Last year’s winner for Best New Work (Donors), Brandon Crone is back again in the same category, this time nominated for Maypole Rose, his gorgeous contribution to the truly cool collaborative project that was Circle Jerk. Four indie playwrights were given an opening line and a closing line chosen from another writer’s work; what Brandon Crone did with his prompts of “I think it’s time we talked about your filthy rituals” and “I fucking hate potatoes” was nothing short of mesmerizing.
What have you been up to since your interview for the 2013 Nominee Interview Series?
Acting a lot actually. I played a cyber-sexual deviant in Jakob Ehman’s new play 911 at the Hamilton Fringe, a concerned passerby on Reign, the younger version of Scrooge in TNB’s A Christmas Carol, a paranoid, suppressed army captain in TiFT’s The Prince of Homburg, and an incestuous, flamboyant-running brother of a murderous psychopath on Murdoch Mysteries. For once, just ONCE, I wish I wasn’t type cast!
Tell us about the Safe Words Festival. Do you know of any plans for a full production of the winning script?
The objective of Safe Words is to empower playwrights to create their own opportunities. Every applicant submits a $10 entry fee with their script submission and all of the money gets put directly into the prize money that’s awarded to the winner of the festival. The beauty of it is the more people invest in it, the bigger an opportunity it becomes. However it is important that no one feels obligated to produce their script with our company. It’s a platform we facilitate to showcase new work in a fun and competitive environment. Jenna Harris already successfully produced her script Mine at this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival and Daniel Karasik is self-producing his script Little Death this spring. It’s a selfless way we can give back to the theatre community and discover exciting, new, Canadian playwrights across the country.
The Circle Jerk premise gave you your opening and closing lines. Was Maypole Rose percolating before you got your assignments- “I think it’s time we talked about your filthy rituals” and “I hate potatoes”- or did you start from scratch with the prompts?
I got so excited about the concept that I couldn’t help myself from coming up with ideas beforehand. I had a story in my mind that I wanted to tell and decided to let the lines dictate how it would manifest.
How did the prompts factor into your writing process and the play as a whole? Were they more of an inspiration or a challenge?
Let’s be honest: I was probably the worst out of the four at integrating my prompt lines into the play. I’ll say it was a challenge. A challenge to write a good enough play that distracted everyone else from my shortcomings. Did you see the bananas?
How long did it take to write the script? Was the shorter length a blessing or a curse?
We had about a month to write the scripts before rehearsals started. I was really excited to write a short play because everyone makes fun of me for rambling, writing things that go on too long and trying to pack too many ideas into one play. So in the end, I wrote a play that was 25 minutes over the suggested running time, full of mundane rambling and had more ideas than you can shake a stick at. I think now if I were to write a short play again, I’d do something like Samuel Beckett’s Breath but call it Fart and leave it at that.
What were some of your key inspirations and influences for this story and characters?
Eyes Wide Shut and the book it’s based on Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler.
‘Traum’ translates into dream but also comes from the derivative trauma. I love this story because it beautifully blends the interplay of dream and reality. I believe that our definitions and perceptions of the two are completely interchangeable and I wanted to play with that idea in Maypole Rose. It’s kind of like Eyes Wide Shut II when Tom Cruise finally realizes he’s gay.
It’s such an intimate portrayal of marriage. As an unmarried man, where does that insight come from?
Observation and imagination.
How much did the play change from the first to final draft? What were some of the biggest edits you made?
We didn’t really have a lot of time for edits or drafts but I think the acting made up for any flaws in the writing.
How much did the play change from the final draft to closing night?
The words are the least important thing in the play. It just got better and better the more they lived in it.
Tell us about casting and working with G. Kyle Shields and Alexander Plouffe.
I only want to work with people who are super passionate about what they’re doing and aren’t faking it for any sort of approval. Working with Alex and Kyle was a dream come true and the play belonged to them from day one. I just sat in the corner, corrected a little and talked their ears off.
What would you say is the most important conversation you had with your actors throughout the rehearsal process?
No half measures. Go all the way, then go further.
Alright, the banana. How did that scene develop? Was it all scripted or discovered in the room? Did it change at all throughout rehearsals and the run?
It was all scripted. My background is in dancing so I love to create choreography for actors. We tried being super specific about movement and timing and whatnot but in the end I just threw up my hands and said, ‘Just go bananas!’
Did you have a favourite moment in the show?
I like when Kyle talks about cannibals and when Alex circles around the table twice. Basically the whole time they were high.
In last year’s interview, I asked you what was the best thing you’d ever written and your answer was an as-yet unproduced play called Nature of the Beast. Lo and behold, Nature of the Beast is about to premiere at the Storefront Theatre. Tell us about that production and how it’s shaping up so far.
It’s really hard to talk about. All I can say is that I have the best minds working on it and bringing it to life. The play is very personal to me and whether it’s the best play I’ve written or not, I am extremely blessed to be working with and surrounded by people I love, respect and admire. I hope everyone has a chance to come see it.
What are you working on next?
The 2015 Safe Words Festival, a play called Contempt and a trilogy set 100 years in the future that I’m really excited about.
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
First of all, I’m not fishing when I say with great sincerity thank you Kelly for making independent theatre matter and making starving artists feel like a million bucks.
And secondly, come see Nature of the Beast! It’s playing at the Storefront Theatre from March 26th – April 11th. Tickets for the first week are only $15 so grab them while you can by visiting www.safeword.ca