Playwright Q & A: Bronwyn Carradine
Last week, Green Thumb announced the postponement of three productions slated to kick off our 45th season. One of the postponed productions is BLINK!, a brand new play by Bronwyn Carradine. BLINK! delves into topics of anger, aggression, and justice — challenging audiences to examine their ideas of masculinity in a modern world.
While we are saddened by the postponement of this tour de force show, we are thrilled that Bronwyn will be reading an excerpt of the play as a part of the Fresh Ink series with Soulpepper Theatre Company on Friday, May 29 at 1:30 PM PT/4:30PM ET!
Friday's Fresh Ink livestream is a special Theatre for Young Audiences edition, and also features Fiona Sauder and Landon Doak with Bad Hats Theatre as well as Tony Perpuse and Christol Bryan with Theatre Direct. The event will be hosted by Weyni Mengesha, Frank Cox-O’Connell, and guest host Lisa Marie DiLiberto.
Ahead of the reading on Friday, we asked Bronwyn to share some insights about the play and writing process, and why it's important to create Theatre for Young Audiences.
Can you tell us a little about BLINK! and about Jackson, the main character?
For as long as Jackson can remember he’s wanted to be a professional boxer. Through the course of the show the audience watches him grow up with his mother and his sister in East Vancouver. BLINK! is a show about childhood and how it changes when we’re forced to take care of ourselves and our families from an early age – when Jackson’s father leaves a week before his 6th birthday he is immediately thrust into the job of being ‘the man’ of his house. We watch as he learns life lessons, from his boxing coach, his teachers, his mother, his grandfather; as he figures out how to stand up for what he believes in and the moments when those beliefs get him into trouble.
It’s a show about dreams, about what we have to give up following them, and about how even if we have the best intentions, and action can change the course of our lives in the blink of an eye.
Green Thumb aims to develop and produce plays that spark critical thinking and empathy — what conversations do you hope this play will start?
The thing I LOVE about Green Thumb and the work they create, is that the shows are never telling the audience what to do, they teach lessons, but they don’t shove them in your face. Green Thumb shows tell stories and let the audience experience and discuss.
What do I want people to talk about after this show? I want them to think about the grey area between right and wrong. I want them to talk about if it’s possible for good people to make bad decisions. I want them to have a discussion on whether they agree or disagree with the ending. I want them to debate what should happen to someone in Jackson’s position.
BLINK! is a solo show that features a live drummer — can you tell us a little about this aspect of the play?
Of course! The brilliant Patrick McDonald suggested this during one of our many writing meetings. It was one of those amazing ‘ok, this might be crazy but what if’ moments that happen when creating theatre. We thought a lot about how boxing is so rhythmic – especially boxing training. We thought about how to add those sounds from the boxing gym into the play in an organic and exciting way. We wanted to add momentum to the storytelling and build up the world of the ring and by adding the drummer we were able to elevate the world even more.
Last summer we were able to have a workshop of the show with Charlie Gallant playing Jackson and Demi Pedersen drumming in the background. We went into the workshop with no expectations it was going to work, but there was a moment towards the end of the first day where we both knew ‘oh, this is going to work and it’s going to be amazing!’
Why is writing for young audiences important to you?
Theatre for Young Audiences starts important conversations with young people about things that they face on a day to day basis. It encourages youth to form opinions and to have empathy. It opens peoples’ eyes to things they might not know at the same time as making others feel like they’re not alone in feeling the way they do. I hear a lot that TYA cultivates the theatre-goers of tomorrow, but I think more importantly it empowers the decision makers of today. What is also an important aspect of touring TYA is that it is accessible and available for every student in each school, regardless of their background or financial situation at home - and that doesn’t happen in any other form of theatre in North America.
Is there something about the story that might surprise audiences?
Not the story, but the process of writing this play has honestly been life changing. It’s taught me how to write, how to edit and how to take notes. I’ve been working on BLINK! for almost three years now. When Patrick first commissioned me, we both knew that we wanted to work on a show about growing up, about anger and aggression and about sports. I’ve written a lot of drafts of BLINK!, trying to get everything to feel just right (and many were very not right) but, Patrick let me go down whatever road I wanted to - we had drafts with the police officer, with Winnie, with Mom; but every time I would deter, I would always find myself coming back to BLINK! needing to be a solo show- that the only voice that was really important to me was Jackson’s. Which really proved to me that this was the story I wanted to and needed to tell. At this point, I think I have written over 1,100 pages of material for a show that will end up being around 30 pages in the end.
Anything else you would like to add?
The news was shared last week that Green Thumb will be postponing BLINK! until next season due to restrictions in response to COVID-19. While this was expected, as theatres shut down operations all around the world for the time-being, it definitely was sad to hear this news. I want to give a shout out to the amazing designers, Ruth Bruhn (set), Emily Fraser (costumes) and John Webber (lighting) who had already begun work on this show and had added their own amazing flairs to really bring this world to life. We know that the world won’t see BLINK! right now, but I am so looking forward to working with all of these innovative and brilliant theatre creators in the future.
About the playwright:
Bronwyn Carradine is a playwright and theatre creator currently living and working in Vancouver, BC. Most recent works have been developed, and produced by Zee Zee Theatre (Honor), Intrepid Theatre's OutFest (Polished), Studio 58 (Numbers, The Last One, Us), Playwrights Theatre Centre (Numbers) and Green Thumb Theatre (BLINK!). Carradine is a graduate of Studio 58
May 27, 2020