Meet the Playwright for Bed & Breakfast | Mark Crawford

Playwright Mark Crawford is well known for his 2016 play The Birds and the Bees, one of the most widely-produced Canadian plays of the 2010s. He’s written several other gems, including Stag & Doe, Boys, Girls and Other Mythological Creatures, The New Canadian Curling Club, and Bed and Breakfast, which premieres at Lighthouse Festival from June 28th to July 30th in Port Dover & Port Colborne. Mark took some time out of his very busy schedule (he’s currently wrapping up a run on stage in Mirvish’s Toronto production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) to chat with us about how he goes about writing a play, if playwriting is a collaborative effort, and what he hopes audiences will take away from Bed and Breakfast.

Lighthouse Festival (L): How do you go about writing a play – do you start with the characters, the plot, the setting, or something else? 

Mark Crawford (MC): In general, I start with the seed of an idea–often something more thematic–and build the characters and story from there. In the case of Bed and Breakfast, I began with a desire to write a play about a gay couple for theatres that haven’t traditionally showcased those stories. From there, I developed the premise: two guys move to a small town and open a B&B, and decided right away that it would be a multi-character play with only two actors. 

(L): Do you draft your pieces before you start writing, or do you just let the story “take control” and see where it goes? 

(MC): I usually have an outline–even if it’s just an idea of where we get to by intermission and where the story goes by the end. With B&B, I did more plotting out before I sat down to write the dialogue because it’s a big story that takes place over a whole year, and because I knew I only had two actors to play all these parts. That said, the story always changes as I write and discover more about the characters, but I like to start with an idea of where I’m going. 

(L): Do you collaborate with others during the writing process (e.g., directors or actors), or do you prefer to write alone?

(MC): While most of the actual writing is a solo endeavour–just me and my computer–I absolutely collaborate with others. I developed Bed and Breakfast as a member of the Thousand Islands Playhouse Playwrights’ Unit, meaning I would meet up with other writers once every few months, share scenes, ask for feedback, chat with a dramaturg, etc. I had most of the first draft written when the unit began, but their outside eyes were invaluable in helping me hone the story, clarify the characters, and zero in on what the play is about. We also had workshops in which the original actors, director, and designers could ask questions about the script and we could try things out on our feet, all of which informed more rewrites and changes. Even though this play has been produced numerous times, I made script changes specifically for this Lighthouse production. I believe scripts are living documents of live performance, not final, fixed pieces of literature that are set in stone.  

(L): What would be your dream project – is there something specific you have always wanted to write but have not had the chance to yet? Or is there something specific you’d like to write but do not think will ever be produced because of its controversial nature or too “out there“?

(MC): There are a lot of things I’d like to write when the time is right. I’d love to write a musical one day, alongside a great composer. And I’d love the chance to write a large-scale play with a big cast, but the opportunities to get those shows staged are few and far between. Most writers have to balance “this is what I want to write” and “will this play get produced?” That’s not necessarily about controversial content (not every script is intended for every audience!) but often about whether or not theatres in Canada have the resources to hire 30 actors or build a revolving stage with a pool!

(L): What do you hope the audience will take away from this play?

(MC): First and foremost, I hope audiences have a great time; I hope they enjoy the humour, the characters, and the twists and turns of the story. Bed and Breakfast is very much about community, so I hope audiences reflect on their own communities–the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of them. Finally, I hope folks feel lifted up by the play and leave the theatre with a case of the warm-and-fuzzies.