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Mark Crawford: “Everything informs everything”

July 13, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Playwright Mark Crawford is living – happily – in interesting times. An actor for some years, three plays ago he began a double life as actor and playwright. Hard work but he is in love with it.

His first of those three plays, Stag and Doe, which had a successful run at Theatre Orangeville two seasons ago, was well-received in the many other theatres where it was produced. His third play, The Birds and the Bees, is the upcoming Theatre Orangeville’s season’s-end production – similarly placed in May, 2018.

We had the chance to chat with Mr. Crawford this week about his life in the theatre and the work he has come to love. Acting begat play writing:

He told us, “I had always wanted to write and admired that in others. I had so many false starts and  I never got a full draft of a play.”

Having worked as an actor for several years, “I had a sense of how plays work from the inside but it took a lot years to form a real play. I was working at Blythe [Festival]. There’s so much new work being produced there. Being in that community, I felt as close to being home as I had done for a long time.”

Indeed, although he’s now living in Toronto, Mr. Crawford grew up on his parents’ beef cattle farm just outside Glencoe, Ontario. So, the small town theme of Stag and Doe: the Community Centre with its 1950’s style kitchen and the inevitability of its being double booked for big sentimental occasions –  Mr. Crawford said, “I thought I could tackle that.”

Creativity can cost, emotionally and more. He explained, “[While writing] I think you vacillate. There are times I think I’m on to something  and sometimes it is really challenging. I love it but I don’t think any playwright says it’s not hard work. With Stag and Doe, I worked on it on my own. Once I was in Blyth Festival, I started working with the director. I had one private reading on my own and then, through Blyth, there was one workshop.”

Stag and Doe premiered at Blyth in 2014. Between Stag and Doe and The Birds and The Bees, Mr. Crawford penned his  second play, Bed and Breakfast, in which he took on one of this “two hander” piece.

However, as he explained, “It’s very cool [to act in your own play] but at the same time, your job as an actor is still the same. In this play, two actors play 22 characters – it was the hardest thing I ever did.

“I wanted to write a big story about a bigger community, but to be told by two central people; I wanted the play to focus on them. It’s fun to see two actors playing a whole bunch of characters. Through them, we get to see a whole list of lives.”

Bed and Breakfast premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in 2015 and he is still acting in it.

“We just did it in Montreal,” he was happy to tell us. “In the month of August, we’re taking it to the Belfry Theatre in Victoria.”

Our conversation took a philosophical turn as we discussed the effect and counter-effect of how acting and play writing influence each other within the same soul.

“I think everything informs everything,” he said. “Being in a Shakespearean play informs acting and play-writing . [One season] we were doing two different Shakespeare plays in one day, for the matinee and the evening performances. That was something.

“A lot of actors say, ‘If you can do Shakespeare, you can do anything.’ With multiple characters – I think, every time I go to the theatre, I learn something. Even a production I don’t particularly like – I still learn something. There’s people whose work I really admire. It’s often people who do comedy really well – in comedy, there’s no place to hide.”

We agreed that, very often, stand-up must be very difficult.

He made the observation: “When it [comedy] works, it’s really exciting – when it doesn’t, it’s terrifying.”

As to his ambitions, he admitted, “Honestly, it’s to keep working – writing different kinds of things. I’m really proud of the work I’ve produced so far. Every time we get a new play, we take another chance.”

Reflectively, “Now that we have fewer live experiences – it’s so singular watching a story. To go on a journey with people, in the dark – we need that – it’s an essential part of the human condition, is story telling. If it changes and evolves and grows – that’s okay.”

Orangeville has special ties with Mr. Crawford. He has real respect for the choices Theatre Orangeville makes.

“I have a great affection for Theatre Orangeville,” he remarked. “They are doing something that other theatres wish they could do which is connect with the audience. Lots of times, there’s a play that people enjoy but there’s no connection between the characters and the audience.

“The reason people support Theatre Orangeville? He [director David Nairn] is really reflecting the audience with the people on stage. The Birds and the Bees especially shows people who they could be – them or people they know.”

The Birds and the Bees is on at Theatre Orangeville during its coming season. For full details about all the plays scheduled for the 2017 – 2018 season and to purchase tickets or subscriptions for the season – either three plays or all five – visit the Box Office at 87 Broadway or the Tourist Information Centre on Buena Vista Drive; give the theatre a call on 519-942-3423; or go online to www.theatreorangeville.ca.

         

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