Episode 112: Taking Students to Competition
How do you handle competition with your students? How do you circumvent the win, win, win mentality, especially if you don’t win? Teacher Gary Rodgers competes every year in his region and talks about his experiences.
Welcome to TFP – The Theatrefolk Podcast – the place to be for Drama teachers, Drama students, and theatre educators everywhere.
I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk.
Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.
Welcome to Episode 112. You can find all the links for this episode at theatrefolk.com/episode112.
So, aside from playwriting and teaching, I also adjudicate. I’m around a lot of competition and I’ve been adjudicating individual events – monologues and scenes – for about… I think, about eight years. But, in the past four years, I’ve actively sought out adjudicating one-acts and full-lengths, and I do it. I like to sit on that side of the table because I like the analytical part. I like watching and analyzing a production. It’s very interesting to me and I like sharing the thoughts that I have about that. But, too, I got really, really tired of hearing student’s stories about being ripped apart in an adjudication.
It’s one thing to be critical of a student production, and to be critical is fine. You know, if there are things that need to be worked on, that should be addressed. But I’m really not a believer in “tough love” for students because there is a way to provide constructive criticism where it becomes a learning experience. You know, where they can work on things for the next time. And, you know, I know a teacher who, just this year, after an adjudication, said the experience made her students feel defeated, and I don’t get that. I don’t get why that’s good for an adjudicator to make a student feel defeated.
Again, this is not about making everything sunshine and roses – that’s not helpful either. But what are we supposed to be teaching? Are we supposed to be teaching students to not ever want to step on-stage again? Or do we want them to learn and grow? Granted, you know, sometimes I give a comment and you can tell when a student is not going to do anything with it, but that’s
fine. I still have to offer it in a constructive way, and that’s my goal as an adjudicator – to find that line where criticism is a tool to build something and not a hammer to smash it down.
So, that sort of segues into our podcast today. We’re going to talk about competition – what it’s like on the other side of the table, to take students to competition. How do you handle adjudications? How do you handle the competitive atmosphere in a constructive manner? I’m going to talk to one teacher who takes his students to competition on a regular basis and see how he does it.
Lindsay: Hello, everyone! I am here today with Teacher Gary Rodgers.
Gary: Hi! How do you do?
Lindsay: Oh, I’m excellent. How are you?
Gary: I am very good. Thank you.
Lindsay: Tell everybody where in the world you are situated.
Gary: I am in Grand Falls, Newfoundland.
Lindsay: Ah! Newfoundland!
Gary: Center of Newfoundland, yes.
Lindsay: For the majority of our audience who are in the States, they might not know where Newfoundland is. Us Canadians, we better know, but you guys are at the easternmost province of Canada.
Gary: We are. We are the easternmost province or part of North America, really.
Lindsay: When I was in Newfoundland, there were some people who actually referred to Canada as “the mainland.”
Gary: You do hear that. You will hear that a lot here. Oh, we are an island.
Lindsay: Yes. Yes, a lovely island. My other memory of Newfoundland is we arrived in June and it was four degrees.
Lindsay: It was very cold.
Gary: We had an exceptionally hot summer this year but June was four degrees.
Lindsay: You’re the only one! Everyone else, we’ve had a sort of middling summer. Okay. We’ll stop talking about the weather.
Lindsay: I always get in trouble. All right!
You have written two plays that we have included in our catalogue. We have a lovely comedy Shakespeare extravaganza mix-up called Lose Not Thy Head and then we also have a very different kind of comedy but a comedy that is basically called Layers and I think, Gary, that really is the only way to describe the play, isn’t it? It’s layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer.
Gary: It is. The title sort of was automatic. It came with the concept.
Lindsay: I don’t doubt it. And you used both these plays with your students in competition, and that’s kind of what we’re going to talk about. First of all, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to compete with high school students. You work with high school students?
Gary: I do.
Lindsay: In competition?
Lindsay: What is the main competition that you have in Newfoundland?
Gary: We have our Provincial High School Theatre Festival. It’s broken down into regions. We are in the central region and, once a year, we will go to our local arts and culture center and we’ll have about ten to twelve schools perform there. Each play has to be under 45 minutes and has to have a cast of less than 16. Other than that, you’re free to do whatever you wish.
Lindsay: You’re free to do whatever you wish.
Lindsay: And what’s the assessment of the plays? Are you guys adjudicated? Is there a form that gets followed? What’s the process for deciding who gets to go on?
Gary: We are adjudicated. Usually, we’ll have local – as in Newfoundland actor or playwright or director – a very experienced person who will adjudicate each play in the festival. You’ll spend a half hour to an hour with this person – usually the following day – just in conversation about your play with your cast. And, ultimately, this person will pick the best overall performance which will go on to our provincial festival.
Lindsay: Now, competition is a very unique beast, isn’t it? Because it’s not like, you know, putting up a play and it’s going to be for family and friends and everyone’s going to love it.
Gary: It’s quite different from your Christmas concert. No question.
Lindsay: It’s quite different than Aunt Mildred coming to your show and just telling you and gushing how wonderful you are.
Lindsay: So, let’s start with that whole adjudication factor. What do you tell your students to expect from an adjudication?
Gary: Anything. You know, honestly, adjudicators can pick on a variety of things. Quite often, they’ll pick in things that are totally out of the student’s control and have more to do with myself as the director.
Lindsay: Do you have an example of that? What’s something that an adjudicator has picked on that was more reflective of you than of the students?
Gary: Oh, the script.
Gary: You know? Another thing that adjudicators often – I guess they’re aware of it but they tend to forget sometimes because – if you’re a person who’s dedicated your life to theatre, you’re employed through theatre and you work with professionals all day long, you tend to forget that you’re looking at a group of kids who have other interests – they play sports, they play instruments, they have a full course load of subjects that are really supposed to take precedence over everything.
So, as a director, you have to make choices. You can look at things in rehearsal and say, “Yeah, that’s wrong, but I can’t fix it right now. I have to deal with something else. I have to work on this and, if we get time, we’ll go back to that,” and you just have to sort of accept sometimes that it will be what it will be.
Now, that said, I don’t mean to pick on adjudicators because they’re wonderful people and they bring a tremendous amount to my kids year after year.
Lindsay: I think a really good adjudicator, it’s useful practical feedback that they can offer.
Lindsay: And then, on the other end of the spectrum, I think that the type of adjudicator also that you’re talking about, there are just some people who don’t get that you need to speak to students in a different way than you speak to adults.
Gary: It is, and writing for them is completely different. A 35- or 45-minute play for a high school festival is not the same animal that you would have in community theatre or underground-type theatre, you know, where you can see practically anything. You have to be very careful not to go over any lines. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be condescending and patronizing. You want to give your students a challenge. You want to give them something they can do and that will require work but that, ultimately, in the end is going to be a great deal of fun and they’ll feel like they’ve accomplished something whether it’s comedy or not.
Lindsay: Do you ever run into just the thought in your head of “If I choose to do this play, I know that I’m going to get flack for it from an adjudicator”? Does that ever cross your mind?
Gary: Yeah, it certainly has, and also, when we go into a festival, generally, it’s only, like, the week before that I find out who the adjudicator actually is, and some, naturally, you’re going to do a little background check on them and try to find out as much as you can. But it’s far too late now to, at that stage, to really change anything you’ve done to try and gear it toward an adjudicator, and you shouldn’t do that anyway. I mean, it’s not about trying to please an adjudicator. It’s about a whole bunch of stuff.
Lindsay: That’s the whole…
Gary: Yeah, it’s about pleasing an audience, it’s about pleasing yourself, it’s about pleasing a group of students who dearly love what they’re doing. So, the fact that it’s competitive is kind of strange at times.
But, if you’re going to have a provincial festival, we can’t have every school in the province all show up at one festival. It would take weeks. So, ultimately, somebody has to be selected to go on to our provincial festival and I attended the provincial last year along with another group – not my own, actually – and it’s a wonderful experience so you really want your kids to win too at the same time. So, it gets competitive.
Lindsay: Well, and it should. Like, there’s nothing wrong with getting your students to work towards a higher level of achievement. I think that that’s a noble goal. It’s when things get into a “we must win at all costs” mentality where things, I think, go awry. How do you avoid that with your students?
Gary: I don’t know. I’m a competitive person by nature. I think we all are.
Lindsay: Oh! So, maybe it is a win-win-win!
Gary: I threw off this hockey player, to be honest, in the theatre group at my high school. But, at the same time, it’s not really in my nature to push a group of kids beyond, you know, what’s sensible, I suppose. In fact, this past year, we went to our festival. I had more kids than I was allowed to take. I didn’t really feel that we had a real good shot at winning so I took them all and I basically forfeited my chance to actually win and go to provincial. I ended up going with a different group, to be honest. But I still put just as much into it and my kids still put just as much into even though they weren’t competitive.
Lindsay: That’s not actually a bad idea, you know? When, instead of choosing to abide by the rules one year, choose to abide by “I don’t want to kick a student out.”
Gary: Yeah, exactly.
Lindsay: So that I am abiding by the rules and that it’s not a bad idea to go to a competition knowing you’re not competing. They still get kind of the same experience, don’t they? Because they get to see the other performances. Did you still get adjudicated?
Gary: We were adjudicated, yes, and we took part in everything – all the workshops – and we gave a great performance. It was very well-received. I just didn’t feel it was going to be our year and, in retrospect, I did make the right decision on that. So, instead of having to remove a couple of kids from the group or cast them as understudies then keep them out of the actual production, I took them all and I actually spoke to our program specialist and did sort of say, “Maybe we should look at revisit the number of students.” Understandably, we have a time limit. That makes sense, or else, you know, people would be putting in three-hour musicals and stuff. But I see no real benefit in limiting the number of students that you can put into your production.
Lindsay: I know that the Sears Drama Festival here in Ontario has a minimum number. Like, you can’t do one-person shows and your show has to be at least fifteen minutes long and fifty minutes is the time limit here. I actually have never come across another competition that has a maximum number.
Gary: Well, I am going to say that Lindsay Price said that.
Lindsay: See how far that gets you! I’m not sure it’ll get you far!
You know, the reason that rules exist in a competition is because someone has tried to go around them, right? There’s a reason. And, also, I think parameters are good because I think students excel within limitations.
There’s a competition in the States – the Thespian competitions – where everything that you’re going to put on the set has to go in – and I don’t remember the dimensions but – you have to stand on this sort of taped-out box on the side of the stage. So, everyone stands on that box with their props and costumes and their set and then, at the time goes, they have to run and I’m amazed sometimes about what a group of students can do with a limitation where the thing comes to life. That’s what I like about, I think, the competition aspect is because there usually are those limitations.
What do you think your students get out of competition?
Gary: I think not just so much out of competition but of the whole experience. It’s amazing how you can watch some kids over the course of three or four productions really build a lot of self-confidence and just become more outspoken, more well-presented, and confident children. Very few of the students that I work with will go on to lives in theatre. However, at that point in time, they’re very much in the moment, they’re loving what they’re doing, and they do take away from this a whole lot of experience and, you know, maybe someday when they’re sitting down at a job interview, they’ll be a little more confident about it, or when they’re dealt with some situation of diversity – something somewhere along the lines, that little bit of development in self-confidence that they took from theatre will still be there with them.
Lindsay: How often do you write your competition pieces?
Gary: More often than not.
Lindsay: Why is that?
Gary: That’s a good question. I do it because I’m looking for the perfect fit for the group I have. It’s very unusual. I work in a small school. We have 220 students, grades seven to twelve.
Gary: I always have a reasonable number of students interested in taking part in Drama every year. However, I don’t have to audition and I don’t have a big pool of students. Like, if I say to myself, “Well, I need a six-foot-nine, very hairy guy,” I probably don’t have four or five of them to pick from. So, I basically have a group and I write for the group which is kind of unusual. It’s not like a typical playwright who has a topic which they wish to address through theatre.
Lindsay: You know what though? It’s more common than not in our field.
Gary: It is.
Lindsay: Like, I get a number of plays from teachers and the reason the play exists is because they wrote it for their students – for the exact same reason that you’re doing it. It’s all about what’s going to be best for the group of students I have in front of me and I think that’s wonderful. With my publisher hat on, I love it because that means the play has been vetted by students, worked by students, performed in front of other students, and, in this case, you know, performed in a competition situation which is exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for. And I can’t think of anything better! So, well done!
Gary: Yeah. Well, thank you! Yeah, and each individual part almost really was written with a particular person in mind which, as a writer, does limit you in many ways. Like, you might say to yourself, “Well, I won’t do that with this character,” or, “I’ll have to do that with this character because so and so is going to play the role,” and, I mean, that’s probably not true for every single character but, for most of them, and my plays tend to have 13 or 14 students because that’s the maximum. We’re allowed 16 in our festival but two of those have to be chaperones with teacher chaperones whether they’re directors or not.
I try to get more and more students involved in production and in sound and light, but they all want to be on-stage, especially when you’re doing comedy as comedy is a lot of fun. Although, this past year, I did have a lighting tech and I did have a co-director who actually called our show.
Lindsay: And did you treat them like gold? Because they were far so far and few between?
Gary: Absolutely, because I want them doing the same thing next year.
Lindsay: Hey! Just on that note, do you have a lot of set and technical limitations for your plays too in the competition?
Gary: It’s very unusual. In rehearsals, yes. In rehearsals, you’re in the high school gym or a classroom or the library and, you know, you’re playing your soundtrack through a stereo. And then, we go to the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts which is where we have our festival or regional and, you know, it’s a state of the art theatre. It’s a beautiful theatre with pretty well everything you could want, and you only have one hour prior to your show for technical. So, you’ve got one hour to place your lights, to run through your soundtrack if you’re using the cyc, if you’re using gobos, whatever.
Lindsay: How do your students handle that transformation? Because it could freak some out to go from working in the library to being in a state of the art theatre.
Gary: Well, we’ve been in this theatre so often now that I know it well enough that I map things out on our gym floor basically. I tell them, you know, “This is your presidium. These are your wings. If you walk over this line, you’re going to fall into the audience.” And so, we get a good sense of stage left, stage right. You know, all your entrances and exits, but also how much space you have – how much physical space on-stage.
So, having been in this theatre enough to know it well enough that I can do that, that makes a big difference. But the first couple of shows that we did there, yeah, they had their problems but you learn from it all.
Lindsay: I really like the idea of, if you’re going to work in your home space, to tape it out as if it is the space you’re going to be in eventually. You know, I think that’s a good tip. I know it’ll never replicate it but, if they know that they’re in the confines of that tape, what they’re working on is the space they’re going to eventually be performing on, that’s got to help a little bit.
Gary: Oh, it certainly does, and it really needs blocking a lot so the students know how far they have to travel between on-stage – makes a big difference for blocking. The wonderful thing about gyms is they’re full of lines anyway so you don’t need tape.
Lindsay: Use what you’ve got, right? Use what you’ve got.
Gary: You’ve got everything there.
Lindsay: How do you deal with limitations in set? Is it a set that you can only carry on? How much time do you have at the start of the show to get your set together?
Gary: At the start of your show, you probably have about fifteen minutes. So, everything has to be mobile. We can put everything backstage and have it stored. We might run three or four shows on one night at the festival. And so, between shows, you probably have fifteen, twenty minutes just to get yourself up there and organized. So, everything has to be ready just to come straight on and, when done, just go straight off.
Lindsay: Do you practice that in your home space?
Gary: We do. Well, we have – depends on the set and what you need. Generally, through rehearsals, anything that comes on and off – like you’re practicing taking them on and off – and you get used to it. However, if your set, like in Lose Not Thy Head, the set goes on and the set stays on, and it’s a bit of a big set though it was fairly mobile. But, the guillotine, that was a fun piece.
Lindsay: Any piece with a guillotine is a fun piece.
Gary: You can’t go wrong with a guillotine in your play.
Lindsay: Yeah, let’s talk about that play for a second. So, where did the impetus come from to take Shakespeare and to take Shakespeare’s sister and mother and sort of have Shakespeare run off and have them not only try to impersonate Shakespeare but then be accused of impersonating Shakespeare and to end up in front of the executioner?
Gary: Yeah, that kind of came from a costume from a few previous Shakespearean pieces – not pieces but really spoofs. I had a Shakespeare costume and it’s been kicking around a while so I said to myself, “We really ought to use that Shakespeare costume, but I don’t have a Shakespeare.” I did a few years ago. I had a wonderful actor too who did a very nice Shakespeare, but I didn’t have one this year. But I had a marvelous student, female, who I kind of wanted to put front and center in a show. she’d been with the group a while and it was her graduating year and I was thinking, “Yeah, she’d make a fine Shakespeare,” only she’s female and Shakespeare was not. So, she became Shakespeare’s sister.
Lindsay: Why not?
Gary: Exactly. So, the costume fit her nicely and Shakespeare’s sister she was whose named had to be Joan and her mother was Mary. Shakespeare had a sister named Joan.
Lindsay: You just went with it, right?
Lindsay: I’ve got to say, I think that, for teachers out there listening, one, if you can’t find a play that’s going to fit your students, take a stab at it and find out, you know, look at the strengths of the students you have around you, and I think that this is a perfect example of how theatricality works. If you have a Shakespeare costume and you don’t have a Shakespeare, make it a girl and then see where it takes you, right?
Someone once told me, you know, “Don’t bother writing until you know how it ends.” But, you know, you can’t do that, or else you’d never write anything. And this was a play that just evolved one step after the other with just a series of questions like, “Okay. What next? Okay. Well, what’s Shakespeare’s sister? What’s her problem? Ah, she’s about to be executed. That’s always a problem. So, why? Well, she’s Shakespeare’s sister. What else is she going to do? She’s wearing the costume, she’s impersonating Shakespeare.”
It just built on top of that – one step after the other and after the other – and you look at your kids and you scratch your head sometimes and say, “What can I get them to do?” That’s, like, where the head came from, actually. It just worked so marvellously well.
Lindsay: And we’d just like to tell everyone that, yes, there is a severed head that talks in this play.
Lindsay: You’re all intrigued now! I know it!
Gary: Yeah, exactly! It’s good to have a severed head. If you’re going to have a guillotine, you might as well have a severed head in your play. You know, take it from their perspective. And, the fact that, well, he’s quite all right with being severed. He’s not hungry anymore. And, the fact that everybody else in the play – other than Mary and her daughter Joan – are perfectly all right with the idea that the severed head is talking. You know, it just adds to the whole fun of it.
Lindsay: Well, what’s fun too is that you have characters who act out of character. The executioner is kind of depressed and is not all that happy with her job. The severed head is really okay with being a severed head. Joan is impersonating Shakespeare. Like, there’s lots of characters who do things they’re not supposed to do and I think that’s the epitome of comedy – get characters who aren’t doing what they normally do.
Gary: Yes, it is. Much like Joan. I mean, Joan is very concerned about the fact that she’s beheaded. But, when someone insults her play, well, okay, that’s more important. “I’m more concerned about my play and your attitude toward it. And my head being severed, well, that’s important, but not as important as my play.”
Lindsay: Well, don’t all playwrights think that?
Gary: Of course.
Lindsay: You can take my head but don’t criticize my play.
Gary: Don’t criticize my play.
Lindsay: So, you know, basically, describe it at the end of if you like Shakespeare, Monty Python, love, death, laughs, and lunch at the pub, I think that kind of wraps it up nicely for Lose Not Thy Head.
Layers is a completely different animal all together. Where did Layers come from?
Gary: Layers came after Lose Not Thy Head and, having played with the play within a play concept, I was talking with my daughter one day and we were actually at the provincial festival, looking at a few plays ourselves, and we said, “What if we went a step further and went play within a play within a play?” and, actually, the original concept had another play on top of that but it got too long for a competition. So, that’s where it came from. And, the fact that the final play, I guess, doesn’t realize it’s a play at first, just sort of evolves out of it. As you’re sitting there looking at your script saying, “Okay. What’s this guy’s problem really? He’s got writer’s block? So what? It’s got to be more intense than that. Murder! We need some death.”
Lindsay: If you can’t have a severed head, you might as well have some death.
Gary: That’s right. Every good play needs a little death.
Lindsay: Especially the comedies.
Gary: Especially the comedies, yeah. And then, I played with that. I mean, Layers is just fun with theatre. It steps right on to the stage and says, “This is a play.” Robin asks his conscience why he hasn’t seen her at rehearsal before. He’s recognized as a multidimensional character. But even though it recognizes itself as a play – at least that first initial play – well, the second play doesn’t. It’s the writers in the third play, basically, who acknowledge that the dimensionality anthropologists are really a play.
Lindsay: It’s a spiral, and I think that what’s interesting is that, sometimes, particularly with comedies and particularly with high school plays, is that a lot of students get stuck doing things that are really linear. That it’s just “here’s the beginning, here’s the middle, here’s the end.” The characters want one thing. With competition pieces that are often so short, there’s not a lot of time to enjoy a piece that is complicated in its structure, and I think that that’s something that’s missing. Like, we need some complicated. As you said, you want to give them a challenge. You don’t want to condescend on them.
Gary: Yeah, and it’s a difficult line to walk. You don’t want things too easy for them. You don’t want them under their heads but you don’t want them over their heads either. They are kids, after all, right? Sixteen, seventeen years old. You want to deal with tricky subjects but, at the same time, you want to deal with them – I guess I want to deal with them – in a fun way, I suppose, like the pot party. And so, the original idea was…
Lindsay: That’s in the play, by the way. A pot party in the play – not in the classroom, in the play! And the pots are the plants – I guess that’s a plant, too – of the plant kind, sort of. Read the play, everybody!
Gary: Yeah, exactly! It really gets intense at the end. I love it at the end when the writer is discovering what is really going on – if that isn’t what is going on, ultimately, his friend pens the last word. Did I give too much away? I’m not sure.
Lindsay: It’s an onion in a cauliflower in a cabbage. It’s all very complicated.
Gary: Yeah, it gets really intense and really fun and fast-paced. I just love the different deaths. I love Sedrick’s death where she just lies on the floor acknowledging her death, saying, “Oh, I’m dead now,” or something to the like. And, you know, it’s comfortable. She’s just lying there, eyeballing the audience. However, when the writer’s killed, well, he gives us this big dramatic death with a real-life death and they all ask, “Is he?” “Yes, he is.” “I think so.” “You know, you killed him, and so he’s dead.”
Lindsay: So, as we wrap up here, let’s bring this back around to competition and about how important it is to kind of choose these plays sometimes that maybe they fit into the rules or maybe they don’t, or that they give your students a challenge.
One thing I noticed is that you tend to go to provincial even if you don’t have a show in it, right?
Gary: Yeah, sometimes I do. I get lucky and I get some substitute time and I get the nod to go to the provincial.
Lindsay: And I know some teachers, they get right put off. Like, if they don’t get chosen to go on then they wash their hands of the next-level competition. They’re not interested. I think that, sometimes, that’s the wrong attitude – that it’s important to go see the shows that go on and that what was chosen and sort of think about and analyze it. If you could take your students, what might be useful in that as an exercise?
Gary: Well, I’m very analytical of every other high school show that I see and I try to take from something that I can use in my next production – not necessarily something specific but, certainly, it’s provincial level. Every show there has won a festival and so you look at it and say, “Okay. What is in there that separated this one from the others?” and it’s just a marvelous experience, too. Like, no one should ever go into theatre to win. Being into theatre, you know you’ve already won when you made the choice to do something like this. But, I guess, choosing the play, one thing I look for is a play that I will be happy producing and my kids would enjoy. Ultimately, it’s got to be a combination of they have to love the play, I have to love the play. There’s nothing worse than being halfway to production and going, “Ugh. I don’t like this anymore. Can we do something else? It’s too late now,” and it’s not because the script you have is not a good script. It’s probably just not the right fit for you.
I love comedy and I love plot and I try to cram as much plot as you can into a half hour, forty-five minutes in a script like this with a pinch of character development as well. You know, it’s nice that, at the end of the play, somebody has grown, even if they do end up severed. But it’s nice to see a character a little wiser, a little more mature through the whole experience. We take in that. We all enjoy that.
But, at the same time, the play has to speak to you and, when I sit down and look at something else, I just ask myself, “Does this speak to me? Is it something I could see myself doing or little elements of it?” Even if it’s just something tiny, I’d say, “Wow! I love how they did that. That was so much fun. Why didn’t I think of that?”
But, yeah, I love festivals. I don’t think I’ve gone to one without seeing one of yours, actually. And the festival atmosphere is just so, so much fun. You know, you’ve worked so long and so hard, theatre is really strange too. It’s not like being the hockey team where every game is a hockey game and the rules don’t change. The story doesn’t change. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, hopefully improve as the season goes on.
But, with theatre, you’ve worked long and hard for, like, months without a game and, finally, it hits the stage. And then, you know, after you do your festival production, you’ll probably do it a couple of others. But then, it’s done and it’s forgotten about and a whole new rulebook gets written for next year.
Lindsay: It’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?
Gary: Oh, it’s not. It certainly isn’t.
Lindsay: Makes it interesting.
Gary: It does. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you thinking.
Lindsay: That sounds good.
Okay. Thank you so much, Gary!
Gary: It’s my pleasure! The thunder that you’ve heard in the background, I’ve created that for effect.
Lindsay: I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. And here’s to your next competition! And thanks for talking to me!
Gary: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.
Thank you, Gary!
So, the links for this episode can be found at theatrefolk.com/112.
So, before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS.
Okay. So, Gary talks about his plays, Layers and Lose Not Thy Head. So, it’s a play feature! It’s a play feature! It’s time to feature a play! We’re going to look at the opening from Lose Not Thy Head.
So, the scene is a jail cell in Elizabethan England. There is a guillotine in the background. There is a woman with a register who is clearly in charge. Death hovers in the background. We hear a steel blade slicing and the thump of a head falling into a bucket.
FRIAR: Good shot, Cromwell! Right in the bucket!
CROMWELL: All in a day’s work, Friar.
WOLSEY: Get this one, will you, Cromwell?
CROMWELL: What? I got the last one. It’s your turn.
WOLSEY: Sorry. I’m feeling a bit queasy today. Suppose I’ve got a touch of that stomach flu.
Cromwell groans and takes up the bloodied bucket with the supposed head in it. Cromwell walks to the stone table and death follows behind.
DEATH: Come to me thy wretched soul and eternal darkness be thy reward. Come get thee hence into thy welcoming arms. Come on… ugh… Okay, fine. Stay in your bucket.
FRIAR: Wolsey, you wouldn’t have had the stomach flu every day if you stayed out of the King’s Head Pub every night.
WOLSEY: Gee, Friar, I wasn’t at the King’s Head last night.
FRIAR: Really? So, that wasn’t you hanging off the bar? Chatting up old Brown’s stable boy.
WOLSEY: You were there too, then?
FRIAR: What, maybe… but just for a smidgen.
VISCOUNTESS: Quite your prattling, fools. You two, fetch the next one.
FRIAR: Is there something the matter, my lord?
VISCOUNTESS: What? Oh. No. Nothing. It’s nothing… just… I don’t know, Friar. I just feel so uninspired, as though something were amiss. There’s an ambiguity inside of me. My life’s purpose seems uncertain. I hate to say it but I wonder if I really belong in this line of work.
FRIAR: No! But, my lord, you love beheading. You were born to do this. And, if it wasn’t for your fine work, who would chop the heads off of people? Hmm? Who?
VISCOUNTESS: Oh, I’m sure I could be replaced. Cromwell knows the practice well and she’s usually sober.
WOLSEY: Can’t be that bad, my lord.
CROMWELL: Could be worse!
VISCOUNTESS: But it’s the same thing day in, day out. Drag them in, off their heads, over and over.
WOLSEY: You know what you need, my lord? You need a hobby.
CROMWELL: Cross stitch is fun.
WOLSEY: I’m learning the piano.
CROMWELL: Ohhh… that sounds nice. What can you play?
WOLSEY: Gee, my lord, it sounds as though you’re suffering a bout of melancholy.
VISCOUNTESS: Oh, Wolsey, do you really think so?
CROMWELL: You need some cheering up, my lord. Why don’t I bake you a giant cookie for lunch? You know, a big one, like a pizza.
WOLSEY: Or perhaps lunch at the King’s Head?
CROMWELL: The condemned, my lord.
VISCOUNTESS: Oh, right… yes… er… emm… Right, what have we got here? Thief? Adulterer? Doesn’t matter. Get her set up.
So, that’s Lose Not Thy Head. And I want to mention too that this cast is very gender-flexible. The people who work the guillotine, one of them is a woman. The woman who is in-charge, she is the Viscountess. I really like that about this script – that there’s not very specific assigned gender roles. It’s very open and that, I know, is exactly what high schools need. Great sense of humor for this play, Lose Not Thy Head.
Go to the show notes at theatrefolk.com/112. Pick up a copy and read more.
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That’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.