Gagged & Muted

I’d like the rain to stop and the sun to come out for a day or so.  I need to dry out my tent.  Didn’t quite get it put away in time before the rain came down yesterday… if I only woke up about 20 minutes earlier.

Though I vowed to stay in Banff until my play was finished, I felt an even stronger pull to come home.  Not sure why, but I’m learning to listen to my intuition when it starts whispering to me in loud voices.  Besides… the play IS written.  Analyzing my previous draft, then coming up with a new structure and story design was a hellova lot of work.  Laying in the dialogue is the last step, and really, at this point it feels a little bit like I’m connecting the dots.

Not that I’m belittling the dialogue, it’s just that my characters have been gagged and muted for so long while I figured out the story, they’re bursting at the seems with all kinds of things to say.  I’m actually quite surprised at what comes out their mouths sometimes.  I can barely type fast enough to keep up.

The drive home yesterday was refreshing.  Nothing to do but sit and think.  Can’t even begin to tell you all of the thoughts that ran through my mind.  They just ran.  I thought about my play.  I thought about old friends.  I thought about dead friendships.  Budding friendships.  Mistakes.  Money.  Career.  Roughriders.  Places I could stick my dick.  Music.  People who piss me off.  Self improvement and thinking about thinky thoughts.

Pulled in last night at 10pm, woke up in my own bed this morning, slid into Atlantis, and now the day is mine to do with as I please.

14 Years Ago

SHAWN: (looking at the bottle) You really want to go through with this?
YOUNGER ROBERT: He’s just nervous.  It’s his first marriage ceremony ever.
SHAWN: No. This.
YOUNGER ROBERT: Oh.  Yeah.  I love her.
SHAWN: How do you know? (looking for a response) How do you know?
YOUNGER ROBERT: It’s something I know.  Water is wet, the sky is blue and I love her.


A good day yesterday.  The dialogue is three scenes into Act II.  I’m really happy with the way it’s feeling.  I also had a chance to take in a reading of Colleen Murphy’s new play at the Banff Centre.  I was keenly interested to hear the structure of her play, because as an experienced dramaturge and playwright, I felt I could learn a lot from what she put down on the page.

My Inciting Incident lands on page 8, hers came much later.  Her Act I Climax came as an act of God (heart attack), mine through the actions of the protagonist.  Her Crisis scene came about 20 minutes before her play’s climax, and it happened off stage.  Mine takes place on stage, one scene prior to my climax.  Her’s is a two act structure, mine is a three act structure.  She has three characters and one set, I have eight characters and many sets.  Her story unfolds over a span of 9 hours, mine over 11 years.


Yesterday was also a special day for me because 14 years ago I walked down the aisle to marry PJ.  In an ironic turn, I began the day with a rewrite of my wedding scene.  I phoned PJ up that afternoon and read her the new scene.  It brought us back to a whole lifetime ago.  Our first apartment.  Our first career moments.  Our first tepid naive steps into grownuphood.  Things were simpler because we didn’t know any better.  We had no idea of what balls were in the air, or for that matter, that they even existed.  We married each other simply because we loved each other.  Nothing more to it.

PJ and I are the people we are today because of those many years we had together.  This play is a tribute to that marriage.  She will forever be a part of me, just as I will forever be a part of her.  Our beautiful little girl is the fruit of that union.  I pass through the photographs of those days every time I look for a picture to grace the top of every blog article I write.  I would not trade those years for anything.

My love and my heart will always be a home for PJ, Jazzy, and all the years we have ahead of us.  In our own unique way, we shall always remain a family.

Sunday Night @ Bruno’s

Slow start this morning.

A really tight band was playing live together for the very first time at the Rose & Crown last night.  Shortly after finishing an inspiring improv version of ‘She’s Gone Back to Whoring’, a song that didn’t actually exist until they finished playing it, I climbed into a cab and headed back to my campsite.  It was midnight.

Earlier that night I finished the 3rd Act of my play and set off to Bruno’s for a beer and a burger to celebrate.  Ken Williams joined me shortly afterwards.  Over several pitchers of beer we talked about my play, the media, the world, love, marriage, religion, and women.  It was a typical alcohol fuelled conversation between two playwrights.

This morning I set off to retrieve my car.  Left it in town because I was far too drunk to drive last night.  Turns out the 2km hike into Banff from my campsite is actually 3.7 kms.  There was the odd drop of rain and it took me 45 minutes to walk.  I was still dizzy from the alcohol poisoning and I was weighed down with laundry that desperately needed doing.  Upon arriving at my car I realized that I left my keys in the tent.

I’m writing this from Bruno’s.  They serve all day breakfasts and offer up free wireless internet.  If you’re ever in Banff, you should check the place out.  Rose & Crown is upstairs.  Happy memories seep from the walls.

Writing in My Sleep

I received an email today from Don Kugler, my director from the Spring Festival of New Plays.  He passed along a photo from one of our rehearsals.  I gave him an update on where I’m at and he responded shortly after, letting me know that Colleen Murphy, one of the festival’s dramaturges is in Banff right now.  Coincidentally, Ken Williams, one of the other playwrights from the festival, is on his way into Banff.  We’ve already made plans to touch base when he arrives tonight.

As all this happens, I will be putting the finishing touches on the final act of my play.  Could this be serendipity?

I didn’t sleep very well last night.  I kept writing and rewriting my play, over and over and over again in my head.  Hard to sleep and write at the same time.

I shut my computer down at 9pm last night after finishing the 2nd Act and two scenes of the 3rd Act.  Just about done.  A few more hours will get me to the end, and then I’ll have another pass through the whole thing to make sure the structure is still sound.  There will probably be some tweaks, and then maybe after that, I’ll track some theatre creatures down and tell them the story, scene by scene, beat by beat, over a beer.  There won’t be dialogue, just story.

I’ll take notes, make more changes, then start writing the dialogue from there.  We’ll see where I’m at tomorrow.

It’s A Fine Line

It’s been rainy and cold every day since I’ve been tenting here in Banff, and I haven’t really noticed.  The weather’s had zero impact on my mood.  I have everything I need at the moment.  I’m accomplishing my goals.  I am in nature and yet I can still check in on the outside world by taking the 2km journey into Banff.

I don’t think I would have felt this way, even 15 months ago.

It’s a fine line between knowing when enough is enough, and knowing when to push for more.  It’s a really elusive fine line, and it’s a really important line to find.  It holds my key to true happiness.

I think that line is different for all of us and it can only be found deep inside of ourselves.  No one can find it for us.

I look back on my life and I think about all the things I thought I wanted.  I think about all the insecurity wrapped around those desires.  I think about how much of my identity I attached to those ambitions and I think about how unsatisfying it was to possess those things once I gained them.  I never understood why.

Being honest with myself is the single hardest thing I’ve ever attempted.  I look back and unwrap the years of my life like skin off an onion and it’s only then that I can see the naked truth of myself.  I looked back and saw clearly, all the times I told lies to myself, about myself.  I told them so good, sometimes I didn’t even know they were lies.

And so after a long hard few days of thinking and consideration, I’ve decided that I will set out to buy socks from The Bay today.  Socks are the only other thing I need right now.

Foot Off the Gas

After three days of giant leaps forward, I finally hit the wall.  At about 7pm last night I closed my laptop in despair, unable to reconcile two major gaps in my story structure.

I retreated to my campsite to cook supper over my campfire, thinking a break might let things sort themselves out.  As I write this morning, I think the problems may not be as glaring as I first suspected.

The problem is that I’m in love with some of my transitions from my last draft.  I can’t keep all those transitions and move to a three act structure at the same time.  The logic of the structure is sound.  I just need to write new transitions is all.

With that said, I’m counting my blessings.  I remembered a really great nook in the Banff Springs hotel that I would sometimes retreat to in years past at the Banff Television Festival.  It made for a great location to write in.  I had a giant room to myself.  I had a majestic view of the mountains to myself.  I had access to power.  I had comfy furniture to claim as my own (for a few hours at a time).  Most significantly, I didn’t have to order a constant stream of beer/food/coffee in exchange for my time at the table.  I’ve literally spent 24 hours over three days in that spot and it didn’t cost me a dime.

It seems taking my foot off the gas and letting story problems sort themselves out can sometimes be the best solution.  Of course, one must be careful.  This solution can easily mask an overwhelming desire to procrastinate.

I remain excited about the next draft.

Highwaymen Open Rookie Camp in Banff

Media Release

For Immediate Release


June 2, 2010, (Banff, AB) After a successful campaign of not finishing last in 2009, the Yellowhead Highwaymen open their 2010 Rookie Camp with the much loftier goal of, being mostly successful and perhaps even making money this year.  To this end, the team has assembled a motley crew of rookies under third year head coach/owner, Captain Jarrett Rusnak.

“We want to be meaner, tougher, and weirder this year,” said Rusnak.  “When you look at all those football movies on late night TV, there’s always a few odd balls and complete nut jobs on the roster.  Those teams bumble their way through the playoffs, and against all odds, win the championship of their respective leagues.”

This year’s rookie roster includes; John Williams Gaudier, a seal hunting Newfoundlander who’s never played football; Sample 8673, a cybornetic organism cooked up in the team’s advanced human cloning facility; and Buck Duke, a deep south NFL washout looking for redemption after learning that life is about more than chicks, money, and social status… it’s about something deep inside of you that no one else can take away.

“Duke’s a hippy freak with something to prove, 8673 is a cyborg – a motherfuckin’ cyborg!  And Gaudier clubs really cute fuzzy wide eyed baby seals for money,” gushed Rusnak, “What can possibly go wrong?”

The Highwaymen open their exhibition season on June 13 at American Express Kim Jong Il Butcher Boy Meats Stadium.

Up On My Feet!

This excursion of mine is three days old and it has already proven to be a powerful explosion of muse, inspiration, and discovery.  Last night, amidst a mass of humanity, I danced on stage at an Xavier Rudd concert.

It was only by chance that I even knew about the concert, after wandering aimlessly around the Banff Centre campus on Sunday night.  A flood of people were meandering about.  They were all buzzed with this crazy energy and so I asked what the deal was.  Xavier Rudd just played a show that sent them all into a spiritual, soulful, mind blowing orbit.  It was like they were all still walking on air.  I saw him live about four years ago in Saskatoon and it truly was amazing.  My heart sank when I found out I missed the concert.

That’s when they told me he was playing a 2nd show on Monday night.

The advantage of attending a concert event alone is that single tickets are available in great locations at the last minute.  For $37 I got Row 2 aisle.  Of course I never sat there.  Once the music started I was up on my feet at the foot of the stage with everyone else.

The afternoon proved equally profound.  I’m poking at the bones of my play with surgical, and sometimes painful, insight.  I’ve learned that I need to dramatically heighten the stakes of my inciting incident, crisis, and climax scenes.  These will involve a major reworking.  I’ve clarified my theme and spine.  I’m switching from a two act structure to a three act structure.  That’s three major turning points in the story!  I’ve added two new subplots and I’ve identified new scenes that need to be written.  Other scenes will be reordered from where they currently appear.  The next draft will be a radical jump from my previous draft.  It’s also going to take me much longer to finish than I realized.

My mind is racing.  This can be a great story if I design the structure well.  It can also go wildly off the rails in a heart beat.  I feel like I’m starting from scratch.  It seems the more I learn about the craft, the more I realize how much more I have to learn before I can let this story out into the world.