I recently sat down and talked to Pete Drewcock of the Kersley Players about their upcoming production of Down the Rabbit Hole. Part of the Central Interior Zone of Theatre B.C.’s new play festival, Under Wraps.
Cariboo Observer – You’ve acted with the Kersley Players for many years. What made you decide to write a play?
Pete Drewcock – That was a bit of serendipity. I had this idea for a play running around in my head for about a year, but never thought to write it down, mainly because I had no idea where to start. One day I was talking to my good friend Roy Teed. Roy is a well-known local playwright. I was hoping I could plant the seed in Roy’s head and he could write it, but in typical Teed fashion, he turned the table and told me he had been asked by the Theatre B.C. Zone executive to teach a playwrighting workshop in March. He said if I wanted it written, I could do it myself. I think it’s bad karma to ignore fate.
C.O. – How many people took part in the workshop?
P.D. – I think originally there was 12 of us, divided between Prince George, Quesnel and Williams Lake.
C.O. – How does one teach a workshop over that kind of distance?
P.D. – Yeah, it was challenging especially for Roy, but he managed to keep the group working together even though we couldn’t all meet for every session. Roy was travelling hundreds of kilometres every week. It was gruelling for him.
C.O. – What sort of things did you learn in the workshop?
P.D. – In the beginning it was daunting. I found myself wishing I had paid more attention to my high school English teacher. We learned, among other things, about plots and sub-plots, conflict and resolution and climax and denouement. Roy also taught us about discipline in writing, such as how to find the time to write during our busy schedules, which is a huge challenge for many.
C.O. – It sounds complicated.
P.D. – It is. There are lots of things to think about when writing a play. It’s way more complex than writing a poem or a book. Besides the dialog, you have to think about what the audience sees, set design, scene changes, lighting and sound cues. Just to name a few.
C.O. – How long did it take to write the play?
P.D. – We worked on our plays for eight weeks. We were told to keep them to about 30 minutes in length. Most people had them finished by the end of the workshop and many had three or four rewrites before the end.
C.O. – What is your play about?
P.D. – Well, I’ve always thought one should write about what they know. Over the past 10 years my wife, Lucy, has been battling dementia. It’s been a struggle that has consumed my life, so I decided to write about a couple’s journey into dementia.
C.O. – So the story is about you and your wife. That’s very personal. Was it difficult?
P.D. – Well, it’s not exactly about us. It started that way, but Roy soon showed me that it wouldn’t make for very good theatre. After a few re-writes, the play became a fictional story using experiences of others as well as my own. It was difficult at times, especially recalling some of the stuff I didn’t really want to remember. On the other hand, it was kind of cathartic too.
C.O. – What sort of plays did the others in the workshop write?
P.D. – It was really amazing to see the different stuff that came out of people’s heads. The plays ranged from comedy to high art. Most people wrote about something close to their hearts, but others created complete fantasies. It was always interesting listening to what people had written each week. We all got hooked on it like a bunch of soap opera keeners waiting for the next instalment.
C.O. – What happens now that the plays have been written?
P.D. – That’s the fun part. After we had written our plays, a panel of judges chose one from each community to be performed as a zone production in October.
C.O. – That sounds exciting. What plays were chosen?
P.D. – From Prince George, Work by Raghu Lokanathan, from Williams Lake, The Trip by April Gerwing, and from Quesnel, my own. It’s called Down the Rabbit Hole.
C.O. – How does it feel to have your play performed in front of a real audience?
P.D. – It’s a huge honour. All the plays were wonderful. I don’t know how the judges made their decisions. I’m very nervous. It’s one thing to be judged by your peers, but quite another to be judged by the public. Of course, it’s also a lot more work than I thought I was signing up for, since each playwright was also given the task of directing their plays.
C.O. – And how is that going?
P.D. – It started out bad. I’ve been away from acting for quite a few years now and haven’t directed for more years than that. I was very rusty, but Roy has been mentoring me through it. Without his help I could never have done it. Things are beginning to smooth out, and the cast have been extremely patient with me.
C.O. – This play is a bit of a departure from the comedies that we normally see from the Kersley Players.
P.D. – Yes. I believe the only other drama that the Players have done was Shadows from a Low Stone Wall, written by Roy Teed, but that play was well received by the public. The cast have been great. I think it was difficult at first to switch head spaces from comedy to drama, but they have been extremely patient and are working very hard, with rehearsals three to four times a week. Every once in a while someone will crack a joke on stage and everyone will break up. It’s good therapy, since the subject matter is somewhat emotional at times.
C.O. – Who are the cast members?
P.D. – Sue Matheson, Gino DeRose, Don Peeke-Vout and Jennifer Goodenough. They have all performed with the Kersley Players before.
C.O. – When will the three plays be performed?
P.D. – That’s coming up very soon. Our opening night was Oct. 4 in Prince George at Artspace, above Books and Company. Friday Oct. 10 we’re here at the Kersley Community hall and Saturday Oct. 11 at Williams Lake Studio Theatre. At Kersley, we’re selling them at the door and in Williams Lake they can be purchased at About Face Photography.
All tickets are $15 or $12 for students and seniors.
C.O. – What time do the performances start?
P.D. – The doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the curtain at 8 p.m. We expect that the performances will take about two hours total with two short intermissions.
C.O. – It sounds like a good time. What can I say but break a leg.
P.D. – Thanks. It’s been quite a journey. I urge everyone to come out and see what the local talent can do and to support the performing arts in their communities.