Vancouver arts groups continue to adapt as the pandemic plays havoc with their ability to offer in-person performances. Taking up the challenge, our city’s largest professional theatre company, the Arts Club Theatre Company has launched its new theatrical audio series Listen To This.
“We are thrilled and grateful to be producing artistic content during this time and are excited about exploring a new artistic format in the form of audio plays and podcasting,” says the Arts Club artistic director Ashlie Corcoran in a media release. “We know that this is a trying time for many, and we’re eager to help our patrons weather this storm by providing consistent, high-quality theatre in a digital format.”
Over the next several months, the Arts Club will release the four audio plays written by artists affiliated with the Emerging Playwrights’ Unit and Silver Commissions Project. As a lead into each, Vancouver Presents asked the playwrights to provide more insight into their plays.
First up is Vancouver-based playwright Bronwyn Carradine whose new comedy Unexpecting kicks off the Listen to This series and is available now by visiting artsclub.com.
This interview has been edited.
Tell us about Unexpecting. What can audiences expect?
Unexpecting is a comedy about family and love. Annie and Jo have been trying to have a baby for over five years, and as the play opens, they’re at the point where their pennies and patience have started to run out. As they begin to second-guess their choices and everything they’ve had to put on hold, an amazing job offer comes along … at the same time as a possible chance for a baby bursts through the front door.
Audiences can expect a feminist erotic painter/gallery owner; a novelist stuck in the sophomore slump, a rowdy best friend with a liberal wine pour, a nervous almost lawyer, and a series of choices that tie them all together.
I hope people laugh and cry and think while listening to this story that highlights women and champions queer love.
Where did the inspiration for Unexpecting come from?
I feel the inspiration for all my writing comes from exploring questions that I’m tackling in my own life. How will I support myself as an artist in the most expensive city in Canada? How will I be able to afford to create a family as a queer woman? How will I be able to sustain the lifestyle I want to have? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night, and then I just write them down.
I also really wanted to write a play with four complex, layered, complicated and relatable female characters; and a queer story where the main ‘problem’ doesn’t revolve around the characters dealing with blatant homophobia or having to ‘find themselves.’
Unexpecting was initially written for the stage but presented as an audio play for the Arts Club’s Listen to This series. What was the biggest challenge in adapting it to an audio-only format?
Unexpecting was originally conceived and developed through the Arts Club’s Emerging Playwrights Unit. I was fortunate enough to be part of the inaugural unit in 2019, and here we are two years later.
Originally it was written for the stage, but when Ashlie and Stephen [Drover] approached me to ask if I would like to adapt it to audio, I jumped at the opportunity. I personally love conversational podcasts where it feels like I’m sitting in the same room as the people I’m listening to. So, that’s the vibe I went for with this dialogue.
Adapting a very physical, at times almost modern French farce play was a really intriguing writing challenge. When it became a solely auditory experience, I’d have to say the biggest challenge was making sure the dialogue tells the full story and not relying on the physicality of any kind to aid in comedic or story driving moments. Instead, I had to rely on the dialogue to tell us and make it seem natural and unforced. It was a unique and exciting opportunity that challenged me to be a more specific writer, which I’m super grateful for! I also got to work with Ashlie and my two amazing dramaturgs, Stephen Drover and Rachel Peake, who were very much my guides throughout this experience.
Will Unexpecting have a life on stage after the pandemic? If so, how will it change?
Well, I hope so. Give me a call, people. No, but truly, I am excited for when it gets to have a life onstage.
I love it in this form, but as it was originally written for the stage, there’s a lot of fun business and physical comedy that I originally wrote into the piece that just doesn’t work for a solely audio show. I think being on stage, the heart and the foundation will, of course, remain the same. Still, I am excited for a day that audiences get to be sitting in a seat, next to a stranger or a loved one, experiencing all rollercoaster of emotions in real-time without the option to pause. And I’m also really excited to watch actors breathe life into it, again and again, every single night. I miss live theatre so much.
Give us your elevator pitch. Why should someone tune in to listen to Unexpecting?
Unexpecting is a love story about family and what it means to try to make one while being an artist in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s a play about women, queer love, friendship, modern motherhood, chosen families, and those big life choices that throw us all for a loop. Come be a fly on the wall for this audio journey. It also has a stellar cast of amazingly talented, hilarious and vulnerable women. Listen for them; they’ll knock your socks off.
For more information on the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Now Hear This series visit artsclub.com.