Tragic Comedy or Comedic Tragedy?

Take dress-up, dancing and someone being taught a lesson and see what comes out! These were last year’s Bake-Off ingredients, beautifully handled by the playwrights. This week we hear from guest blogger Terrie Todd about her journey of taking a script from last year’s Bake-Off and workshopping it into a full length play.

Terrie Todd

Terrie Todd

I’m a writer who thrives on deadlines. The relentless deadline of my weekly “faith and humour” column in the Central Plains Herald Leader has kept me accountable for nearly five years. The three weeks I was given recently to make revisions to my first novel, The Silver Suitcase (coming out in January, 2016), was a nose-to-the-grindstone ordeal and I loved every minute.

So when I heard about an eight-hour playwriting competition called the FemFest Bake-Off in the summer of 2014, I said “bring it on!” It sounded like the ultimate deadline challenge. I put in my application and was both thrilled and nervous when I learned I would be one of five playwrights competing. I showed up at the appointed time to learn what our “ingredients” would be. Since I live in Portage la Prairie, I recruited my husband as chauffeur so I could start writing on the ride home. As it turned out, I started over after I got home and scrapped everything I had written in the car! But, by the end of the day, I had a draft script called Irony.

What an absolute BLAST it was to attend the Bake-Off and hear all five plays read. I remember feeling a little disappointed when mine was performed readers-theatre style (the other four included rudimentary blocking) but I was pleased with the job they did and with the crowd’s response. I was not voted the favorite, but the next day I was surprised to receive an email from Hope McIntyre encouraging me to submit the script for possible production at FemFest 2015. If selected, I would need to develop it into a one-hour piece. Being on the lazy side, I also submitted two other, already completed pieces.

But guess what? It was “Irony” they wanted.

So, with encouragement from Hope, my play has now expanded in both length and title. I even added a fifth character. In March, I gathered some fellow thespians in my living room (I belong to the local community theatre group The Prairie Players) for a read-through of Irony: A Tragic Comedy about Life and Death. With their feedback, and further suggestions from Dramaturge Ellen Peterson, I revised. And revised. And revised. Keeping it within the one-hour time limit while still trying to produce fully-developed characters and plot has been the biggest challenge. The second biggest was hiding my tears and laughter from my husband as I wrote. He gives me a hard time for thinking myself hilarious.

“Write what you know,” they say. Although I’ve never taken ballroom dance or attended a Bombers game, I do have the lung conditions suffered by Judy in the play. And, like her, I have found my faith a necessary and life-giving resource on this journey. And, like myself, I consider this piece still a work-in-progress and look forward to seeing it staged on September 14.

So, is it truly a tragic comedy or is it a comedic tragedy? I guess that will be for the audience to decide.

–Terrie Todd

Join us Monday, September 14th to see this year’s Bake-Off at 7pm followed by the 9pm reading of Irony: A Tragic Comedy about Life and Death!

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