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Full featured entries for 2013 Famous For Fifteen Minutes

Six local playwrights will get their moment in the spotlight through this year’s Bermuda Music and Dramatic Society’s Famous for Fifteen Minutes event.

Catherine Hay, Owain Johnston Barnes, Liz Jones, Adam Gauntlett, Justine Foster and Helen Jardine will be competing for the Golden Inkwell trophy next month.

Their 15-minute plays, which range in genre from romantic comedy to historical drama, will be performed by local actors from June 13- 15 and June 19- 21 at Daylesford Theatre at 8pm. Tickets are available online at www.bmds.bm.

The winner will be announced at a gala night, complete with cocktail reception and heavy hors d’oeuvres, on June 22 at 6.30pm.

US playwright Pia Wilson — who was a finalist in the 2011 Heideman Award — will be serving as a judge in this year’s event.

The Royal Gazette had the chance to talk to a few of the talented writers to get the inside scoop on what inspired the plays and their emotions prior to opening night.

What they told us is writing is more than just putting words to paper, it’s a way of making sense of the funny and odd complexities of life.

Owain Johnston Barnes is no stranger to the Famous for Fifteen Minutes playwright competition — and can proudly say he’s won three of his four previous attempts.

Despite the past success, he said it was still a shock to be named a finalist this time around.

“I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t daydreamed about being an enormously successful writer,” he said. “But even after winning the competition a couple of times I was still surprised to be a finalist.

“I think luck plays a huge part of it, being in the right place at the right time, with the right people. And, of course, writing the correct number on the cheques [helps a well].”

This year Mr Johnston Barnes, a news reporter at

The Royal Gazette, decided to write a topical play about the recession.

‘Future Endeavors’ tells the story of two women get laid off from their jobs and are unsure of what the future will hold.

They join up with an unwilling security guard to see if they can win the battle, though the war already seems lost.

The plot was developed after listening to a song by the Paper Lions called “Lost the War” a few months ago.

Mr Johnston Barnes read a lot as a young child and would come up with story ideas for books and movies, but never actually did anything about it until he was a young adult.

“I started trying to write plays because I had difficulty getting dialogue to sound right and figured focusing on it might help,” he said. “Then I fell into the theatre crowd [during college] and stuck with it since.”

He said it was rewarding to see a play come to fruition on the stage.

Recently, he had the chance to sit through the first read-through, and while he noticed a few areas in the script with room for improvement, “when things fell into place it was just amazing”.

The playwright admitted it is a bit stressful watching the show with a live audience — particularly when it comes to comedies.

“In my experience, there’s a confessional element to writing, so if something doesn’t go over well it hurts,” he said.

“That said, I have always been blessed with great casts, and this time is no exception. After the last read through, I think it will go over just fine.”

Liz Jones got the idea for her play — which is set during the Cuban Crisis in 1962 — at the last minute.

She had been taking a memoir workshop with Rachel Manley and said she started recalling all sorts of childhood memories.

“I was 12 [when the crisis broke out] and absolutely terrified,” she said. “I remember our school being in prayer for hours. My uncle did appear out of the blue to take us to an underground shelter and my mother did refuse.

“That’s all I can remember, but my sister, who was nine at the time, always reckoned we should have been allowed to choose whether we wanted to go with him.”

Her historical drama “It’s not the End of the World, Hannah” is set at the height of the conflict when US President John F Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev are in deadlock.

Characters Cora and Rob, along with 16-year old daughter, Hannah, grapple in different ways with the terrifying prospect of nuclear war.

Then when Cora’s brother arrives, they fall into conflict and become locked in a standoff position of their own.

Mrs Jones admitted she has always loved writing as a child — a passion which continued into adulthood.

She has written some books, including a history of local entertainers Talbot Brothers and another on the Bermuda Post Office.

She also writes a regular nature column for The Bermudian called “Naturally Speaking”.

“I can’t imagine not writing,” she said.

Now that her role of writing the script is over she admitted she doesn’t want to interfere with the performer’s creative process.

She said she has “every confidence” the director Chris Edwards and actors will do a great job.

“I know I’m going to enjoy seeing it live and I also know I will probably be surprised,” she said. “The play is not ‘mine’ anymore — it’s the cast’s and the director’s and it will probably come to life in ways I can’t predict.”

Professional writer

Helen Jardine would attend the Famous for Fifteen Minutes performances religiously every year, but was a little hesitant to enter the script writing competition herself.

But after friends and family encouraged her to give it a try, she figured there wasn’t much to lose.

In her play “Pecan Pie” is a character named Sam, who takes the first-date concept of ‘pretending to be someone you’re not’ to the max.

In the romantic comedy two people are hiding their true ‘selves’ for various reasons — and it proves you can never judge a book by its cover.

She said the idea for the script came from joking with some girlfriends about the “ridiculousness” of first dates and how people tell little white lies with the aim of impressing their date.

Ms Jardine said it was “such an amazing feeling” to have her play selected as one of the finalists.

“It has given me the confidence to work on a bigger feature-length screenplay which is actually also about mistaken identity,” she said. “It is such a confidence boost for someone who has never touched screenplay writing before.”

She admitted she is feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement in lead up to the live performances.

But predicts the most rewarding part — of watching her characters come to life on stage — is yet to come.

Ms Jardine has been writing small stories and poems since she was about seven-years-old. She worked as a journalist with the Bermuda Sun for two years, before moving over to work in Government’s Department of Communication and Information.

She said: “I always thought ‘Maybe I will write a novel one day’ but, to be honest, I find writing anything that isn’t dialogue a bit boring.

“I ‘see’ my stories like movies playing in my head so I figured ‘why not write them that way?’ FFFM is a great creative outlet for anyone who enjoys writing.”

Also showing will be Adam Gauntlett’s play “Banana”; “Fifty Shades of Beige” by Justine Foster; and “NACAD” (a witty comedy about couples who are forced to have their suitability assessed by Government before they can marry) by Catherine Hay.

Famous for Fifteen Minutes playwrights for 2013: from left Justine Foster, Adam Gauntlett, Catherine Hay, Helen Jardine, Owain Johnston Barnes and Liz Jones.

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Published May 27, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 26, 2013 at 11:52 pm)

Full featured entries for 2013 Famous For Fifteen Minutes

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