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This week features the return of the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society's Famous for 15 Minutes. The 14th annual playwriting competition will feature six plays written by local talent, all vying for the Golden Inkwell prize.

Lifestyle spoke to the entrants.

Home Visits by Liz Jones

Travelling back in time to the Second World War enables Hanni to see her elderly mother, Clarissa, as a young woman and understand what has shaped her personality.

“My play has been inspired by the effect the Second World War had on that era's young generation,” said Mrs Jones, who will be on the Famous for 15 Minutes programme for the third time.

“Many crossed social divides because of the war. I've always been fascinated by the idea of a mother and daughter meeting when the mother is younger and the daughter is an older woman. How different would the dynamic between them be?”

Drama student Julia Frith will direct, with BMDS regulars Christina Frith and Claudia Hall playing Clarissa and Hanni.

“Christina is doing an amazing job switching from old to young Clarissa and back,” the freelance writer and English tutor said.

“Claudia is great, with an impeccable sense of timing. I feel very lucky to have such a great team working on my play.”

Fool's Mate by Adam Gauntlett

A game of chess sets the stage, with actors playing king, queen and pawns.

“It's a conflict metaphor,” the playwright said.

“I started writing a version of it shortly after the Iraq war began but that version doesn't look a lot like this finished version.”

The Famous for 15 regular writes plays, fiction and non-fiction. His short story collection, The Private Life of Elder Things, includes three of his works and is available at the Bermuda Book Store.

First-time director Janice McClean will lead the actors.

Pecking Order by Julia Pitt and Justine Foster

The former Famous for 15 Minutes winners teamed up again for this play about a daughter's struggles with her overbearing mother.

“We bat around ideas all the time and had started writing another one for this year but it didn't work out. We were trying to squash too much into the 15 minutes,” Ms Foster, a medical professional, said.

“In the last two weeks before the deadline we changed tack and simplified things and it just flowed much more easily. It's a good feeling when it seems to write itself.”

The pair say you can find them in the characters, but Ms Pitt insists the work is not autobiographical.

The success coach said: “Our main character wants to do the same job as I do, but this is certainly not my story. Her profession was Justine's idea, for its comedy value.”

Ms Foster added: “We both have lovely mothers who have probably despaired of us at times but who ultimately just want us to be happy.

“And we have both been the sort of daughters who desperately wanted to carve our own path, whatever that may have been.

“So many great actors came out to audition, I wish we'd written plays for all of them.

“We're thrilled we got a fabulous cast and they've really been working hard to bring our words to life.

“Evelyn McGregor plays a cleaning lady who can't get a word in, Deborah Pharoah is the busybody, socialite mother, Izabella Arnold plays our young protagonist and, finally, a relative newcomer to BMDS productions, Shae James, is our disembodied voice.”

The Underlying Truth by Susanne Notman

The second time proved lucky for The Underlying Truth.

Mrs Notman was not successful when she submitted it for Famous for 15 Minutes last year.

“I had just come off playing Gertrude Stein [in BMDS's Little Wars], so at the last minute resubmitted last year's play,” she said. “I was surprised and delighted when it was accepted this year among such fine writers.

“I had talked about doing a sort of Absolutely Fabulous à la Bermuda TV script with a dear friend; something about two crazy mothers and the antics of their offspring.

“It was all talk until last year I suggested that Famous would be a good starting-off point. Going on the premise of writing what you know, I threw out the concept of a young lawyer and a mother who cannot let go.”

The veteran actress has been a busy writer of late.

“I just found out that an excerpt from my screenplay about Jane Austen's brother has been selected among other writers as a ‘Table Read' at the upcoming London Screenwriters' Festival,” she said. “I am thrilled.”

The Deep End by Owain Johnston-Barnes

Last year's Famous for 15 Minutes winner has made real-life engineer Otis Barton the focus of this year's play.

The plot centres around “his fictional last dive” in the summer of 1934.

“Otis Barton is a real person. It's historical — I've never done that before,” Mr Johnston-Barnes said.

“It is about the partnership of Otis Barton and William Beebe. Those two made international headlines by going in the bathysphere and diving down 3,000 feet below the surface off the coast of the island, breaking all sorts of records.

“The idea is that they've had an agreement in which Barton's going to go down alone and if he doesn't see the majesty and beauty in what they're doing, he quits and takes the bathysphere to New York with him.

“If, on the other hand, he sees all this beauty then he signs on for another year.” While Otis is alone in the bathysphere, 3000ft below the surface of the water, the play is not a monologue.

“He is in constant radio contact with Beebe and Gloria Holster. Essentially it is Otis Barton's worst day,” Mr Johnston said.

This is The Royal Gazette reporter's seventh time as a finalist. The idea for the play came to him at work.

“I was doing one of the ‘This Day in Bermuda' things and I started doing research about Beebe.

“Beebe's name was always in my head. Barton never was. That was part of their issue.

“Beebe got all the attention. Barton got none. So I wanted to focus on Barton — the guy that did all the hard work and never got the fame or attention.”

Thank you for Riding by Max Greig

Max Greig sums up this play with this: “Sometimes it takes being trapped in a capsule together to really understand the person you think you love.”

Show dates are August 11-13 and 18-20, with performances starting at 8pm at the Daylesford Theatre.

The August 20 Gala Night begins with a 6.30pm reception and the show at 8pm.

For more information, visit www.bmds.bm

Talented pair: Playwrights Justine Foster (left) and Julia Pitt (right) hold the Golden Inkwell prize after winning in 2014 (Photograph supplied)
What a drama: last year's winner, Owain Johnston-Barnes (Photograph supplied)
Vying for the prize: playwrights Susanne Notman, above, and Justine Foster and Julia Pitt, right (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 08, 2016 at 1:21 am (Updated August 08, 2016 at 9:15 am)

The write stuff

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