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An Interview With Mark Crawford

Date Posted: 27/04/2016

Mark’s first play, Stag and Doe, premiered in 2014 and has quickly become one of the most-produced new Canadian plays of the decade. His second play, Bed and Breakfast, premiered last summer at the Thousand Islands Playhouse and goes to Centaur Theatre next season. His newest play, The Birds and the Bees, premieres this summer at the Blyth Festival, and has productions lined up at Port Stanley Festival Theatre and Prairie Theatre Exchange. As an actor, Mark has performed on stages across the country. He grew up on his family’s beef farm near Glencoe, but he’s no stranger to Orangeville…his brother Rex is a large animal vet at Dufferin Veterinary Services.

What was the inspiration behind Stag and Doe?

Well, I grew up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario where I think it’s against the law to get married unless you’ve had a Stag and Doe! In 2004, my brother Reed married his wife Jane and before their big day, we all gathered in the Glencoe Agricultural Hall for their Stag and Doe. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the seed was planted for this play… It struck me that this event—and weddings in general—could provide a lot of material for a comedy. Over the years, many more friends and relatives have marched down the aisle, so I was also inspired by them. And I’ll admit it: I drew a little, tiny bit of inspiration from Say Yes to the Dress!

If you had to choose, which character do you identify with the most? Why?

I honestly do identify with all of the characters in some way. But I had the opportunity to play Jay in the second production of Stag and Doe, so I’ll go with him. Jay is the outsider, the one character who’s not from this small town. I can identify with that; we’ve all felt like the outsider at some point in our lives. But Jay’s also got a great sense of humour and keeps pretty cool in a crazy situation—two qualities I hope I possess. And while I’m a fairly decent cook, I wish I could make the food Jay does!

What sort of person is going to love this show?

It’s tempting to say, “Everyone will love this show!” but in a way, that’s true. I’ve seen audience members in their eighties laughing alongside teenagers. We can all relate to Stag and Doe because it deals with universal stuff: weddings, marriage, and relationships. The characters are all in their twenties or early thirties, so some of the biggest laughs and most heartfelt connections are with people who are in the same boat as the characters: engaged couples, newlyweds, or friends and family caught up in the insanity of wedding planning. If you’re involved in a wedding this summer, I think Stag and Doe is required viewing!

What will the audience be thinking in the car as they drive home after this show?

I hope they’re thinking, “Woooot! That was a ton of fun!” But I also hope they think about their own relationships. Sometimes, we can lose sight of what’s important, focussing less on the person we’re with and more on the stuff we want. I’d love for people to ponder that. Plus, I hope they think: “Do we have all the ingredients at home to make that Jello cocktail?!”

What play or musical do you wish you had written and why?

Oooh, this is a tough one! There are so many. I just saw Our Town at the Shaw Festival and was reminded of how much I love that play. On one hand, it’s a beautifully written little examination of one small town and it seems like it’s just about day-to-day life. But on the other hand, it’s a profound meditation on existence and love and death. I find its theatricality and its ideas still radical today—and it was written in 1938! 

“I am a closet…”

Well…I mentioned Say Yes to the Dress, but I’ve actually only seen that show a handful of times. My real guilty pleasure is any TV show about cooking competitions, real estate, or home renos. Give me a box full of secret ingredients or someone looking for an apartment in Amsterdam and I’m in for the night. It’s a good thing I don’t have cable at home. If I did, I would never get any work done! 

What is your least favorite question about your work?

I’m not too bothered by any questions about my work. As an actor, I’ve done a ton of post-show Q and As and always find it fun to connect with audiences. I know one thing that bothers some playwrights is the assumption that every single thing in their plays is autobiographical. Sure, we all draw on our own experiences and put parts of ourselves into the work, but I guess I’ll just say: writing a play isn’t writing a diary. There is imagination involved, and craft, and a lot of trial and error, and hard work. When I’m writing a play, I’m thinking less about myself and more about the characters and the audience.

We noticed you have some local connections, what does it mean to you to have this show running in Orangeville?

It’s true! My brother Rex lives in Orangeville, where he’s a large animal vet with Dufferin Veterinary Services. It means a lot to have this show at Theatre Orangeville. I really respect the company’s work and I feel like it’s a perfect place to do Stag and Doe. Not to mention, I have a place to crash when I’m in town!!

 

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