From The Sudbury Star
Thursday, May 9, 2013
By Laura Stradiotto
While researching for a Sudbury Star centennial project, Lara Bradley unexpectedly ventured into the underbelly of Sudbury. “There was just so many good stories,” said Bradley, a former Star reporter, when she read the historic newspaper editions. “I noticed all these headlines about blind pig busts.” A speakeasy, also called a blind pig, is an establishment that illegally sells booze. The blind pigs in Sudbury, at the time, were old shacks that concealed illegal alcohol consumption during the prohibition era and after-hours. “I came across this story about these two sisters who busted out of the Sudbury jail,” Bradley said about her further research. The sisters, along with former Sudbury Star publisher William E. Mason, are among a dozen characters in Bradley’s play, Blind Nickel Pig. “My play is fictional, but borrowing pieces of history and pushing it a bit,” said Bradley.
Bradley began developing the story a year ago during a Sudbury Theatre Centre playwriting workshop. The play follows a young man named Alex who comes from Winnipeg and ends up as a police officer in 1909 Sudbury. It explores his relationship with the jailbird sisters, among other issues the community faced at the time. “There was a proper side to Sudbury and a rough side, as well,” said Bradley. Sudbury’s mining industry attracted immigrant workers and there was much discrimination, not only directed towards them but women, as well, said Bradley. “Back then when there were all these blind pig busts happening, there were only three police officers for the whole town,” said Bradley. “There was also a sense when reading the old papers that foreigners weren’t allowed to loiter in the streets. There was a need to clean up the town, which I get to in the play.”
Blind Nickel Pig is among three plays in progress being presented in front of a live audience for the first time. Originally out of Waterloo, Ont., Pat The Dog Playwright Centre has spent the last two years working to develop and promote the work of aspiring playwrights in Sudbury. The playwriting centre aims to develop emerging and established voices, with a particular attention to areas outside the GTA. Starting tonight, each play within the PlaySmelter reading series will be presented by professional actors and directors. And the stories are vastly different.
Cora Eckert’s play Aftercare, attempts to humanize the BDSM community, which is often viewed as twisted and wrong. (BDSM refers to the erotic practice of dominance and submission.) “The characters and story aren’t based on anyone, even people I’ve interviewed,” Eckert said in a written interview about her play. “But I could say each one is a little bit me. I’m a daughter, sister, queer woman. Women’s sexuality and LGBT sexuality have been demonized for ages, so I think it’s natural that I relate to the BDSM subculture for being sensationalized and outcast, when it has some really intimate, loving relationships within it. The community is incredibly supportive to its members.” Aftercare is Eckert’s first full-length play and the first time she’s been involved in such a workshop.
Bradley, Eckert and the other playwrights involved in the project have worked intensely in the last few weeks rewriting and fine-tuning their scripts. “We’re expecting rewrites right up until the morning that we actually read,” said Matthew Heiti, STC’s playwright in residence who also is a dramaturgist with Pat the Dog. Heiti’s role is to “rip the script wide open and show them all the parts.” “Each of these plays are coming in from different stages of development,” he said. “By the end of this, they will be closer to being completed, but the process is designed to give you a look inside the work, rather than a finished project.” Presenting these works in progress in front of a live audience is a significant step in the playwriting process.
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PlaySmelter reading series
What Struck in ’58, by Ruth Duthie;
A sweeping epic about the first Inco strike, Duthie’s play is a love letter to a forgotten past.
Aftercare, by Cora Eckert;
A twisted dramatic comedy about a family in turmoil and finding your inner “kink.”
Conviction, by Emil Sher;
A stirring documentary-drama about the Charles Smith pathology cases that shook communities, such as Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
Blind Nickel Pig, by Lara Bradley;
A rollicking piece, inspired by burlesque and vaudeville, about the early days of prohibition-era Sudbury.
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All performances take place 7 p.m. at the Jubilee Centre;
Pay-what-you-can, suggested minimum is $10.
Workshops for budding writers Saturday and Sunday;
Topics include: Script development, adaptation, the business of playwriting and a director’s roundtable;
Presented by Pat the Dog Playwright Centre;
Open to all but space is limited. Contact Matthew Heiti at email@example.com, or 705-207-7849 to confirm your attendance.
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