Interview with Chris Craddock

Apr 21, 2011

Chris Craddock’s plays have been seen across North America. A multiple award-winner, Craddock has written or co-written over twenty plays, has completed an off-Broadway run, worked as Writer-in-Residence at the Edmonton Public Library and created an At-Risk Youth Improv Education Program to help inner-city youth. In June of last year, Craddock and Director Bradley Moss took part in the Toronto Fringe Festival with a workshop presentation of Public Speaking. As the audience is a vital component to the development of any script, Craddock and Moss took what they learned from that workshop into the rehearsal hall this spring, ensuring a further journey for the play. “Craddock is able to turn a one-man production into what feels like a full-cast show of vibrant and compelling characters.” – EYE WEEKLY
 What inspired you to write Public Speaking?
 A lot of what inspired this show has to do with what I see as a crisis of compassion in our world today. We know that Climate Change is going to be a hell on Earth, but we also know it might not be for us. It will be visited upon the poorest people first. Their islands will flood, their food prices will rise until they can’t afford to eat, they are the ones whose children will die, and until we upset the entire applecart, our children will not. And yet, we don’t care. And most who are voting with their religion, who have access to all that excellent advice from Jesus about caring for the poor, sick and weak, they seem to care the least. They hide willfully, pretending the science needs more confirmation than 98% of Climatologists. It’s funny I have to say what kind of scientist it is, but these distinctions have become important. We have numbers of what kinds of scientists believe in Climate Change the most and least (which to me is like asking a group of dentists if they know what’s wrong with your car).
But imagine the world was one child. Your child. Your one child. Even if you tried your hardest to close your heart to that child, you would care, in the end. In the end, we will all care, a lot. And it might be too late.
 Tell us a bit about your process in creating Public Speaking.
 I tried to get into the head of all my characters and balance between their points of view. I also had a dark fairy tale in mind, a princess kidnapped! By a GIANT! But what are the modern counterpoints to these archetypal characters? I have tried to find them.
 How is Public Speaking unique to other plays you’ve written?
 This is the first time I have written a play about a crime. I like it. It won’t be the last.
 Because you’re the playwright and only performer, how much re-writing do you do on the spot?
 A lot of dramaturgy occurs during rehearsal. If things don’t sound right, feel right in the hall, they are not going to be improved by a paying audience. As I am inside, I rely on my excellent director for information on what works and doesn’t. In some cases, it simply isn’t rolling off the tongue, it doesn’t sound “funny” or “right” and we find a better way right there and then.
 You were Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre (Edmonton’s award-winning Improv Theatre) from 2005-2009. How does your background in Improv influence your playwriting?
 I believe that improv is an excellent writing teacher. It brings flexibility to your voice, instructs you to see the sidelong choice and improves your joke-making abilities. I recommend a workshop to anyone interested in play-making. But beyond the effect on your creative self, there is also the techniques. Many of the improv games we play in Theatresports are ways of slightly twisting presentation onstage. It’s to make it harder on the performers and thus more thrilling when they succeed. But those games are fully stealable, and many have shown up in my plays over the years. I still do improv, and I hope I always will.
 You’re also well known for your Theatre for Young Audience plays; your trilogy Naked at School has had productions across the continent. What attracts you to this type of theatre?
 My good friend Richard Greenblatt, director of my TYA with Roseneath Theatre, says it best. I paraphrase, “Young audiences haven’t made up their mind about the world yet. And theatre that is brought to them in their gym, is the most economically democratic kind of theatre in the world.” I think he’s right. Look around yourself right now in the theatre. The only poor people here are the ones subsidizing the theatre by working in it.
 In the fall edition of Avenue Magazine, you were quoted as saying “I’m a political animal and a political artist.” Do you think you have a responsibility to create art that is politically minded and/or to instigate change with your work?
 Every chunk of art should either be the revelation of a truth or a call for change. What else is art for? Everyone, not just artists, have a responsibility to try to leave the world better than they found it, with some art, a business, a child, a relationship, whatever. Some people aren’t participating. We have to bring them along.
 Many people have stated they’re more afraid of public speaking than death. Are you ever afraid of being alone on stage, with no one else to rely on? And if you’ve already conquered society’s number one fear, what’re you afraid of?
 Fear of public speaking can be overcome by simply possessing a maniacal need for attention. Lots of people have this, not just theatre artists. Politicians are getting a workout right now, for example. It’s a gutsy thing to say, “Listen to me” whether as an artist or a leader, and what goes up, must come down. But we need new directions now. We need to listen to new ways of doing things. What we “need” to do has to be more important than getting elected again in a few years.
I fear a mess-up onstage, of course, but it’s only a play. Realer things I fear include: violence, spiders, car accidents, slipping on the ice, getting old in a place where there is ice to slip on, a Conservative Majority Government, that I will eventually be old and fall on this damn Edmonton ice and break my hip.
 Is there one key element that can be found in all of your work?
 Yes. Comedesium.