PGC's Q & A with Chris Craddock
Playwrights Guild of Canada talks to PGC member, Chris Craddock about what it takes to put on a play at a Fringe Festival, how Fringe Festivals are like summer camp for adults and how trying and failing can be the best teacher in the world. Chris Craddock also discusses adapting Miriam Toews’ Summer of My Amazing Luck, what it's like working in the musical genre, after the success of his award-winning rap opera BASH'D, and his new play for the Toronto Fringe Festival, Pornstar.
1. Give us a brief summary of your new play, Pornstar, which is slated for this year’s Toronto Fringe?
Pornstar is about a bunch of stuff thematically. Plot wise, it breaks down a little like this. Esther Kirkenchuk is a small town librarian, whose one hot affair lives on in her mind. She receives an email one day informing her that she has been nominated for a performer award in the amateur pornography category. She goes to awards show, to confront her ex. Meanwhile, her mother is trying to get Sarah Palin elected President.
Also she has a sister who is in hell and decides to escape. All of this kinda mixes together at the end. Lots of story to tell. It was originally written to be a supported one woman show, but this team has decided to do it with 4 women! I am super stoked to be working with the UNIT productions team (aka Morro and Jasp) as well as their guest artists, Lynne Griffin (Strange Brew, Black Christmas) and Sarah Mennel (old Vic, West End).
2. How do you go about promoting a play at Fringe?
The best promotion at the Fringe is a strong track record of good work. Lucky for Pornstar, me and more prominently my collaborators, have lots of that. After that, a good well written press release and most professional photos you can afford go a long way to helping your publicity be prominent in ink and web. But in the Fringe, quality counts above all, so work hard to make your play awesome.
3. What is the most inspiring part of participating in the Fringe?
All the talent in the air, the thrill of the work, the parties, the friends. It’s summer camp for adults. (adults in question may only be so in terms of age).
4. What is the biggest challenge of participating in the Fringe?
I think the biggest hurdle is that first time getting your thing out there. Trying and failing can be tough, but it’s the best teacher in the world. You have to get up and dust yourself off and write another one. And if your show is a big hit, you still have to get up and dust yourself off and write another one. Hopefully you still learned something.
5. Any words or advice to playwrights embarking on participating in a Fringe Festival for the first time?
Make your show YOUR SHOW. Let no one tell you what to do with your work. Of course you should get advice and follow it to a degree, but divorce yourself of any idea of what a play should be, beyond what you think a play should be, based on the plays that have blown you away, on stage and in your mind. Steal from your heroes, and soon they’ll be stealing from you. (PRO TIP – get local heroes. Buy them drinks.)
6. Your adaption of Miriam Toews’ Summer of My Amazing Luck has been a great success, touring extensively. What makes a story ideal for adaptation to the stage?
I was attracted to Miriam’s book as soon as I read it. It’s a rollicking road trip of a book about friends who are family and family learning to be friends, and in the middle, there’s a great big LIE. There’s a strong central narrator who is funny and vulnerable and she learns and grows. Miriam becoming incredibly famous in the intervening years didn’t hurt anything either, except my share of the royalties.
7. Your rap opera BASH’d ran for 3 months off-Broadway and garnered a GLADD Media Award. What was it like to work in the musical genre?
Working as a rapper was an incredible challenge and working with director Ron Jenkins, co-writer and co-performer Nathan Cuckow and old musical collaborator Aaron Macri (BoyGroove) on the show was an amazing privilege. BASH’d has been a wild ride and it may yet ride again.
8. Many authors have a favourite inspirational quote above their desk or something inscribed in a cherished notebook to keep their muse flowing and to drive their positive energies forward. Please share one of the quotes that has kept you going as a writer.
“Work is the eraser of doubt.” – Piers Anthony
“Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.” – Unknown
Chris Craddock graduated from the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting Program in the spring of 1996 and since then he has worked on stages all across Canada.
Chris’s theatre work has been recognized with four Sterling Awards and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and his film Turnbuckle was nominated for two Ampia Awards. He is the proud recipient of the Embridge Emerging Artist award, the Centennial Medal for his contribution to the Arts in Alberta, and the Alberta Book Award for his collection of plays for teens Naked at School. His musical BASH’d (co-written and performed with Nathan Cuckow) received a 2007 GLAAD media award.
Chris has created compelling and engaging works for a wide cross-section of audiences. His plays include: PornStar; 3...2...1, Poptart; The Incredible Speediness of Jamie Cavanaugh, Indulgences; Faithless; DreamLife; SuperEd; Indulgences; The "Tranny" Trilogy; Wrecked; Do it Right; Making Out; Men are Stupid Women are Crazy; Ha;The Day Billy Lived (which was adapted to life on the Native Reserve in co-operation with Debajehmuhjig Theatre of Mantoulin Island); Moving Along (which was featured on Bravo’s Singular Series May, 2005); the fringe hit BoyGroove; and an adaptation of the novel Summer of my Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews.
His plays have been included at the High Performance Rodeo, The Magnetic North Festival, Vancouver Comedy Festival, Edmonton Comedy Festival, SaskNative Theatre, International Fringe festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Toronto, NYC, and Orlando.
Chris has returned from New York City, where he was performing Off-Broadway with his award winning musical BASH’d! He is the screenwriter for the feature film, The Pharmacist/La Pharmacien and watch out for his new TV show Tiny Plastic Men next season on SuperChannel.