Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sunday Read: Title At End by Brad Fraser

An office.
The Artistic Director (AD), male, middle-aged
The Playwright (PW), male, middle-aged.
(The actors for the production were Ron White as the Artistic Director and Gavin Crawford as the Playwright. It was directed by Brad Fraser for Wrecking Ball 13 in Toronto on June 20, 2012.)
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Production photos courtesy of Wrecking Ball and photo credit is Keith Barker.
PW- Hey.
AD- Have a seat.

Gavin Crawford (l) and Ron White

PW- You’re well?
AD- I am. You?
PW- Yes. Have you lost weight?
AD- I have. A little. Thanks for noticing.
PW- It’s always a dicey thing to point out. Could be cancer or something.
AD- No cancer just some running.
PW- I remember running. A long time ago.
AD- How’s Will?
PW- Great. The kids?
AD- Great. Big.
PW- They do that.
AD- I read the play. (TOGETHER)
PW- Have you read the play?     
AD- Yes.
PW- Of course. And?
AD- I liked a lot of it.
PW- How much?
AD- Major portions.
PW- The majority?
AD- Yes although.
PW- Although?
AD- The board read it.
PW- Read it, read it or “read it” like they usually do?
AD- Read it read it.
PW- Really?
AD- Yes.
PW- Do you think it’s a good idea to let the board read political satire?
AD- There are - concerns.
PW- What concerns?
AD- You make reference to the Prime Minister having a sham marriage and his wife actually being in love with another woman.
PW- Yes. The rumour none of the press will touch.
AD- They sought legal council.
PW- I ran it past my lawyer as well. Because he’s a public figure and this is clearly a political satire there’s no problem.
AD- The board’s lawyer doesn’t agree. He thinks the PM might have a good case for libel or slander since he is a character in the play.
PW- So which lawyer do we trust?
AD- Neither.
PW- They’re lawyers.
PW- It’s really that big a deal?
AD- I’m afraid it is.
PW- So are you going to make me change the line?
AD- I’ve never “made” a playwright change anything in my career. You know that better than anyone.
PW- The joke isn’t even really about the Prime Minister or his wife. It’s about the press pretending these rumours don’t exist in order to stay on his good side.
AD- Rumours. Whose business is it anyway?
PW- They’re persistent and given his whole “love of the traditional family” thing it behooves us all to know if there is any truth in the story.
AD- Do you really think it affects his ability to do his job?

PW- Yes I do. And so do you if you care to cast your mind back on your own divorce two years ago.
AD- There’s no need to bring that up.
PW- I just want to remind you that you were an emotional zombie for six months who made a few- let’s say unwise - decisions.
AD- It’s not like you’ve never been in the same state after a break-up.
PW- That’s my point. So are you asking me to cut the line or not?
AD- It doesn’t matter.
PW- Why not?
AD- I’ve decided not to program the play for next season.
PW- You’re cancelling the production?
AD- We’d never committed to a production.
PW- Well no but you have commissioned and produced the last six plays I’ve written.
AD- Each play is chosen for its own merits-
PW- When you offered me the residency you said it was because of an ongoing commitment to my work as it developed.
AD- And I don’t think you can accuse us of not being committed.
PW- Look- if you hate the play have the balls to say you hate the play.
AD- I don’t hate the play.
PW- Tell me what’s wrong with it and I’ll fix it.
AD- Please-
PW- It’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
AD- This has nothing to do with your abilities-
PW- This script is packed with laughs. And you know it’ll get better in rehearsal-
AD- No. I’m sorry. It’s not going to happen.
AD- You can go.
PW- You think that’s how this works? You tell me you’re not programming my show and I slink out of here without a word?
AD- I don’t know what more I can say.
PW- Considering the number of tickets I’ve sold for this theatre I think I’m probably owed just a bit more of an explanation for why you’re ending our relationship-
AD- Who says I’m ending anything?
PW- Do you really think you can dismiss my newest play this way and we’ll continue to work together?
AD- Honestly- no. I pretty much knew you’d react this way.
PW- Twelve years. Six shows.
AD- And finally you wrote one that doesn’t work for me. It happens.
PW- Why doesn’t it work for you?
AD- I don’t know. I just- it doesn’t excite anything in me.
PW- Really? Because everyone else who’s read it found it exciting. Your own dramaturg told me she thought it was “highly exciting”.
AD- I am not going to jeopardize the funding of this theatre so you can call-out our litigious-prone PM just to prove your balls are bigger than his!
PW- What?
AD- You saw what happened to the Dufferin Players when they did that show about the terrorist-
PW- It wasn’t about a terrorist. It was written by a woman who’d interviewed the terrorist suspect-
AD- Whatever. Their funding was cut by half the very next year. And you know that reporter for the Daily Globe was fired after she wrote that article about the very rumour you’re bringing up again.
PW- She was fired?
AD- Immediately.
PW- It was only up on the website for like twenty minutes.
AD- Which tells me our esteemed Prime Minister takes such comments very seriously.
PW- Are you kidding me?
AD- Half of our operating budget could be at stake. Most of the new play development funds-
PW- You’re passing on my play because you’re afraid the Prime Minister of Canada- who is not known to be the country’s hugest theatre-goer- will hear about one line in a loud political satire and cut the funding to this theatre?
PW- Is that what you’re saying?
AD- We have fourteen full time staff with families-
PW- Don’t give me the “with families” argument just because I’m childless-
AD- How many technicians, designers, actors and playwrights do we employ in a year?
PW- All of whom understand that this is not the civil service but the theatre-
AD- And you’d jeopardize their futures for one line in a play that no one’s going to get anyway?
PW- Wow.
AD- No one wants political satire. We’re living in very cautious times.
PW- We’re living in fucking crazy times. Listen to yourself. This is the theatre- remember. “We shine a light on the best and the worst things in the world” Isn’t that what you said when you got the job running this place? “Theatre has an obligation to challenge as well as entertain.” I’m quite sure you said that defending one of my plays that had nudity, simulated anal sex and a scene with someone eating another person’s heart.
AD- Things were different then.
PW- You had guts.

AD- We were all disappointed with the ticket sales for your last two shows.
PW- You didn’t say anything about those ticket sales when you commissioned this one. 
AD- Things have changed. We can’t rely on the audience the way we used to. They’re very finicky about what they want.
PW- And what is it they want?
AD- Reassurance. Gentle treatment. Distraction. 
PW- Well if you know what the audience wants then why isn’t this theatre full every night of the week? Why haven’t you told the PM to go fuck himself because you’re making so much money you don’t need his dirty, conditional grants?
AD- Walked right into that, didn’t I?
PW- And the really maddening thing is you Artistic Directors are all so obsessive and overworked and afraid of- everything you’re afraid of when you’re running a theatre company- that you lose all touch with the real world. When was the last time you saw a movie?
AD- Okay, you’ve had your say. Disapproval noted. Now I do have to get back to trying to keep this place afloat.
PW- Do you really not see the implications of what you’re doing?
AD- I’ve thought about it long and hard.
PW- What are you going to do when the government decides it doesn’t like plays about lesbians- or poor people- or immigrants?
AD- Those are not the same thing as attacking the PM’s marriage directly.
PW- You’re giving every other AD permission to do exactly the same thing.
AD- All I’m doing is choosing not to produce your new play.
PW- Because you’re afraid of offending the PM and losing your funding.
AD- I didn’t say that but even if I did, why’s that so bad? This theatre’s a Canadian institution. It has to be here for future generations. We’ve watched those bullying Cons decimate the arts for years, I won’t put a bulls-eye on this place just to help you feel relevant and get another round of tepid reviews.
PW- You realize this is exactly what the play is about, right- a corrupt government creating a world that’s ruled by mediocrity and fear because we’re kept on the verge of financial ruin the entire time? You’re not just buying into that- you’re promoting it.
AD- I’m doing what I think is good for the company.
PW- There was a time this company would’ve done this play out of defiance.
AD- Tastes change. Ideas and arguments that were relevant once lose that relevance.
PW- Don’t talk to me about relevance when you’re “not programming” a script because it might cause people to talk too much about the current government. 
AD- This isn’t about politics. It’s about not biting the hand that feeds you which is exactly what your play does. Don’t you ever question yourself for criticizing the people who are giving us the money that keeps this theatre open?
PW- No. Never. And neither should you. That’s why they call it “arms length” funding.
AD- They don’t call it that anymore.
PW- Maybe if you produced the play and there was an uproar we could talk about those issues. Make the public aware. Change it even.
AD- Or maybe we’d just lose our funding and close.
PW- I’m going to go public with this conversation.
AD- There’s no advantage in that.
PW- When the government’s actions are directly affecting artistic and commercial decisions being made all over this country people should know about it.
AD- Most Canadians have no interest in the arts at all. Many genuinely do believe it’s wrong for us to criticize the government when we’re using tax dollars. I can’t change that and neither can you. Embarrass me publicly if you like-
PW- That’s not the point.
AD- The point is your play’s been rejected and you don’t like it.
PW- I’m a writer. Rejection is my other lover. I can cope with this. What I can’t cope with is realizing you’ve given in to the worst kind of self censorship imaginable. They’re making you do their job for them- out of fear. I can’t stay silent about this. How could I?
AD- This’ll teach me not to say “good effort but not quite what we’re looking for” like every other AD who passes on a script.
PW- I guess it will.
AD- I’ll look bad to the people who already hate me but those who want to work here- they’ll keep their mouths shut or defend me. Like you said, everyone’s desperate for the work and we’ve never been a particularly political theatre. 
AD- In time you’ll understand why I did this.
PW- I understand it now. I just don’t accept it. Kill me if I ever do.

All rights to this play are retained by the writer. Brad Fraser's Facebook page.
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