In 2018 after returning from a three month mentorship at the Stratford Festival and a whirlwind trip to Halifax where I hoped the excerpt reading of my Viola Desmond play, Controlled Damage would spur interest I felt defeated. I was convinced that being welcomed and embraced by the largest theatre company would lead to a job offer of some kind in Toronto.
It did not.
The Halifax trip, while nice, did not yield a workshop or further inquiry for a development of Controlled Damage which left me stymied. And to make matters worse I didn’t get the Canada Council travel grant that I hoped would cover my flight to Nova Scotia. Come on, man!
And then my eye exploded.
Well, the vitreous gel in my left eye built up and poked a hole in my macula resulting in fractured vision and I would require a Vitrectomy. This was something that usually happens to senior citizens! I felt as though the universe was giving me a sign. What was the sign? I dunno…slow down? Re-evaluate? Remain prostrate face-down for three weeks in the height of summer? Yes. To all of the above.
In 2017 I had quietly made a deal with myself that if my Viola Desmond play didn’t gain any interest from a theatre company and the cost to mount it myself was too high, then it would be my last play. Maybe I could focus on trying to write for tv now. I’d been putting that off for years and now might be the time, I thought.
Still no nibbles.
In preparation for my forced sabbatical I downloaded podcasts about screenwriting; thank heavens for Scriptnotes and The Writer’s Room with Ben Blacker. I attempted to read tv scripts I’d downloaded and printed but could barely read for more than 5 minutes. I gave myself over to audiobooks and my imagination. A few tv ideas bounced around and I created characters and their backstories.
I’ve lived in the same apartment for 22 years and it was up for sale. I worried about what I would do if I was renovicted, since I have the salary of a freelance playwright who’s never had a mainstage play produced. Maybe I can get a job at Google, I thought. And then I thought, this might make a good tv show…
Fast forward to September and my vision has cleared up 90%. A kind man at my gym, who was aware of my writing, offered to introduce me to a tv writing agent. I demurred. I hadn’t written any tv yet. He said, ‘but you will and then I’ll introduce you.’ I thought he was sweet.
Jeremy Webb the AD at Neptune Theatre sent me a direct message to ask for my email. I sent it because, why not? Within the hour he’d sent me an email asking if any theatre had programmed Controlled Damage. I dared not get my hopes up. He asked to read the newest draft. Less than an hour later he asked to produce my play. It felt surreal.
A literary agent I’d wanted to represent me for years, wrote me a few days later and his email said, ‘I should represent you. Would you like to have a conversation about that?’ I thought, ‘what the heck is going on?’ And then that kind man at the gym forced a meeting between me and the tv agent while I was doing lateral pull downs on a Thursday morning at the JCC. The agent was in the midst of his workout, too but allowed himself to be dragged over to an introduction to me. We both looked a little stunned. He said he’d heard great things about me and that we should set up a meeting. He shook my hand and said, ‘just set up an appointment with my assistant. My name is Carl and I’m an agent at The Character’s Talent Agency’.
I’m surprised my other eye didn’t explode.
If you want to know the continuation to the story and, boy howdy, is it a doozy on why you should just believe in your talent, come back to my website and I’ll tell you a story that will blow your mind.
Eyes on the Prize, Indeed.