demon voice: how did i get here

I just sent off the rehearsal draft of Demon Voice to the Touchstone office for printing. We start rehearsal on Monday. Today is Thursday. I’m really excited, the kind of excited that you feel when you first get on the wooden rollercoaster at the PNE. You had fun last time, but is this really a good idea?

Writing a play is a wild ride. I know it isn’t always like this, and every playwright is different, but when I think back to how this play started, it completely baffles me that I ended up with the draft that just sent off.

After the production of my first play Prodigal Son in 2006, I thought I’d sit down and write a comedy. Something wacky with heart, a giggle-fest that makes you think a little. How about a nice, easy-to-produce, two-hander? Something that zips along, that producers warm to immediately, like Mary’s Wedding only funnier, picked up by regional theatres nation-wide! I thought I’d explore the relationship between two people (friends maybe?) with completely different outlooks on life. Yeah, that’ll be funny. How about one that believes that the way to survive in the world and to improve it is to think only positive thoughts, and the other believes that you have to face all the garbage and get in there and fight like hell to make it better, no matter how lousy it feels. Enormous comic potential.

Before long, it became clear that this play was not going to be funny. I ended up with two people who meet online for sex: one in an open relationship with his wife, and another running away from her dark, tortured past. Hilarious, right? I got tired of hearing them speak, so I introduced a third character, a homeless ex-con with a broken heart. Stop it, my sides! As I explored their back stories, I discovered they each had fascinating relationships with people who didn’t appear in the play. Before I knew it, I had a six character drama, about violence, guilt and personal responsibility, a ‘meditation on intimacy and its inescapable consequences.’ A real laugh riot.

I guess what I learned is that when you’re creating something, you have to allow what wants to emerge the opportunity to do so. You have to get out of the way. I know I still got some funny in me, but that play just has to wait its turn. This is just where I’m at now.

After all of this strange mutation of intent and story, and after experiencing the mystery of the creative process, I have to say that what I love the most about this journey are the characters that people this play. I was going to say ‘that I created,’ but it truly feels as though they introduced themselves to me, and defined themselves for me and revealed their stories to me.

So here we go! Hopping onto the rickety old wooden track of live theatre, in the New Canadian Play car, down the twisting thrill ride. Yikes!

Can’t wait. More soon.

Shawn Macdonald

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