Bradley Hayward is a rising star in the world of school plays. Sure, that world may not be as lucrative as writing for Broadway or Hollywood, but maybe it's a more important world. After all, the full-length plays, and one-acts he has created are seen, read, and performed by the next generation of thespians. I haven't read all of his plays (he writes way too fast for me to catch up), but the ones that I have experienced are sharp, funny, and ideal for drama teachers working with a minimal budget.
Since I'm always curious about what goes through the mind of a playwright (especially those like me who are demented enough to write for younger performers), I've decided to create a series of articles focusing on that rare-breed of playwright who thinks from the point-of-view of a drama-teacher. Bradley was kind enough to answer a few questions about his life and work.
Q: What drew you to the theater?
Bradley: I grew up in a small rural community in Canada and my high school had a very limited budget for the arts. We rarely had the money to pay for scripts and royalties, so I started writing plays at the age of 13 for us to produce. After I graduated high school, I pursued a degree in screenwriting, but after slumming it in Hollywood for a while, I found that I missed the immediate reaction of a live audience so I turned back to playwrighting. I particularly enjoy writing plays for teenagers because they have so much to say and I think it's important to give them a platform to express themselves. Whether or not teenagers pursue theater as a career, I strongly believe that the experience of being onstage and working as part of a group teach vital lessons that carry over into any adult career.
Q: Have you made a career as a playwright? (Or do you have a day job?)
I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd ever get to be a professional playwright, but last year I celebrated the publication of my 45th play and decided if I drastically downsized my life, I could write full time. I sold my car, moved into a smaller apartment, and now I'm living the dream. Writing plays certainly doesn't pay very much from a financial perspective, but the emotional rewards more than make up for that and I've never been happier. The best part of the past year has been having the time to actually go into high schools and meet the students in my plays. Now I'm not only writing for teenagers, but with them as well, which means I never run out of things to write about. They are so intelligent, willing to take risks, funny, and inspire my work on a daily basis.
Q: What have you been working on lately?
I'm very excited about my latest play, I Don't Want to Talk About It. It's a collection of scenes and monologues that are presented as reader's theater. It tackles a wide range of important subjects, both funny and tragic, and my hope is that there's something in it that everyone can relate to.
Following is the description from Playscripts' website, and it will be released shortly.
SYNOPSIS: Being a teenager is hard, and nobody wants to talk about it. Confronting the daily challenges of growing up, this series of monologues and scenes offers a look at a multitude of issues -- including dealing with parents who just don't get it, rumors, bullying, and suicide. By turns funny and tragic, the gritty details of adolescence surface -- exposing the things teenagers can't, won't, and don't want to talk about.
Q: What will drama teachers and students experience if they choose your play for production? What advice do you have for the actors / directors?
I Don't Want to Talk About It is a very flexible piece that can be used for classroom study, tours, and competition. One of the most interesting aspects of the play is that actors are afforded the opportunity to play a multitude of different characters, and because it's presented as reader's theater, they have to rely solely on their vocal performance to shape each character. This poses a terrific challenge for both new and advanced performers. After the first reading, the actors sat in silence for a moment and then reached out to one another and held hands. It was the most moving experience of my career thus far -- one that I hope others will get to experience in future productions.
Bradley Hayward's Blog:
Bradley's blog entry reveals that I Don't Want to Talk About It was one of his most difficult plays to write. He states: "I normally write a play from start to finish in a couple of days, make a few adjustments, have it staged, make a few additional changes, and send it on its merry way. The process is generally quick, painless, and fun. Writing this play, however, was not quick (it took 10 months), not painless (there were at least a dozen completely different drafts), and certainly not fun (I wanted to burn it on more than one occasion)." Sounds frustrating. Maybe that's how he can up with the title! Seriously, though, Bradley's blog is always an engaging read. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Hayward!