Providence for the Playwright

“Luck affects everything; let your hook always be cast. In the stream where you least expect it, there will be fish.” Ovid

April 9, 2014 | | Blogs | Community | Leisure | Two Blue Boots

A Literary Luncheon at the Needles’ farm

A Literary Luncheon at the Needles’ farm

Last month I decided to take a break from my usual blog post.  During the month of March, I was a participant in a scriptwriting course called Page to Stage, taught by Dan Needles.  Dan has been my Literary Hero for many years.  I have seen all of his Wingfield Farm plays.  I was the audience member who was laughing uncontrollably and rolling in the aisles of the theatre.  I always imagined that it must be a wonderful feeling for a playwright to have instant validation through the spontaneous feedback of laughter.

First, let me take you back to last winter – March 2013. I signed up to take Dan’s course and I enjoyed learning all about the craft of writing for the stage.  I listened as the other attendees read their work aloud and I offered thoughtful suggestions.  I appreciated being part of a creative and diverse group of writers.  As the weeks went by, I came up with a few ideas but could never manage to put them onto paper.   Dan assured me that I “didn’t need to write”—that I was welcome to “play in the sandbox” with the others and listen and learn.  So that is what I did.  I enjoyed the session but I must admit, at the end of the course, when everyone had a “sand castle” to show off and share,  and I had nothing, I was just a little miffed at myself.

This March 2014, Page to Stage was offered once again and so once again I decided to partake.  Three weeks went by and I was still struggling to get my ideas into script form. I was beginning to feel a sense of panic.  All my friends were asking me how my writing was coming along and I had to admit that I had NOTHING.  Each Thursday night, my fellow group members would read their work aloud, while the rest of the group oooohed and ahhhhed .  I hung my head lower each week.  The blank pages taunted me.  I considered quitting.

With one week remaining in the course, I had to do something.  I was descending into a procrastinational snit.  Then one evening, I read an article about the Law of Attraction.  I learned about the theory of increasing vibrational energy.  Apparently if we put our desires out into the universe, the things that we wish for will eventually come to us.   Of course you have to get yourself into a positive mindset and you have to believe that you can really meet your goals.

The first thing I decided to do was to set up a Literary Shrine dedicated to Dan Needles.   I took my trusty autographed copy of the Wingfield’s World: The Complete Letters from Wingfield Farm and I propped it on my desk.  The theory was that the positive energy would flow out of the book and into me.  I waited and waited without success.

My shrine obviously needed something more powerful.  I managed to locate a photograph of Dan in an older issue of In the Hills magazine.  Dan was clad in Farmer Plaid, posing in front of a herd of cows.  I cut it out and framed it.  It was perfect.  I propped the cherished photo atop the Wingfield Farm book. Again I waited for literary inspiration to strike.  Again, nothing.

In order for the magic to work, I needed something much more personal to add to my mythical sanctuary.  Suddenly, I recalled that I had the perfect item, hidden in my bottom drawer.  But first, let me take you back to last summer…

Dan and his incredible wife Heath prepared an amazing outdoor meal and the weather was divine.

Dan and his incredible wife Heath prepared an amazing outdoor meal and the weather was divine.

The March 2013 Page to Stage group was invited to a Literary Luncheon at the Needles’ farm last July.  It was all very exciting and I spent the day running around like a puppy at the dog park.  We were able to rub shoulders with Norm Foster and Patricia Vanstone, who were both in town to perform On a First Name Basis.  We had the golden opportunity to wine and dine with David Nairn and Leisa Way, both of Theatre Orangeville fame.  Dan and his incredible wife Heath prepared an amazing outdoor meal and the weather was divine.

I must have had some kind of premonition that day because I was overcome with an urge to have something from Dan’s farmhouse.  I was overcome with the feeling that if I could simply possess an object from his magical, eclectic home, that good luck (in the form of writing success) would eventually come to me.

I looked around the house at all of the trinkets and treasures.  I wasn’t brave enough to ask Dan if I could have something.  That would have seemed too weird. On the other hand, I couldn’t just steal something – or could I?

And so,  in a private moment, when I was all alone, I helped myself to a small item from Dan’s home.  I nervously placed the coveted object into my purse and when I arrived home that night, I placed it carefully into my drawer.

And so, eight months later, when I found myself searching for a good-luck charm to add to my Dan Needles Literary Shrine, I carefully removed the stolen Q-tip from its hiding place.  I added this pilfered offering to the book and the photo and once again I waited.   Within hours, I sat down and began to write at a frenetic pace.  Within a day I had written my very first scene.  That week, I proudly read my work to the rest of the group.  They loved it, and so did Dan!

On March 29, I was able to see my scene performed live on the stage. I was so thrilled to see my words brought to life by two wonderful actors and an amazing director.  The best part of all was hearing the audience laugh.

Oh, and if you are worried about Dan Needles finding out that I embezzled the Q-tip from his home, I’ve already confessed my crime to him. He admitted that he had been searching for it everywhere; however, since it obviously means so much to me, he granted me permission to keep it. And, so my cherished Q-tip will continue to be an everlasting symbol of Dan’s literary spirit, for many years to come.

Thanks, Dan!

Do you have a good luck charm?

DanNeedlesShrine

About the Author More by Laurie May

Laurie teaches Grade 4 at Island Lake Public School in Orangeville and writes in her spare time. She lives in Mono and looks for the humour in everyday country life. Check out her blog “Two Blue Boots”.

Comments

24 Comments

  1. This was the second year I took the Page to Stage course. Dan and Michael are so dedicated to helping us learn, so eager to share this art form that they love so much. Very fun. I highly recommend it. And of course, then there’s the THRILL of seeing your work on stage… I missed this year as I was in Scotland, but last year is still warm in my imagination.

    Karen Hood-Caddy on Apr 11, 2014 at 5:41 am | Reply

    • Hi Karen: I hope your trip to Scotland was wonderful. You would have enjoyed this year’s Page to Stage performance. You are correct–both Dan Needles (playwright) and Michael Clipperton (director) have so much experience and talent to share.

      Laurie May from MOno on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Reply

  2. Laurie;

    I was involved in the Gaslight tour last year as an actor, taking the stage for the first time since high school (don’t ask when that was). I was delighted, as an old wannabe with no experience, to have been welcomed into a delightful, talented and eclectic group of new friends. These are many of the same bright, energetic, wonderful people who present these courses.

    I am thankful, as you obviously are, for the opportunity to participate and learn from people with experience and who passionately love the theater. They unselfishly and tirelessly share all of this, with the community and with people like us who are thrilled to play some small part.

    Thank you for continuing that spirit of sharing by writing this article. I look forward to seeing, perhaps even to act in your play!

    Doug Snider

    PS Time to add Collingwood to your Community Links!

    Doug Snider from Collingwood on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:52 am | Reply

    • Hi Doug: Thanks for echoing my message. It is true–Gaslight Productions welcomes both experienced theatre- folk and wanna-be-types who simply want to be part of the excitement of the theatre world.
      Gaslight provides a non-threatening atmosphere–a place to learn and grow and to meet new friends.
      I hope our paths cross at some point.

      Laurie May on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Reply

  3. Not for a moment do I believe that you could have had writer’s block…your prose just seems effortless, as well as hilarious. Congratulations, Laurie.

    Nancy from Mulmur on Apr 11, 2014 at 9:38 am | Reply

    • Hi Nancy:
      I appreciate you saying that my blog posts appear to effortless. I wish they were. For the most part, they involve a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hand-wringing. It takes a lot of work to make something appear to be easy. It’s wonderful to get positive feed-back from readers. It makes up for all of the angst.
      Thank-you 🙂

      Laurie May on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Reply

  4. Your good luck charm certainly worked, Laurie! Your script was hilarious! We so enjoyed it when we saw it brought to life on stage in Collingwood. I am thinking you may soon be a “writer in residence” with Gaslight theatre productions in the future!

    Ann from Orangeville on Apr 11, 2014 at 9:58 am | Reply

    • Thanks so much Ann. I am glad that you and Walter were able to make it out to the performance. I really appreciate your support.

      Laurie May on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Reply

  5. I was privileged to hear about the shrine to Needles when we bumped into each other at the Orangeville Library writers’ workshop (okay we were slugging a beer after the workshop). I like the idea of an “inspiration piece” despite the fact that when I become a famous writer I might have to keep Q-tips under lock and key. Since our meeting I have put Gaslight theatre productions on my TO DO list . . . . I also think your blogs would look and feel great in print accompanied by photos or cartoons.

    Katherine Shedden from Damascus, Ontario on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:29 am | Reply

    • Thanks Katherine: Yes…some of the best writing ideas present themselves during the “social time” following the workshop. I think you should give Humour Writing a try. You are one of the funniest people that I know.

      Laurie May on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:39 am | Reply

  6. Great article Laurie! As a fellow participant in the Page to Stage writing workshop, I echo your enthusiasm and gratitude for this course. I learned much more than I had ever anticipated! …and I discovered, it really is true; we really are never too old to learn.
    Gaslight Productions has brought so much life to our local Communty theatre scene. It has really bolted out of the starting gates, offering so many dynamic and fantastic theatre related programs. With Gaslight Productions, there really is something for everyone! They offer children’s events (Day of Delight), writing courses, acting workshops and directing workshops. Not to mention the actual Gaslight Production Tour Theatre offerings. The Fall 2013 plays were outstanding. To see local talent come together to write, produce, direct and perform plays from our local history was absolutely brilliant. I am honored to be a part of this fantastic, high energy group! …and, of course, getting to meet and hang with Laurie and her good friend “Dan” was pretty cool too!

    Shirley O'Reilly Joost from Nottawa, Ontario on Apr 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Reply

    • Hi Shirley: You described Gaslight Productions so perfectly. Thanks to the vision of our fearless leader, Arlene Noble, Gaslight continues to grow. Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of people like you, I sense wonderful things are going to happen as this vital community link continues to expand.
      Laurie

      Laurie May on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Laurie. I loved your article. I was a fellow guide for the Gaslight Tour last fall. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in the Page to Stage workshops, but I was cast in the performance of one of the selected scenes and had a wonderful time. Your intro to your scene was just as hilarious as the scene itself. I look forward to working with all the wonderful Gaslight family again soon. Keep up the good work!

    Linda Bell from Collingwood, On on Apr 11, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Linda. That is the wonderful thing about Gaslight. There is always an opportunity to become involved. I am glad that you enjoyed my introduction. Every word of that introduction was true!

      Laurie May on Apr 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Reply

  8. Perhaps the reason behind the writer’s block was a gift from “the Universe”. It gave you material for this great article! You write really well.

    The workshop sounds great. Kudos to Gaslight Community Theatre Productions for offering courses like this. Let me shamelessly plug them – They have playwriting, stage managing, and directing workshops too! See their website (http://www.gaslight-productions.com) or facebook page for more info.

    Colleen Hough from Wasaga Beach on Apr 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Reply

  9. What a great experience you had! Learning to overcome writer’s block and finding your way to success. It sounds like you really enjoyed Play to Stage! Keep up the amazing work Laurie. I look forward to reading your future In The Hills blog posts.

    Katelynn Smith from Alliston, Ontario on Apr 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm | Reply

    • Hi Katelynn: Thanks very much for your positive words. Keep on reading!

      Laurie May on Apr 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Reply

  10. Hi Colleen: I am so glad that you took the opportunity to plug Gaslight. I certainly enjoyed my stint as a Gaslight Guide, working with you in November. The Gaslight Tour is another wonderful example of community involvement and interactive/informative community theatre.

    Laurie

    Laurie May on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:55 pm | Reply

  11. Hi Laurie,

    I think it takes a great and talented writer to want to dedicate themselves to all kinds of writing styles and genres.
    I think your Page to Stage experience sounds amazing and is something I would definitely be interested in as a fellow writer , somewhere down the line.

    You definitely have a knack for humor and expressing it within your writing.

    I always look forward to reading your blog posts for In The Hills. What a privilege to write for such a beautiful publication.

    Happy Spring!

    Sam

    Samantha on Apr 12, 2014 at 7:23 am | Reply

    • Thanks Sam. I wanted to challenge myself by trying scriptwriting. It was difficult for me because I don’t really like writing dialogue. I learned that writing for the stage is very different. Your words have to have an energy and a beat to them. The audience wants to feel that they are being moved forward.
      And – I agree – In the Hills is a wonderful magazine. I am very proud to be able to be able to blog for them.

      Laurie May on Apr 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Reply

  12. Wow That course sounds so amazing. How do I get involved?

    As always, your blog is a pleasure to read. I wish you had an article in the magazine.

    D

    Danielle on Apr 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm | Reply

  13. Oh Laurie . . . your script on stage!! Fabulous. Thinking after catching up on your blogs . . . it’s a good thing Daryl didn’t find that Q tip . . . after wearing your snow pants, there is no telling what may have happened!! It could have had serious consequences for your writing career.

    Sherie from Mono on May 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Reply

  14. Hi Sherie: My precious Dan Needles Q-Tip is now encased in a vault. It has been rescued from the garbage
    (the cleaning ladies did not understand its worth). It has also been rescued from the dog’s mouth. It may be a little worse for wear—but it is still my lucky Q-tip!!!

    Laurie May on May 1, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Reply

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