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Six go head-to-head in Famous for 15 Minutes

Famous for 15 Minutes playwrights, from left, Owain Johnston, Nathaniel Butterfield, Carol Birch, Andrew Whalley, Helen Jardine and Catherine Hay. The 13th annual BMDS festival opens next week (Photograph supplied)

Looking for a way to kill somebody? BMDS is an unlikely venue for the solution but it’s offering just that.

Nathaniel Butterfield’s ‘101 Ways to kill Janice’ is one of six plays that will be showcased as part of the 13th annual Famous for 15 Minutes festival. He’ll compete for the grand prize, the Golden Inkwell, alongside Helen Jardine, Owain Johnston, Andrew Whalley, Carol Birch and Catherine Hay next week.

• Name: Helen Jardine

Play: Cold Feet

Q: What’s your play about?

A: Cold Feet is a comedy about one couple on their wedding day who are getting second thoughts about their upcoming nuptials. It also explores some of the fundamental differences between men and women — their motivations for doing certain things or behaving in certain ways, as well as what both annoys and endears us to the opposite sex.

Here’s what I submitted as a synopsis for the pamphlets: ‘Everyone gets wedding day jitters, right? Or is it sometimes more than that? ‘Cold Feet’ is the story of one couple who finds themselves asking these same questions, turning “I Do” into “Do I?’.”

Q: Are you familiar with the other stories? Who do you think is your biggest competition?

A: No.

Q: What’s your motivation for entering?

A: I was motivated to enter this year because I had such a fun and rewarding experience when I entered Famous two years ago and had my play, ‘Pecan Pie’, chosen as one of the six finalists.

Being chosen as a finalist then was such a huge shock as I had never done anything like that before! The thrill of watching my play come to life on the stage was amazing; definitely a huge confidence boost. Hearing the audience laugh at your jokes is such a rush. I love watching the actors take your lines and really make them their own — put their own spin on the characters etc.

I hear them say a line a certain way, with an emphasis placed on a certain word or delivered in a different tone to what I had imagined, and I think ‘Cool, that actually makes it way better!’.

I write every day for my job as a public affairs officer but to be able to let loose creatively like this gives me such a buzz.

I feel like once I started writing these short plays for Famous two years ago it was like opening Pandora’s box and now I am constantly scribbling down ideas whenever I am inspired by something.

I have actually already written one for next year’s competition. The experience was a great stepping stone for me to be able to work up to bigger writing projects. In fact, it boosted me creatively to go on and write two full-length 120-page screenplays.

• Name: Andrew Whalley

Play: Sushi

Q: What’s your play about?

A: The preface of a mundane night in leads a young woman in search of her husband, who has been asked to care for an elderly lady’s mother, but during the search she discovers all is not as it appears.

Q: Are you familiar with the other stories? Who do you think is your biggest competition?

A: I have not read any of the other entries yet. I shall wait until the dress rehearsal to find out what the other finalists have submitted. I am not really too concerned from a competition standpoint. I am just happy to see something that I have written staged and brought to life.

Q: What’s your motivation for entering?

A: My motivation for entering is to see if what I choose to write will get selected. I generally prefer to write plays involving dark comedy and the theatre of the absurd. It is difficult to tell what may get selected as you do not know what the judges are looking for. After all, it is a playwriting competition more than a story telling competition, so priority must be given to the written word and the story is secondary. Earlier in life, I had wanted to go into film production but the opportunity never quite presented itself. Working with theatre, at the moment, is the closest I am to that goal. Who knows, maybe I will get into screenwriting and eventually explore film production.

•Name: Owain Johnston

Play: Nemeses

Q: What’s your play about?

A: A man comes home from the office to find a young woman had broken into his apartment, raided his wine fridge and is now declaring herself his nemesis.

Q: Are you familiar with the other stories? Who do you think is your biggest competition?

A: The way everything is set up this year I haven’t really been able to get a good look at the other shows yet, but I think everyone else in this year is a former finalist, and Catherine [Hay] has beaten me before so I’d say the competition is going to be fierce.

Q: What’s your motivation for entering?

A: There are honestly few feelings better than getting your show performed and seeing the audience have a good time watching what started as a weird idea in your head. Of course my perspective will be a little different this year because I have been cast in my own show, but I am looking forward to it.

• Name: Nathaniel Butterfield

Play: 101 Ways to kill Janice

Q: What’s your play about?

A: Committing murder for the first time is an important milestone in a young woman’s life.

Q: Are you familiar with the other stories? Who do you think is your biggest competition?

I have read one of the other stories, ‘The Graveyard Club’ by Carol Birch. It was excellent and very moving. As far as who my biggest competition is, I know it sounds like a cop out but: everyone. All have written great plays for Famous in the past except Andrew Whalley, who’s done excellent plays for 24 Hours to Curtain (one of which I was lucky to direct).

My play is a bit of fluff which is meant to be light and fun and not really the sort of serious exploration of life’s complexities which judges seem to like. I’m just delighted to be able to see my play performed and looking forward to what the director and cast do with it. That’s really interesting to see as the result can surprise and delight you when they add their insight and creativity to your framework.

Q: What’s your motivation for entering?

A: I love to write and plays give me a chance to experience the audience reacting to my work. I can actually be there while people gasp, laugh, cry or just groan at what I’ve written. Having someone tell you about a story after they’ve read it is an inferior experience no matter how much they liked it.

• Name: Carol Birch

Play: The Graveyard Club

Q: What’s your play about?

A: It’s a story about friendship and the huge impact some people have on your life and the fact that as long as you are remembered and your life’s story is shared, you are immortal and will never truly die.

Q: Are you familiar with the other stories? Who do you think is your biggest competition?

A: I haven’t actually seen the other plays in action yet but I expect stiff competition from all of them.

Q: What’s your motivation for entering?

A: I just love to write and to see your work bought to life on stage is amazing. It is especially poignant for me this year as my play is based on Kate Huntington, whose father gave us the money after she passed away to start the BMDS Trust. It’s something very personal for me. I have to pinch myself from time to time because I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the words they are saying came from her friends’ shared love for her.

• Famous for 15 Minutes runs August 6-8 and 13-15 at 6.30pm at the Bermuda Musical & Dramatic Society. Tickets are $30, or $85 for the gala production on August 15. Buy them online, at www.bmds.bm or www.ptix.bm, or from the Daylesford box office one hour before the show. For more information call 292-0848, e-mail famous@bmds.bm or visit www.bmds.bm. Net proceeds from the production will be donated to the BMDS Charitable Trust.