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Mark Crawford is Chasing the Ace in latest Theatre Orangeville play

August 13, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Calling it his “Rolling World Premier,” Mark Crawford is touring with four stops with his one man, one act play, Chase the Ace, which he both penned and performs. Each of the theatre venues hosting the show are tents, well organized and with all the pandemic protocols in place.

This week, Mark Crawford opened his show yesterday (Wednesday, August 11), running to August 20, for Theatre Orangeville in the open Pavilion at the Mount Alverno Luxury Resort on Heart Lake Road. This is some 10 minutes’ drive from Theatre Orangeville in Orangeville.

The Alverno promises a luxury tent with chairs set up for two, socially distanced from other pairs of seats and carefully sanitized.

Walking to the tent passes the Vista restaurant’s patio, where patrons might like to reserve to enjoy a meal before the performance. The Resort is on Heart Lake Road, just close to a kilometre south of Hwy 9, east from Hwy 10.

Last week, Mr. Crawford opened in Port Dover with Lighthouse Festival Theatre, he and the audiences sheltered and stayed safe in a tent provided by and standing at a local golf course.

“It’s an interesting dynamic out doors in full light, socially distanced” Mark Crawford commented in a recent interview with the Citizen. “[In] Port Dover, I was under a tent from a golf course, at the golf course. All the performances were as sold as protocols allowed.”

Mr. Crawford is taking his show to four theatres in total this summer: Port Dover (Lighthouse Festival Theatre), Theatre Orangeville, Festival Players in Prince Edward County and Blyth Festival– all outdoors.

It may seem like a lot of work but, besides the thrill of acting again and with his own solo show, there is much more to compel Mark Crawford to write and work: “I ask what is the purpose of these companies? To produce plays for the people because people love live theatre and [story telling is part of who we are.]”

He talked about what went into the writing of Chase the Ace. “The inspiration was a couple of things. I looked at what this summer was going to look like and realized that probably everything was going to be outdoors. We have had to ‘bubble artists’ [meaning staying together and not associating with other people to stay safe] for the audience. So, this is the time for a one man show, no bubble required; so, a solo piece.”

For the central item in his plot, Mr. Crawford remembered the news story a few years ago, when a very small town in Nova Scotia was running a lottery called “chase the ace lotteries. I read about one that went nuts in Nova Scotia,” he recalled. “Then people came from out of town, some from far away – there were no restaurant or facilities. I stored that away in my thinking as an interesting idea.”

The other element of the play is its timing during a pandemic. He rationalized that: “This is going to be the first night out to live theatre people are going to have in months, so, I decided to write about it rather than pretend it never happened.”

Also: “During the lockdown, I’ve been listening to crime radio journalists who are looking to solve crimes.”

An idea that his own hero might do likewise, “Charlie King gets more than he bargained for, as you often do when you going digging in other people’s business.”

Playing a solo show has its own set of challenges.

Said Mr. Crawford, “I have performed a solo show but not one that I wrote. Literally, I’m going to 16 years ago. I don’t know that I even thought of it during writing this one but I’ve seen lots of other one man shows; some that I thought were brilliant and others I thought that didn’t quite work.”

Reflecting, he commented, “I wanted to tell an interesting story with lots of twists. There are 15 characters to perform. I wanted to write something that was comedy but also talked about where we are in this world – about the truth and that can be hard to pin down.”

For many Theatre Orangeville fans, possibly the top of the one man show category is Dan Needles’ Wingfield, wherein the myriad of characters are all played by Rod Beattie.

“I’ve seen Wingfield – that dynamic work,” Mark Crawford said, “I actually chatted with Rod about doing solo and he gave some good advice.”

But he wouldn’t share what any of that advice was…

As for other, more solo shows, he admits he doesn’t know what the future holds but is clear about his present day: “I’m having a great time doing this. The set just folds up. I can take all the show with me. I’m having fun doing that. It all fits in my car and I feel there’s a lot more stories to tell. Right now, I’m just happy doing it.”

Mark Crawford grew up on a farm and went to theatre school at University of Toronto. He was an actor for about 10 years before his first attempt at playwriting.

He acknowledged, “Playwriting is hard. Stag and Doe was the first. It’s a challenging form to write in and some days it just flows; others, it’s harder.”

We asked him to tell us why audiences should come and see Chase the Ace: “Because I think it’s a great show. People are having a great time – it’s 75 minutes, a way to have some laughs and also reflect a little bit. I set it against the back drop of the pandemic without being about the pandemic.”

Concerned for theatre, he observed, “This is a sector that has been disseminated and Theatre Orangeville has been amazing.

“If audiences believe in theatre, in any way, they need buy to tickets and come – and the rewards of coming: this particular experience of being in a tent with your two little dear seats, bubbled.”

Chase the Ace, starring and written by Mark Crawford, is running until August 20. For actual tickets to join the show live and outdoors at the Mount Alverno Resort, please go  or you can call the Box Office at 519-942-3423.

“Port Dover has old roots; I went to the cemetery and some of the stones there are from before the war of 1812 …” in answer to a ghost story he heard about the town…

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