**Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with David S. Craig, a Toronto based playwright and theatre artist. He has written over thirty dramatic works that have been produced across Canada, the United States and Europe.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was a kid who was brought up to go into the professions and I was automatically on that track until I realized, watching a play, that people my age or a little older were actually making money acting in plays. I loved acting in plays! I barely slept for three days. Then I dropped out of university and went home to face my astonished mother. That was one of only two decisions that totally changed the direction of my life. The other was getting married.
Who/what inspires you to write?
Honestly, I began writing when I was 24 and Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Direct (a TYA theatre) because I needed plays with very specific themes and cast sizes that had terrific roles (one of which would be performed by me). I wanted to act, not write. But then, to my amazement, I discovered that other theatres wanted to produce these plays and I discovered the miracle of royalties. I wrote or co-wrote TYA plays for 15 years (about one a year) and performed in all of them. By then I was 48 years old and 100 performances per year (minimum) in school gymnasiums was too difficult. By then I was AD of Roseneath Theatre and I wrote Danny, King of the Basement for other actors and, luckily, it was a success. I didn’t have to perform anymore (although I still miss those audiences). But I always longed to write for adults and be taken seriously. So, along the way, I began writing for radio and discovered that I had a knack for comedy and political satire. I developed two long running radio series for CBC Radio Drama became a wonderful side gig for many years. I miss it.
What interests you in writing theatre for young audiences (TYA) plays?
TYA was and is a field that gives me a lot of freedom to explore my theatrical aesthetic which runs from realism to circus, clown and boufon. Within certain strict parameters, which after a while I didn’t notice, I could do what I wanted. We flew under the radar (except for the wonderful Jon Kaplan who reviewed everything we produced), had a reliable revenue stream from schools and toured all over North America and, occasionally, the world. It was great! But now I see that I am just very interested in children… which includes, very much, the joyful, hurt, curious and lonely child that is very much alive in me. So writing for “children”, I am beginning to see, is actually expressing the child in me and I think that is why my work connects with that audience.
What are you working on next?
I am working with Anika Johnson and Britta Johnson on a new musical adaptation of Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang for Stratford. I am working with John Roby on Frenchys: The Thrift Musical, (Are you listening East Coast producers!!!). And I am working with an eclectic group of artists on a multi-media piece inspired by the work of Steven Pinker who has changed the way I look at the world — https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_the_surprising_decline_in_violence?language=en
As an experienced writer of TYA plays, how does PGC’s Sharon Enkin Plays for Young People Award contribute to the landscape of the Tom Hendry Awards?
When I was Artistic Director at Roseneath Theatre, we performed, in one year, to 120,000 children. We had the largest audience of any theatre in Ontario after Stratford and Shaw. We were the largest theatre no one had ever heard of. So anything that can encourage playwrights to create for this audience and give them a bit of prestige (so appreciated) and a bit of money (so appreciated) is a very, VERY good thing.
What’s your favourite Canadian play?
Leaving Home by David French. Seeing the late, great Jerry Franken perform the lead role in Blyth was one of the most moving theatrical experiences of my life. I prefer the play to Death of a Salesman which, of course, is better known. I love Arthur Miller’s writing but Willy Loman’s death is penned as the result of capitalism whereas Jacob Mercer self-destructs. I think the latter is more true to life. We all have to face the “slings and arrows” but often we’re shooting the arrows at ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. I know I am.
I also want to name playwrights whose work I have seen and admire: They are Colleen Murphy, Bev Cooper, Hannah Moscovitch, Julie Tepperman, Mary Vingoe, Catherine Banks, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Kat Sandler, Rebecca Northan, Morris Panych, Michael Healey, Robert Chafe, Tomson Highway, Vern Thiessen and Christopher Morris.
Disclaimer: Playwrights Guild of Canada (“PGC”) is a national arts service mandated to engage and grow an active Canadian writing community. We promote Canadian plays around the world to advance the creative rights and interests of professional Canadian playwrights for the stage. The views of our members are their own. The opinions of PGC as an association remain neutral.