A good laugh and a cold drink: Owain reopens Daylesford
It’s likely that Owain Johnston will go down in BMDS history.
For two years Daylesford Theatre has sat empty, thanks to the social restrictions brought on by Covid-19. On Thursday, the curtain will rise again for a compilation of six plays written by Mr Johnston — Shorts: An Evening of Short Comedies about Death, Armageddon, Time Travel, Ocean Exploration, Arch Rivalries and Vehicular Arson.
“I’m a member of the drama committee and we were looking to get people back into the theatre, to get butts in seats. But because everything is so unpredictable still, we wanted to do something that we could essentially do with a very, very low budget,” he said.
“When I started plotting this in December, the expectation was we might be able to get 35 people in the audience. So many of us have been aching to get back on stage and get back in the theatre again. So my thought was, you know what, if we can only do it with 35 audience members, let’s do it with 35 audience members.”
Shorts features four of his winning pieces from the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society’s Famous for 15 Minutes playwriting competition as well as two plays written in the past three months.
Mr Johnston, a journalist with The Royal Gazette, believes enough time has passed that fans of his older plays might enjoy seeing them again.
Inter-Mortem is about a woman who discovers, to her disbelief, that she is dead.
Cockroaches is about a divorced couple; the only survivors of the apocalypse.
Nemeses is about a man who returns home to find that a stranger calling herself his arch nemesis has made her way into his apartment and cut up all the electronic cables.
A Thousand Words is about two young women trying to retrieve a deceased aunt’s photo collection from a grouchy old man who bought it in a yard sale.
“For people who have actually seen them, it has been years and years and years,” Mr Johnston said. “Inter-Mortem for example, I wrote while I was in college. It won Famous for 15 the year before I started working at the Gazette, so we’re talking about 14 years ago.”
The playwright has decided to keep the plots of his two new pieces “a little bit under wraps”.
“The epically long subtitle of my play does give some indications,” he said. “The two new ones would be under the time travel and vehicular arson titles. I've written a lot about vehicle fires [in the newspaper in recent months].”
He admits he found it difficult to log off the computer at work only to go home and start typing away again.
“It is absolutely a challenge. You know, when you write all day, sometimes the last thing you want to do is come home and look at a different screen and write more. But as a journalist, I am sort of deadline driven. So the secret is really just to manufacture my own deadlines.
“When I started pitching this as a potential production, I hadn't actually written the two new ones but I already had the ideas. I knew the characters. I knew the basic story I wanted to tell. I basically manufactured my own deadline and made sure it happened.”
The show was first discussed in December when restrictions were tighter. Now that groups of up to 200 can gather, Mr Johnston is hoping to get “a lot more than” the 35 people he initially hoped for.
“We are blockading off the front row to make sure that actors are not that close to our audience. We’re hoping, fingers crossed, that we can get more than 90 people in the theatre.”
Although “not 100 per cent sure” that the Government demands that people wear a mask at such events, BMDS decided to “play it safe”.
“We do not want a super spreader event,” Mr Johnston said. “There’s been running, guessing, going back and forth with the Government through a lot of this — I've had to cut away my first-ever stage kiss — but apart from that, it's mostly about making sure unmasked actors are not too close to the masked audience.”
As one might expect, his newest plays are about “living in this modern time”.
“There are jokes about wearing masks; jokes about the current state of the universe,” Mr Johnston said. “It's been a very rough two years for, I think, everybody. I think if we went forward and tried to put on a tragedy, no one would come. I think people are eager to get out of the house, get together, have a good laugh over a cold drink. If I can provide that I am more than happy.”
Shorts: An Evening of Short Comedies about Death, Armageddon, Time Travel, Ocean Exploration, Arch Rivalries and Vehicular Arson runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday and also April 7 through 9 at 8pm Daylesford Theatre. Tickets, $30, are available at www.ptix.bm and the Daylesford Theatre Box Office one hour before performances. For more information: 278-1500; 292-0848 or visit BMDS Facebook
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