Interview with Mark Crawford

Date posted: July 21, 2017

Mark Crawford and Paul Dunn in Bed and Breakfast / Photos by Andrée Lanthier

As an actor, Mark has performed in theatres across Canada including: Canadian Stage, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre New Brunswick, Theatre Aquarius, Carousel Players, and Thousand Islands Playhouse. When his first play, Stag and Doe, premiered at the Blythe Festival in 2014 and was also included in that summer’s Port Stanley Festival Theatre, Mark considered himself, “the luckiest rookie playwright in Canada” (London Free Press). Lucky, perhaps, but definitely talented, as he followed up the next summer with Bed and Breakfast at the Thousand Island Playhouse, developed by the in-house writing unit. Though the original production starred Andrew Kushnir and Paul Dunn, for this production the University of Toronto and Sheridan College graduate gets to exhibit his acting chops portraying a slew of characters in his own play.

Where did you grow up and how were you first exposed to theatre?

Mark Crawford: I grew up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario. I don’t really know how the theatre bug found me, but I was bitten early on. Starting at about age 8, I would ask for theatre tickets for my birthday and Christmas. I saw lots of great shows at Huron Country Playhouse, The Grand Theatre, the occasional play at Stratford, and sometimes we’d even go into Toronto!

It happens live, in front of a live audience. That’s still the thing that excites me about the theatre. Mark Crawford

What was it about theatre that excited you more than other storytelling arts?

MC: It happens live, in front of a live audience. That’s still the thing that excites me about the theatre.

Did you start out wanting to act or was writing always your intention?

MC: Acting is the job you can see when you go to the theatre, so I’d say I wanted to be an actor first. While I had interest in writing, I focused on acting at theatre school. It took several years of working on plays of all kinds to figure out how dramatic writing functions; how to tell a story on stage. For me, being an actor was the best training for being a playwright.

Bed and Breakfast is not your first play; does comedy play a major role in your previous works?

MC: Yes! My two other plays, Stag and Doe and The Birds and the Bees, are both comedies, but each play is different in terms of form and content. So far in my writing career, I’ve been drawn to the comic structure. And I’ve endeavoured to make an audience laugh. Sometimes I think we undervalue comedy—dismiss it as a lesser art form or call it a guilty pleasure—but I believe it’s deeply important work.

Does writing for TV or film interest you?

MC: I’d be happy to write for film or TV, but I haven’t gone down that road yet. I have great admiration for good screenwriters.

Does this play stem from personal experience?

MC: Bed and Breakfast is not an autobiographical story, but most art is in some way a reflection of its creator. There are parts of me and people I know in many of these characters. I’ve also spent some time in communities like the one in the play, so I’ve drawn on those places for inspiration.

What made you decide that all of the play’s characters would be played by only two actors?

MC: I wanted the audience to spend two hours with one couple; to centre the play around them and see their story from their point of view. I also wanted to put an entire community onstage, but there aren’t a lot of theatres that hire twenty-two actors to do a play. As an audience member, I love watching actors play many parts…and it was a great writing challenge to tell this story with only two actors!

Did you expect Bed and Breakfast to get the reception it did when it first came out, and what’s your blue sky dream for its future?

MC: I’m not sure what my expectations were; I was just focused on crafting the play the best I could. We were all really pleased by its reception at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in 2015: wonderful, big audiences and lots of love from that community. As for the play’s future, there are a few productions lined up and I’d love for it to be produced on stages across the country. I also think in this moment in time, it could be a great play to do in the States. We’re working on it!

You didn’t act in the original version; what made you jump the footlights to act in Centaur’s production?

MC: Andrew Kushnir, who originated the role of Brett, wasn’t available to do this production. As a team, we decided it made sense for me to step in. I knew the play inside and out and was in rehearsals full-time for the first production. I’m really glad I got to sit on the outside for the premiere and focus on the text and I’m really glad to have this chance to perform the play now!

What new career adventures are in store following your run at Centaur?

MC: We’re taking this production to the Belfry Theatre in Victoria this August. My play The Birds and the Bees is receiving lots of productions across the country this year and next. My newest play, Boys, Girls, and Other Mythological Creatures, is currently on tour from PEI to BC for kids in grades one to four. And I have a commission to write something new which I’m very excited about, so it’s soon back to the writing desk for me!

Our thanks to Barbara Ford and Centaur Theatre for their permission to reprint this interview.