In Prince Albert to see local theatre group Odyssey Productions debut a two-act version of his play, Last Christmas, playwright Neil Fleming was keen on sharing theatre insight.
Before heading a playwright workshop with local aspiring playwrights on Saturday, the Daily Herald sat down with Fleming for some background on the craft.
“I don’t think it’ll ever go away, because I don’t think anything can ever take away from that live interaction,” he said.
Although he makes clear that he has no illusions they’re on an equal footing, it’s kind of similar to people’s fascination with rock stars.
“It’s not the same as just listening to their records and watching their music videos, you want to go see them.”
Fleming is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter based in Calgary, where his plays have been produced since 1994.
“When I first started it was because I wanted to write plays that I wanted to see,” he said.
“I didn’t think there were enough strange, interesting things on the stage. I was sort of hearing the same things on the stage over and over again.”
It was through workshops and other means of networking that he managed to get his foot in the door, where Lunchbox Theatre commissioned him to write one-act plays.
When it comes to getting one’s foot in the door as a playwright, it comes down to two key pieces of advice, he said.
I didn’t think there were enough strange, interesting things on the stage. I was sort of hearing the same things on the stage over and over again. - Neil Fleming, playwright
“You want to have a reputation that a: you know what you’re doing, and b: you’re nice to work with and you’re not a diva.”
When it comes to writing, Fleming had a day’s worth of advice to impart on those attending his workshop, but one key aspect is the importance of keeping the audience guessing until the end.
This idea is the basis of any good piece of writing, all the way down to reality television shows, where at the close of every episode another member is voted off the show.
Canadian plays are defined in part by what they are not, in that they’re not American.
“It’s subtle,” Fleming explained.
“I think the Canadian artists are more interested in exploring more human ideas than overall national ideas.”
Those interested in professional writing careers have a long road and a lifelong learning process ahead of them, Fleming said – one of constantly defining one’s self and sticking out from the pack.
“I’m still chasing the dream. I’d still like to go on to bigger theatres and break out of Calgary and do things in other cities.”