The Lavender Rose

1377619_10151946715857177_1745512476_nThe Rose was a theatre in Elizabethan London. Built in 1587, it was the fifth such in the city and the first to be built on Bankside, not the most reputable part of town at the time. It was joined in the neighborhood a few years later by the Globe, which continues to get a lot of press because of that Shakespeare fellow. The remains of the theatre’s foundations were discovered during an excavation in 1989 and a trust has been established with plans to complete excavations of the foundations and to develop the site as an educational and historical resource.

My good friend Jessica Ruano, who moved to London from Ottawa a couple of years ago, has been involved in a number of projects at the Rose, which is being used as a venue once again for various theatrical productions, including Jessica’s excellent adaptation of As You Like It. When Jessica brought a show to the Ottawa Fringe Festival last year, we got to talking about the Rose and we agreed it would be an interesting venue in which to stage a reading of my play The Lavender Railroad with some of the actors she’s been working with in London.

Ross Mullan as Mother Courage

Ross Mullan as Mother Courage

In many ways, the setting was perfect for the play. It’s underground. It’s dark and murky. In the background you hear an unsteady drip-drip-drip of water. There’s a damp chill in the air. What better environment in which to present a chilling and claustrophobic story about terrible choices in an amoral world?

Sarita Plowman as the Sister

Sarita Plowman as the Sister

I was very pleased with how the evening went and am grateful to Jessica and her actors, Ross Mullan, Ben Warwick and Sarita Plowman, for bringing the play to life in so dismally perfect an environment. I know that the folks who are managing the Rose have great plans for the future and will be quite eager to see what kinds of productions will be seen in this unique space in the future.

Extremely Short Story Contest, 2d. ed.

background*** PLEASE NOTE ***

The Contest is now closed.

And the winner is…

Once again, to celebrate this year’s edition of the Extremely Short Play Festival, New Theatre of Ottawa is sponsoring an Extremely Short Story Contest!

Our inspiration is Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word short story: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

Here are the Extremely Short Rules:

  • In the comments to this post, enter your name, email address and SIX WORD STORY. (Your email address will not be posted publicly.) Longer entries will be disqualified.
  • All entries must have a time stamp no later than 11:59 pm, Sunday, October 27, 2013 (Ottawa time).

At the Festival preview on October 30, director John Koensgen will announce the winning entry. The winner will receive two complimentary tickets to the festival performance of his or her choice (October 31 through November 10).

Ladies and gentlemen, sharpen those quills!

Extremely Short Play Festival – 2nd ed.

backgroundRehearsals started this week for the 2013 edition of the Extremely Short Play Festival. John Koensgen brought the first edition of this festival to the Arts Court Theatre in the spring of 2012 and I’m very glad to have been invited back this year. My contribution to the festival is called The Book of Daniel.

The rules are the same as last time: a play that tells a full story from beginning to end in 10 minutes or less. Writing these can be quite challenging – after all, you have to cram a full story into 10 minutes rather than the 100 or more that a full-length play can run. This means the playwright has to be extremely economical with words – but as in many kinds of art, constraints like this are actually a good thing, forcing the artist to scrape away absolutely all the encrusted stuff that can accumulate on a script, leaving only the essence of the play itself.

So I think festivals like these are good for the audiences, yes – you’re sure to find at least one of the shows appealing, if not all of them, in the course of the evening – but good for the playwright as well, who must excel at his or her craft.

And yes, I’m happy to report that the very popular Extremely Short Story Contest returns as well – watch for details on this next week!

So mark your calendars – the festival of 10 plays runs October 31 (yes, Halloween) through November 10 at Arts Court Theatre. Details on tickets and prices may be found here.

Universal Shakespeare

A visit to London is never complete unless I get to spend some time with my good friend Jessica Ruano. Last time I was here, we got to meet Simon Callow after a performance of Being Shakespeare. This time it was to stop in at the Globe Theatre where a group of 21 actors from around the world had gathered for three weeks of intensive work on Shakespeare as International Fellows of the theatre.

We got to see the culmination of their work – a kind of mash-up of scenes from a variety of plays presented in a variety of languages – for these actors have come from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Macedonia, Italy, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Georgia, Serbia and Greece – as well as a couple from Canada and the U.S.

The presentation was an opportunity for the actors to showcase what they studied during their time in London, so there were plenty of styles and techniques on offer for those present to enjoy and admire. It was a pleasure to watch the company at work – for they had clearly become a company – and if I have any criticism it is that they eagerly presented us with too much at once. Because they worked through diverse scenes from Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, and many more, the event ran for over two hours; while I appreciate their interest in showing us everything they’d done, I think an hour would have been fine from the audience’s perspective.

This was my first visit to the Globe, and while I’m certainly interested in seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays performed here during my visit the opportunity to see these fine actors strut their stuff made for a great first impression.

Meanwhile, Jessica and I plan to have a little fun with The Lavender Railroad. More on this anon.