabond Alley Productions or see the online trailer.

Gallery

Work In Progress : Riverside Drama Circle

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Riverside Drama Circle produced a wonderful version of “Work in Progress” in November 2013 Continue reading

Playwriting and intellectual snobbery

A couple of articles turned up in my social media streams this week that related to writing plays. The first was this one,  a letter from a playwright to the actors that perform his plays. The article had been reposted with a series of victorious comments underneath, of the order of “Yeah! That’s the way! You tell ’em!” and so on.

I read the article and felt a little discomfited. From a certain point of view (as Mrs Dim helped me see) the author isn’t saying anything outrageous. He’s saying that, in writing the play, he believes he has included all the information the actor needs to perform the piece as intended, that there’s no need for interpreting or improvising, and certainly no need to add or remove lines. The actor should enjoy the process of discovering the character through the clues in the text.

I get that.

But the comments below the piece were a little more….virulent. One in particular lambasted actors for taking liberties with his work, and announced that this was the reason he simply HAD to direct every first production of a new piece.

A year or two ago, I went to a reading of one of my plays. It was new, it was untried, and I wanted to hear it read aloud. The actors were people who had performed my stuff before, and they were NICE. It was a cold read, but it went well. At one point, the dialogue prompted some giggling , until one actor pointed out it read a lot like a Harlequin romance (Mills and Boon, for the UK readers). I smiled but felt a little sick. That wasn’t supposed to be over-the-top dialogue, it was supposed to be deep and affecting.

A Little Bit of Holiday Magic

(I didn’t write this one..)

My point is that there’s only so much that you can put into your script as the playwright. The episode above showed that my dialogue might have needed a modifier (“Read this as though it’s serious!”) but more likely it just needed re-writing. You can take the Pinter route and put in every pause and beat the actor must take, you can underline the parts that need emphasis and you can dictate the colour and size of the props. But what does that leave for the actors and directors? Are they simply a vehicle for your words? I don’t think so.

I get ideas for stories, and some of them are plays. I write a script that is my best attempt to communicate the story that I see in my head. It’s never going to be exact, because, as the professor who lives down the road never ceases saying, we’re using language developed so monkeys can tell each other where the best fruit grows. I put my ideas, my visions, on to the page, and the director and actors bring to life THEIR version of that vision. There’s going to be a huge amount of overlap, but the two will never be exactly the same.

Two different productions of "A Time for Farewells". Different, but similar...

Two different productions of “A Time for Farewells”. Different, but similar…

I’ve directed my own plays before. It was a lot of fun, and very scary, and I discovered that I couldn’t get things to be exactly as I imagined them even when I took the actor’s place and declaimed the line for them, so they could hear the intonation.

In “On Writing” Stephen King likens writing to telepathy. He asks the reader to imagine a table with a red tablecloth, on which is positioned a small cage. He points out that, despite him writing the book possibly years previously and thousands of miles from where the reader sits, they are thinking of  the same image as he is, although there will be small differences. The shade of red, the size of the cage, the design of the table…all small differences, but fundamentally the same image.

This is how I view my plays. I sit at my keyboard and imagine a scene. Years and miles later, that scene is brought to life with minor differences, remaining fundamentally the same.

Screenwriters like to complain about the recent fad for crediting the Director with the whole film, pointing out that it hasn’t always been this way, and why should it be a “An Alan Smithee Film” if all he did was tell the actors where to stand when they recited their lines? Well, I think it’s just as unfair for the playwright to expect to gather all the praise for a production, or wield all the power. The script is vital, yes. It should be as complete as possible in terms of communicating what the playwright sees, but it isn’t and shouldn’t be a binding document. It’s the place where the story begins.

(She’s the one in the middle…)

The other article that came to my attention this week was headed “Now Amanda Peet thinks she’s a playwright”. It was just as juvenile as it sounds, a person sounding off at Amanda Peet for daring to write and perform in a play when everyone knows she’s a screen actress. The comments here were much more balanced, with many people taking the same view I did – if she wrote a play and got it published or produced, then she’s a playwright, what’s the big deal? Others were obsessed with the unfairness of someone with acting and theatre connections shortcutting the “proper” route of misery and rejection to get straight to having her work onstage in a big theatre.

The truth is, if any of us struggling writers had an “in” to our favoured arena, we’d take it. Uncle in the film business? Here’s my screenplay. Dad works in publishing? Here’s my novel. Cousin runs a theatre? Here’s my latest play. Brother-in-Law was on reality TV show? Here’s my sympathy.

It’s not wrong to use connections. It may not seem fair, in that it’s not something everyone can do. But JK Rowling didn’t have any connections, just a good idea. EL James didn’t have any connections, just the right idea at the right time. Yes, this means that some people have more success than others who have more talent or ability. That’s sad, but it doesn’t always follow that someone who uses their connections to reach the audience has nothing worth saying. I’d like to see Amanda Peet’s play. I know the ones I read and review tend to be better when the author has had some experience onstage themselves, so I’m sure hers would be interesting. I’d love the chance to talk to her about it. And, you know, while we were talking about stage plays, perhaps she wouldn’t mind looking over this new script I’m working on…?

In fact, the latest script I’m working on turns out to be a sequel to the moderately successful “The Kitchen Skirmishes“. All being well, this new play (as yet untitled) will be published in the new year. Unless Amanda Peet can fit me in somewhere earlier, of course…

Nothing to see here….

I'm thinking....I'm thinking...Aren't I?

I find this more than a little ironic. Last year I put a lot of time and energy into blogging. I tried to blog at least twice a week, and tried to find subjects that were connected to my business interests (writing, plays, theatre) and would also catch the attention of people surfing the web.

I was waving a big sign saying “Come read my stuff! Find out how interesting I am and then buy my plays/books/t-shirts!”*

After six months I had radically improved my readership stats. It was hellishly impressive. On the other hand, I hadn’t written any new plays. Or anything else. Sales of the plays already published were slack. I hadn’t improved my situation at all. I had lots of readers who enjoyed my blog, which was nice, but….not a lot of use in terms of my business model.

Since February began I’ve been running this new system, and it’s working. I have produced a full length play, and a one act play that I’ve been MEANING to write since August last year. I’ve also moved on with other writing projects and gained significant confidence about taking on new challenges.

What I haven’t been doing, is blogging. I realised this the other day when I was updating my “Books I read in March” list, and found that I had only blogged once since posting the list from February.

This is my apology, if you’re a regular reader. I enjoy having a blog, and I like the fact that some people have found it a useful conduit. I love being able to talk directly with people about writing, or discussing points raised in the posts. But I’m not a blogger who writes plays, I’m a playwright who blogs. I know it’s important to have an author platform, and be approachable, and interact synergistically with your readership, but hey, I’m on G+ and Facebook and Twitter too.

I’m not going to feel guilty about intermittent blogging when the alternative is reviewing the recipes I’ve used for lunch, or how I prefer Tim Horton’s to Starbucks. I hope you’ll still read what I post, when I post, but if not, I’ll understand.

 

 

 

*Nobody EVER bought the t-shirts.

Hello? Hello? Is your radio on?

Image

It’s not often I’m contacted by the media, but a week or so ago, I did get a call. CBC Radio had seen an article about my juggling workshops in the paper and wanted to talk to me about them. Ten minutes later, they decided that, no, they actually wanted to talk to me about me, and the strange life I’ve lead. Fair enough, I thought.

The call was from CBC’s North by Northwest, a magazine programme that runs on the weekend. They interview a variety of people for a variety of reasons, and now it was my turn to talk about life, emigration and playwriting.

It was a Sunday morning recording session, and I made my way to the studio on the skytrain, enjoying the various landmarks that loomed out of the fog. I was met in the lobby of CBC by my hostess, Sheryl MacKay. She took me through to the studio where we’d be chatting and got me a drink while I tried to relax and stop worrying about saying something really stupid. At least this was going to be recorded and edited before broadcast!

Sheryl was very calming, and I found it easy to talk to her. I wanted to mention the brilliant work SMP Dramatic Society had done with the TLC pantomime “Knight Fever” , which I’d seen with my family just the day before, and I wanted to mention TLC in general, and the appraisal service I run. Oh, and there was my collection of e-books, and the one I haven’t finished yet but which SHOULD be out at the end of the month, and…oh, we’re out of time?

I think I kept my head and was interesting, rather than insane. Life has been, as you’ll know from previous entries, a serious of bizarre events and co-incidences and lucky breaks. Mrs Dim says we’re blessed, and looking around at the Weasels and my plays and the friends we have now, it’s hard to argue.

So, if you’re at a loose end this weekend, why not tune in to CBC and listen out for North By Northwest? I haven’t found out exactly when I’m being featured, but it’s quality programming, so you should enjoy it anyway.

Heading into Fall…

Getting to grips with Autumn…

Autumn is typically a time of looking back, of hunching shoulders and preparing to draw down for the Winter. But this year, I’m feeling unusually optimistic about the coming months. The Appraisal Service has been busier than ever, and I beta read the fun “A Mystic Romance” and the challenging “Jump Drive“. Both of these last were projects I picked up through the social network G+, an invaluable source of advice and interesting information.

As you can see from the drop down menus at the top of the page, I have also dived back into Circus Skills workshops, reaching out to local school and the Parks and Recreation programmes in my local area. Circus Skills are easier to pick up than you might think, and there’s quite a range of things to learn. I have a trunk full of kit from my days as a semi-professional juggler, and I spent several years in the UK running workshops and Adult Education classes in juggling and circus skills.

One of my early workshops at Winchester, UK. See anyone you know?

If you have any questions about my proofreading services, or about Circus Skills, or you just want to learn more about G+, then drop me a line at dtrasler@shaw.ca, or leave a message in the comments.

Now I have to go and rake up the leaves. What have YOU got going on this Autumn?

Hello to Farewells

“A Time for Farewells” performed by FEATS

Kicking off the New Year, I had to resist the urge to write about resolutions, or latest projects, or review the failures/successes of 2011. Well, if not those, what? By far the most popular viewing on this site is the gallery of pictures for “A Time for Farewells“. Not my first play, maybe not even my favourite play, it’s nonetheless very popular around the world.

“A Time for Farewells” produced by Titirangi Theatre in New Zealand

Before getting into WHY it may be so popular, let’s have a brief summary of the plot for those who haven’t read it (and if you want to read it, you can find it HERE).

Alex is a batchelor lad until he meets Sarah. She’s not looking for love, she’s looking for a mechanic to fix her car. The play features episodes from Alex and Sarah’s life, interspersed with the couple themselves discussing their relationship. It’s clear there’s some sort of ending here, that this isn’t a loving nostalgia session, but an autopsy on a finished relationship. The play covers high and lows of their life together before bringing the audience up to date and letting them in on the event that Alex and Sarah are preparing for.

The original production, at RAF Halton, with Mark Blackman and Sue Fox as Alex and Sarah.

I like to think it’s a positive play, that the underlying message is hopeful. But I don’t think that’s what brings people to perform the play. There are some very practical reasons why this is a good one to pick, particularly for One Act Play Competitions.

Firstly, the set is simple. In the original set we had three stage blocks on the left hand side of the stage that could be rearranged to represent whatever location was needed. On the right hand side of the stage we had a bedroom set – actually, just the bed. The right hand side is where Alex and Sarah are when the play opens, that’s “now”. Everything that takes place in the past occurs on the left hand side. We had a doorway between the two, but I don’t believe that’s really necessary. So the set is simple, and doesn’t require any special effects or furniture moving during blackouts.

The cast is small. Aside from Alex and Sarah, there are only two other characters, and they really only appear in cameo. It’s essentially a two-handed play, and those two actors get to really stretch their acting muscles as they run through the life this pair have had together.

There’s comedy. I think that’s inevitable in the plays I write, since there’s very little I can take seriously, but in this case it’s important. Alex and Sarah make each other laugh, and the play is about recognising the valuable parts of their history together and holding on to them – the laughter and the tears.

Finally, it’s about people. The proof that this play is universal came with the success of Alan Leung’s production in Hong Kong. Though we had to have lengthy email conversations to sort out the peculiarities of English idiom (Alan was translating into Chinese, an unenviable task. Apparently the Chinese don’t have an equivalent for the phrase “Under the thumb” when it comes to henpecked husbands…) The Hong Kong production did so well in the competition that it was restaged later on, a tremendous complement.

One of the posters for the Hong Kong production

And after all the positive things, what about the flip side? Is there anything I would like to change? Well the one thing I hadn’t considered when I was writing the play was costume. Alex gets by well enough in a variety of shirtsleeves, but poor Sarah has to go from “stranded business woman” to “bride” to “holidaymaker by the pool” and so on. Most groups have found their own ways around my lack of vision there – in the original production Sue Fox managed to find herself a simple business-style dress that unbuttoned quickly, and went for and equally easy to don wedding dress. There have been other, equally inventive solutions, as the pictures show.

The relationship between Alex and Sarah seems to be one that people can believe in. Perhaps it’s also one they can relate to. Of course, I’m delighted that the play is so popular, and hope there are many more performances of it around the world. If you have a production planned, or if you’ve taken part in one, please let me have some photos to add to the gallery pages.

If you have any questions about “A Time for Farewells”, either about the writing or the staging of the play, feel free to drop me a line at dtrasler3@gmail.com. You can read “A Time for Farewells” and all my other published plays at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk

Real Theatre: “The Trespassers” at The Vancouver Playhouse

Tickets, programme, brochure....

Today’s secret is a biggie, one so shocking, I really had to think about confessing or not. Folks, I don’t go to a lot of live theatre.

I know, a lot of you just fell off your chairs, or stormed out in indignation. “Why, this fellow claims to be a playwright and script reader, yet he does not regularly attend stage performances of a theatrical nature! Disgraceful!’ Please, calm down, mop up your coffee and I’ll explain.

When I was small, my father wrote plays for our church. They were (and are) very good, and I got to act in them. Since I was around the house a lot, I got to help with making the props and scenery. I acted in Dad’s plays all through my youth, and then joined a Youth Group that also put on Pantomimes. I joined a couple of village Community Theatre groups, one of which performed “Charley’s Aunt”. See me in that production below, second from right.

TOADS - The Old Alresford Amateur Dramatic Society

When we took up our nomadic RAF lifestyle, I joined the Royal Air Force Theatrical Association (RAFTA), and entered a couple of their One Act Play Competitions. This was my first attempt at writing. Of course, along the way, my wife and I attended many performances of many great things at various theatres. So, to be fair, I’ve had a lot of experience of live theatre, both on and off stage.

Perhaps I should have said I don’t get to see as much live theatre as I feel I ought to. This last week I got to go to “The Trespassers” by Morris Panych at The Vancouver Playhouse, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law’s generous Christmas present of a gift certificate. Mrs Dim and I picked the production almost at random, and I did not have high hopes.

You see, I dread the theatre sometimes. People so often write plays to communicate with melodrama, to wring the last drop of angst out of a dire situation. Sometimes, yes, that’s effective, or moving. Often it’s excruciating. In “The Trespassers”, we were promised a “poignant, thought-provoking and sardonic drama”. I would have said they missed out FUNNY. Not clown funny ( or clown CREEPY, more like) but with genuine wit and warmth. The lead character has a condition, but we don’t get medical analysis, or hand-wringing over diagnosis and treatment. We see Lowell is different, but since he’s our guide and narrator, we take him as he comes and see the story through his eyes.

You want to know what it’s about, well, go see it. If you’re in the neighbourhood, you still have time, it runs till the 16th of April. What I want to talk about is the brilliance of it.

A single set, with one central exit on the back. Light bulbs overhead that could simulate the peach orchard when necessary. A stool on one side of the stage that was Hardy’s shed from time to time. A table that was in Lowell’s house, or Roxy’s house, or the interrogation room of the police station. What was brilliant about the staging of this piece was that there was no attempt to define individual locations in space or time. The police officer (while in the interrogation room, we assume) would ask a question and Lowell would begin to answer. But because he was relating what had happened in the past, the characters he was talking about would interrupt him, explain things. One part I remember vividly was a section where the police officer had no role in the scene, but he was still onstage. He simply sat on a stool to one side, but when Hardy talks about the view from the orchard, pointing off into the distance over the audience’s head, the policeman looked back too, as if he was watching like we were. Which, in a sense, he was.

What excites me so much about this play and its presentation is that I read so many scripts each month that don’t do anything as challenging as this. I wondered if I had read this piece, would I have been able to envision it as clearly? Morris Panych (an experienced actor, writer and director)has written a play about a complex series of experiences leading up to a difficult choice. He has five characters interacting, creating multiple locations and months of passing time without set changes. Watching the play, it’s easy to overlook the simplicity of the set, but this play could be performed in a school hall, or a church – you don’t need any moveable flats, you barely have any props, the only special effects were for grace touches.

I doubt I’ve managed to convey the point I wanted to make. Too often, we view plays as a kind of movie. We forget what theatre IS, what it can be, that audiences at a play will accept quite radical and strange ideas because this is theatre. I didn’t want to stand up during the poker game and yell that they were playing cards on the interrogation room table. For that scene, it WASN”T that table anymore, it was in Roxy’s house. Everybody knew that, everybody accepted that, and we didn’t need anyone holding up a subtitle s card to explain the change of location.

No, I don’t go to live theatre often enough. And if plays like this are everywhere, then I am really missing out.

What was the last piece of live theatre YOU saw? Did it challenge you, or disappoint?

A watched phone never boils…..

I really wanted to wait until I’d heard something from someone about employment, because I always think a blog without something positive is a whinge. But, there’s also the feeling I’ve  mentioned before, about an idea not being properly developed until it’s been expressed. Makes me wonder about “Think before you speak”.

So here I am, at Friday, a whole week into February and still with only the usual suspects of work. I spent yesterday in a fever of creativity, reviewing a play and writing two and half sketches. TLC have been asked to write a sketch evening on a specific theme and I decided it was time I tackled the sketches I’d volunteered for. If you asked me, I’d have said I don’t like working that way, that I prefer to wait until I get a great idea and then work that one out. I would have said I can’t write to order, or if I do it comes out as merely workmanlike. Modesty prevents me saying the two sketches I completed yesterday were good, but the better of the two made me laugh while I was writing it, and the second one made me laugh when David re-wrote the ending to make it funny. The third will have to wait to be written up, since I wrote it longhand while watching Eldest and Middle Weasel doing their Ice Skating lesson.

I don’t know what people think it’s like, writing for a living. I can tell you what it’s like for me.

I have the computer I work at set up in the Living Room. It’s not the ideal place during the evening, but with the Weasels out getting educated it makes as much sense as anywhere else. I have a coffee-making machine ten steps away, so I have to get up at least every five minutes. I have nowhere near enough food, which is a good thing. I don’t have reference books to hand, or manuals on writing. I read those at night (seriously – at the moment it’s  “How to Build a Great Screenplay”). There is clutter on the computer desk – story cds, game boxes (The kids leave them out and I never bother to put them away unless it’s time for the big clearout.) There’s a Dictaphone there today too, thanks to a rummage in the deep storage the other day. I found it and thought I might need it for something. I didn’t, but I’ve been using it as I walked the dog the last couple of days. I keep thinking it’ll be brilliant for capturing the bright thoughts I have when I’m out and about, but it’s rubbish. I should have remembered, because I once spent several months dictating a novel into that same machine, then typing up the copy. On a tiny machine like that, my voice is whiny and nasal, plus I huff and puff like an old man riding a Space Hopper down a cobble street. I finished the novel, a children’s book, and it was rubbish. (I liked some of it – the page numbers mostly. I may use them later in another book.) There’s usually a pad or blank paper for scribbling things on, but they tend to be lists of stuff I should be doing, or things that people have phoned up to tell me. I also have a hard copy of the e-book so far, because I was doing revisions on it the other day. I’m still clinging to the idea it’ll be finished by the middle of this month, but that may be just the copy written. I suspect the actual production ( there are diagrams to include, which I haven’t drawn, and the cover needs to be re-done by David) will take a bit longer. It’s still easier than trying to produce a real-world book, since the typesetting and design are completely under my control (in that I say “David, how do think the design and typesetting should go?” David’s a print and design professional you know. I can trust him on this stuff. Plus he makes my sketches funnier. AND he won the Dame Academy Panto Dame competition in Milton Keynes. Not someone to be messed with.)

I listen to music while I write. I’d rather listen to stories, but the words get in the way. Strange, because the lyrics are my favourite part of most songs, but the singing slides straight past my ears and into my brain, so I don’t have to worry about it turning up on the page. I don’t pick specific music for different types of writing – I have a big file of my favourite tracks – seven hour’s worth, give or take a minute, and they wander out of the speakers on random play. Doesn’t make much difference to me, as I only HEAR it when I stop writing. I hate writing in silence, but I’ll do it if I have to. The best days, the days I dream of, are when whatever I’m writing is so interesting, so much fun that nothing else matters. The coffee goes cold and the music fades away, there’s nothing but the pictures in my head flowing down through the keyboard and onto the screen. When everything is going well, my hands can’t keep up and I can’t stop smiling. I think that’s something else people don’t get: Writing can be miserably hard work, it can make your head ache and slice your confidence to ribbons, but at the best moments it’s like flying. I am at my happiest when I’ve written something I’m pleased with. Doesn’t matter what. If I’ve got the idea down complete, I’m irrepressibly cheerful

So this week I’ve applied for a few more jobs and had some in depth discussions with some potential employers. I swapped quite a few e-mails with a Vancouver blog who wanted freelancers to interview Vancouver-based directors. They were willing to pay, so I volunteered my services. We talked about it, and then all of a sudden they said they were “going with other applicants.” I tried not to feel crushed, and concentrated on the online audio-book company that wanted a story re-written as a script. They also wanted some kind of adaptation done, which sounded like they wanted an additional narrative frame around the story to “put it in context”. I asked a couple of reasonable questions* and then sent them in my idea. Since they were also asking for voice actors, I pointed out that I had a fine English accent and would make a brilliant villain in one of their productions. They seemed to reply to both the e-mails out of sequence, but to be honest, neither reply made a lot of sense. The second e-mail said simply :” I concerned that people would get bored with the sequential nature of it.” I concerned. I concerned? I can forgive a typo (except when I’m proofreading) but the rest of the sentence was just as baffling. He’s worried about people getting bored with the sequential nature of the story, and he’s running a business selling audio books to people CHAPTER BY CHAPTER? Heavens, let’s avoid giving people anything of a sequential nature! We’ll keep ’em interested by starting with chapter five and then skipping ahead to seven, then three…. I may be just a little bitter.

My friend and neighbour across the way, Sue, is waiting for employment news too, but she’s been waiting six months. Actually, that’s not a fair thing to say. She’s been working very, very hard to find work for six months, and has been through more interviews than I’ve had coffees. I really wouldn’t mind if today’s her day instead of mine, because I haven’t tried nearly as hard as she has.

Following up on yesterday’s creative storm, I’ve finished my latest bunch of play reviews and now I’m going to pile into the domestic tasks. If there’s time later, I may go back to some other projects that have been a little neglected, but I also have to do the rounds of the job sites. If you’re curious about the writing process, e-mail me. If you have a script you think needs assessing, you could try the Lazy Bee appraisal service (Lazy Bee are my publishers, and they employ an experienced Script Reader to assess submissions for them. Ok, it’s me, but I’ve been a published playwright for over a decade, reading scripts and reporting for over three years, and I took a course on Script Reading with the Script Factory in London.)

*Including “What the hell are you talking about?”

Seven months in and time for the dentist…(originally posted Oct 23/09)

Not so long ago I said the only fly in the immigration ointment was that our Care Cards had been delayed. Well, that’s all over now, as they’re here and we’re in the system. To celebrate, we’re off to the dentist today (not actually covered under the health system, but Mrs Dim has some jolly good Health Insurance as part of her job, so there you go.) It’s a Pro D day, so the kids aren’t in school and for once I’m not whining about it. There’s no half term here, and they’re all exhausted, so giving them a day when they don’t have to leap out of bed early and rush off into the rain (yeah, it’s Fall here, so it’s raining!) might do ’em some good. Of course, the two tiniest weasels have leaped out of bed early anyway, but they’re slumped on the sofa watching TV and making no effort to expend any energy. Mrs Dim has launched off for another day of work, but she goes with a smile on her face.

What I love about life at the moment is the sudden realisations – we live in Canada! I get ’em when I drive down the hill and see mountains on the horizon. I get ’em when I drive to the shops, park in the underground car park and go shopping without getting wet on a rainy day. Yesterday I was reading the local paper and one of the columnists was saying that he’d just been to the US and he reckoned the level of customer service was better there. He said Canadians do ok, but good service in Canada is as rare as bad service in the US. I laughed, thinking of the UK. This week I was out for coffee with someone who wants me to write an article about his business. He’s an ex-pat, and we took along his Design Bod, who is also from England. The three of us went into the local Starbucks and had a collective English moment. I asked for a black coffee, and then got grilled for twenty minutes – did I want extra hot water, what type of coffee, what size of cup? The other laughed at my naivity and then tried to order tea. That took another half an hour and fifty questions. We didn’t bother with snacks.

I have my home page set to the UK news, so I was watching the approach of the BNP on Question Time with mild interest. It also cropped up on FaceBook, with some of my more vocal friends setting out their arguments for or against. I’m glad that it looks like letting the Chief Idiot of the party onto the show allowed him to demonstrate his stupidity and bigotry – he’s now complaining that he was bullied. Oh dear, my heart bleeds – for a party who support a ban on immigration, pursued a racist policy and incite hatred (not to mention the man himself being a Holocaust Denier) to be bullied, what a shame! The sad part is that they will never accept that what they believe is wrong.

A long time ago, when I was at college, we had to do a course which I always think of as Moral Philosophy. It wasn’t, but that’s what it felt like. Our teacher was radically liberal. There were no gray areas in his life, and he was in favour of rights for everybody, which is a lovely idea. Except we ran into a small wrinkle one day. He announced that he would not be teaching the next day’s lesson because he had to attend a rally in London to march on the headquarters of a Neo-Nazi-type group. The plan was that his group would crush the Neo-Nazis in some way, destroying them forever. Now, nobody in our class was Pro-Nazi, but someone raised the point that, even though their ideas were reprehensible, the fact that we live in a Democracy means they have the right to hold those views. They can’t enforce their ideas of hatred, they can’t act on them, but they CAN hold them.

No, said the teacher. They are wrong, and we will crush them. He wouldn’t accept that he was passing judgement on a group of people and trying to impose his world view on them, just like the Nazis themselves tried to do. The difference was, he reasoned, that the Nazis were wrong and he wasn’t. So it goes with the BNP. They rally the disenfranchised to their banner, but the response should not be to try and ban them, to attack them, to push them out. They are trying to say that Britain is exclusively the province of a white Anglo-Saxon people, which is patently absurd. The best thing to do is let them set out their policies and beliefs, examine them and show HOW they are wrong. All those people who voted for them are not necessarily racist. Some will be, but I suspect a lot are simply misinformed. “The BNP want Britain for the British? Well, I’m British, hooray, maybe they’ll get me back into work? Maybe they’ll stop the immigrants living off the benefit that I paid for with my taxes…” Maybe, but I would doubt it. Britain, like Canada, is a multi-cultural society, and always has been. The mix of races and beliefs has always contributed to the growth of the nation, whereas the attempt to define “Britishness” has only led to division, hatred and violence. The BNP and parties like them are a throwback, an evolutionary dead end.

Why do I get so worked up about the country I don’t live in anymore? I still have a lot of friends there, my family live there. It’s all too easy to look back at the UK as a small, crowded pit of misery, and I’d like to think of things getting better there. Mrs Dim was talking to the weasels this week when they were down – they’d been saying “If we go back to England..” which is their chorus when they’re tired or upset. Going back to England will solve every problem, and, inTiniest Weasel’s case, allow her hair to grow back after her latest haircut…Anyway, Mrs Dim described some of the reasons we emigrated, and then I heard Middle Weasel telling some friends “England is full of people running around with knives and drinking drugs….” which is not how I remember it. For a start, I was always told never to run with knives or scissors…