“The pattern is clear, women are drinking more. And not just in my circles. I think it’s a phenomenon in stay at home moms. It’s a way to get through the witching hour. It’s a way to relieve the anxiety and the pressure of information overload that moms now have because we’re trying to make the right choices. But there are so many choices laid out for us, with so many different arguments for which one is the right one, that we’re walking around with this mind boggling anxiety all the time that we’re making the wrong ones.”
There’s a new play premiering at Lunchbox Theatre next week by Calgary Playwright Meredith Taylor-Parry called Book Club. It’s a funny and insightful look at being human, motherhood, and coping with life’s disappointments and joys.
And it’s funny – did I mention that?
Very funny. And beautifully written. I highly recommend it. So, take your daughter and your mother and your grandmother. Get your son and your father and your grandfather. Gather up the whole family, members of the Book Club, the Wine Club and the Social Club and make sure you head to Lunchbox Theatre and catch this gem of a play.
Last week, I published the first part of my interview with Meredith where we talked about her play Survival Skills. This week, in part two, we talk about her play Book Club.
You came to the acting late, and now you’ve come to the writing later. And even though you haven’t been writing a long time you’ve had good feedback and some success including a production Off Off Broadway for your play Survival Skills. And now you have a new production coming up, here in Calgary, at Lunchbox Theatre for your play Book Club. How much do you feel maturity has played a role in you becoming a writer?
For me maturity was very important. I don’t think I would have had the confidence or the stories to become a writer if I’d tried this when I was nineteen.
For someone else, who’s got that confidence and talent right from the womb, they can sit down in their twenties and tell these great stories. But I wouldn’t have had the confidence to be able to tell them on paper and be brave enough to share them and get the feedback. I feel like I needed to gather confidence over the years, and then just gather a wealth of stories because life happens to you, and to other people, and you can write them down and turn them into drama.
And I struggle with that, from time to time, as a writer – when someone tells you something personal and you go, “Jesus, that’s a good line.” But if you’re a writer that’s what you do. I don’t make this stuff up. It’s hand delivered right to you – and you sit there and you take things in and you remember details.
What is Book Club about?
It’s about a bunch of mommies who are meeting for Book Club and I wanted to examine different kinds of mommies that I’ve met or mommy types. You know there’s the type of mommy, like me, that would give her kid a hot dog, and then there’s the type of mommy that would see that as child abuse. But we’re all mommies, right.
And then there’s that competitive nature we seem to have as human beings. That seems to happen with mommies. If you show up with bought cookies, from Safeway on bake sale day, you feel less than the person who shows up with homemade cookies that she must have spent all night slaving over.
And I also wanted to explore a darker idea. The phenomenon of wine being a civilized version of Valium in our generation. You know people get together for play dates and they have wine. They meet for book club and they have wine. The pattern is clear, women are drinking more. And not just in my circles.
I think it’s a phenomenon in stay at home moms. It’s a way to get through the witching hour. It’s a way to relieve the anxiety and the pressure of information overload that moms now have because we’re trying to make the right choices. But there are so many choices laid out for us, with so many different arguments for which one is the right one, that we’re walking around with this mind boggling anxiety all the time that we’re making the wrong ones.
Tell me about workshopping the play at Lunchbox.
Once I did the workshop process it became pretty clear right away – any wine drinking that happened had to be pretty tame because we wanted it to be a comedy and we didn’t want to explore the idea of addiction in stay at home mother’s at this time.
You touch on it very lightly.
There’s a resolution at the end of maybe we should stop drinking wine and actually read some books. So it is dealt with. But it’s a very funny play. And I think it’s all about trying to figure out life – it’s about hopes and dreams and figuring out how you can do the role you’ve been put into and whether or not that role fits you. And even though it’s about motherhood I think it’s about anybody because male or female we can relate to that because that’s a universal thing. How many dads are dads going – “Did I want to be a dad? I did want to be a dad. But now that I’m a dad –
– boy does this ever suck –
– this isn’t exactly where I want to be –
– I wouldn’t trade them for anything but wow this sure sucks in some ways.”
I love that you explore that because that’s not an unusual feeling. To think what life could be without the children but we’re made to feel guilty about that.
Or to want other things, right? Because being a parent is supposed to be our most important role. Yeah, I want to be a great mom but I also want to be a great writer too. But, no, no, no, I have to want to be a great mom more – right? That’s more important.
Thanks for all the positive feedback by the way. I was shocked that everybody found it so funny and liked it so much because it was such a pleasure to write and it was easy to put down on paper. It just fell out of me.
When I did the workshop I’d get up early in the morning and I’d write a new scene and I’d go in and I’d be sick to my stomach when they sat down to read it because I’d just wrote it that day. And then when I got good feedback I just remember being continuously shocked – “Really? You really like it? Does that work?” And then when Mark Bellamy from Lunchbox read it and said, “I really like your play.” Once again I’m still kind of astonished that the feedback has been so good.
Are you astonished in one sense because it was such an easy journey to reach a professional stage?
Yes, absolutely – to reach a point where it’s going to be produced by a professional theatre. Yeah. That’s astonishing to me. So what does that tell you? I guess you should write what you know.
How much do you credit the workshop? Because it was a wonderful ensemble – right – it just seemed to really work well.
Yes, I had a bunch of superstars – fantastic actors – almost all of them young moms and then I had Shari Wattling and she’s a great director and a great dramaturge.
I also wanted to write a play with just female roles because the year before I put a play in and Glenda Stirling was at Lunchbox then and she said, “Wow four women up on stage – I love it! It didn’t make the cut this year but I really loved your play and I’d love to see all women up on stage.” And I said, “Yeah. I want to write good roles for women because I’m a woman and I’m an actor and I know how hard it is to find good roles.” So that was important.
But that process with Shari and the other actors was just gold because they gave me lots of things to think about. Lots of ideas. We discussed and talked about it at the table, and then I went home and thought about things they had said. When someone as talented as Myla Southward or Cheryl Hutton says, “I don’t know about that part – that’s a real harsh line or that falls flat with me…” and that’s the last thing you hear as you head out the door you think about that until bedtime. I trusted their opinions. These are talented artists. I was lucky to get that group.
That’s the dumb luck part. The dumb ass luck part that Vern Theissen talked about when he was talking about a career as a playwright in his workshop that we went to.
So, so far, you’ve had a lot of dumb ass luck.
I’ve had a lot of dumb ass luck man. I don’t know what’s going on? But I also think I got a lot of bad writing out of my system early on which feels good. When I look back on the classes I took with Clem Martini when I was taking my BFA at the U of C fifteen years ago I purged a lot of crappy writing off the top…kind of like the head on a beer, you know. I look back on some of that stuff and it just makes me laugh at how bad and self-involved it is – and how it’s not dramatic and I don’t care about structure. Or when I was trying to be funny – oh man, that’s painful. So, I feel like I purged a bit of that. And then to come back at it years later I was in a different place.
You told me Clem encouraged you to write so he must have recognized something.
Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. I mean I never did exceptionally well in his classes or anything but he’s a good teacher and a lot of the stuff he told me stayed with me. He told us about writing dialogue, about structure, and about the hero’s journey – and that stayed with me over the years and I’d think about it, you know, when I’d read a book, or watch a movie, and maybe that was because I was supposed to become a writer in the end.
Are you able to picture what you want the future to be for you as a writer?
I want to be writing of course. I would like to spend more time collaborating with other artists like we did that week when we did the workshop at Lunchbox. That’s when I’m at my best. Not when I’m on my own but when there’s a group of people around and we’re on the same creative page. You know not just writing in my own little office but being able to collaborate with other artists in order to make something you’ve created even better.
Book Club by Meredith Taylor-Parry
Directed by Shari Wattling
What happens at book club, stays at book club.
Jenny is the perfect wife and mother. At least that’s what her book club thinks until one day she disappears and they have to turn detective and follow her trail! This mad cap, adventure-filled romp, shines a light on the pressures of motherhood and the value of true friendship.
World Premiere at Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary from February 8th to 27th, 2016 with the following cast and crew.
- Lisa – Cheryl Hutton
- Ellen – Anna Cummer
- Mary – Kathryn Kerbes
- Kathy – Kira Bradley
- Jenny – Arielle Rombough
- Playwright – Meredith Taylor-Parry
- Director – Shari Wattling
- RBC Emerging Director – Jenna Rogers
- Stage Manager – Ailsa Birnie
- Apprentice Stage Manager – Melanie Crawford
- Scenic & Lighting Design – Anton de Groot
- Costume Design – Dietra Kalyn
- Sound Design – Allison Lynch
Meredith Taylor-Parry is a playwright based in Calgary, Alberta. Her play Survival Skills won the New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest in 2013 and was produced Off Off Broadway by the 13th Street Repertory Company, NYC in April 2014. Her play Devices received a production in Week One of the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre in Toronto in March of 2015. Her most recent work, Book Club, was developed as part of the Suncor Energy Stage One Festival of New Canadian Work at Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary in 2014 and will receive a world premiere at Lunchbox in February 2016. Meredith is Co-Artistic Director of Bigs and Littles Theatre Society and also enjoys writing and performing for young audiences.
You can contact Meredith at LinkedIn by clicking the link above or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Club was part of the Suncor Energy Stage One Festival of New Canadian Work at Lunchbox Theatre in June of 2014 where it received a workshop and reading.
- Lisa – Brieanna Blizzard
- Ellen – Myla Southward
- Mary – Kathi Kerbes
- Kathy – Cheryl Hutton
- Jenny – Arielle Rombough
- Playwright – Meredith Taylor-Parry
- Director/Dramaturge – Shari Wattling
- Assistant Dramaturg – Jacqueline Russel
The action takes place over a few hours in Lisa’s home, at a male strip club, outside a tattoo parlour, in a rough part of town, and outside an airport.
When Jenny is a no show on Book Club night the mommies start to worry. When she sends them a text to tell them she has booked a flight to Italy, they really get frantic. The group heads out on the town to track down their friend and hopefully talk some sense into her. This is a play about motherhood, from the stress of competitive parenting to the beauty of a good girlfriend who will help you get through it.
Bartley and Margaret Bard and Betty Gibb founded Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary in 1975. Lunchbox delivers a fun and unique experience to its audience – upbeat performances in an intimate and comfortable atmosphere. Patrons are encouraged to eat their lunch while they enjoy the show. Lunchbox Theatre focuses on the development and production of original one-act plays; many of which are written by local Calgarians.