JRW member Mark Covington, interviewed by Joanna S. Lee, warns us not to take ourselves too seriously in his debut musical comedy, Writers’ Weekend, showcasing at Richmond Triangle Players on Saturday, May 11.
Elizabeth Brown, frustrated & unpublished writer, has arrived at “The Porches,” an antebellum bed and breakfast and writers’ retreat in rural Virginia, to facilitate a weekend writers’ workshop and whip a group of aspiring writers into literary shape. And she has her work cut out for her. Her group includes Prescott Moore, formerly Captain Fabulous, a B-grade television actor attempting to fine-tune his play (Rickets -The Musical), whose former identity returns to haunt him when he encounters Zebula Nebulon, self-published science fiction writer and consummate Captain Fabulous fan. Ed R. Thompson is a retired newspaper reporter-turned-crime-writer who butts heads over who is the most street-wise with Sojourn Word, an angry slam poet from the suburbs. Desiree Lamoure, successful romance writer and Elizabeth’s former English teacher, sets her bodice-ripping sights on seducing Miles Stanley, a young technical writer who specializes in trains. Faced with the awful prose produced by these literary novices, Elizabeth decides to have the group members swap genres …to hilarious ends. To top it off, a major literary agency has sent their most critical agent, Roxanne Gold, to attend the group’s end-of-workshop recital…
J: What inspired you to write about writers?
M: The idea materialized through a dinner conversation with another writer. We were talking about some of the folks that attend the various writing functions and meetings – some real characters. So I thought they would make a perfect cast for a play.
J (laughing): So… any character similarities to writers you know (we know)?
M: When you interact with a writer, you have to remember, he’s taking notes. So, yes, enough to make them know if they’re in there… not enough to get sued! It’s really an amalgamation of character traits, mixed and matched. A part of someone you might know in one character, another in different character, all jumbled in with the stereotypes for the different genres.
J: Is there any single character you most identify with as a writer?
M: [pause] I wanted to stay out of it. [Then] Maybe the crime writer.
J: Why did you choose a musical format?
M: It just sort of evolved that way. It’s very character driven, and I felt the plot needed more, so I decided that giving each writer a song to capture his or her respective genre would not only fill in the plot, but also add comedic value. There’s nothing better than a funny song.
J: You’re no stranger to theater. Your first play, Shakespeare in the Trailer Park, which debuted at the Barnstormes Theater in Phillidelphia in 2012, and showcased in Richmond at the Gottwald (Richmond CenterStage), received rave reviews. How was the Writers’ Weekend process different from Shakespeare?
M: Writing a musical is much more complex and it’s tough to coordinate because there are more moving parts, lyrics, music and choreography… it takes more people to get something done. Each of the key players – in this case lyricist Rebecca Elizabeth Jones and composer Paul R. Bartsch – has their own priorities and schedules… it just complicates things by another order of magnitude.
J: What was your favorite part in seeing it all come together?
M: The bad writing! It was so much fun writing bad romance… bad poetry… bad science fiction… Just to write really terribly… and have fun with it.
J: Do you see this as a show that will appeal to all audiences? Or primarily to writers themselves?
M: It’s got it all – humor, a great cast of characters, fantastic music and wonderful songs. … It’s definitely not just for writers, but for anyone who’s ever known a writer or tried to write.
J: Any final thoughts on the process or what we should know going in?
M: Definitely keep an open mind… it’s a musical comedy, a reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously or pigeonhole ourselves into a single genre stereotype. In a nutshell, it’s a series of hookups and throw downs that showcases, through song, how different writers approach their craft.
Oh, and it’s typical for a stage reading/showcase that there are no costumes, no sets and that the actors are reading from scripts. In the full production of this work, there are no costumes, only six chairs and a bar for a set… and they’ll be reading from manuscripts throughout… so the showcase is pretty much the same as the full show—I’d encourage anyone who wants to see it, to try to make the showcase.
Showcase on May 11, 2014 at 8:00 PM at Richmond Triangle Players
Book by V. Mark Covington,
Lyrics by Rebecca Elizabeth Jones and
Music by Paul R. Bartsch.
Produced and Directed by Billy Christopher Maupin.
Tickets are only $10 and are available for purchase online or via the ticket hotline at 804-346-8113
V. Mark Covington is the author of five published novels Church of the Path of LeastResistance, Bullfish, Heavenly Pleasure, Homemade Sin, 2012 Montezuma’s Revenge. His play Shakespeare in the Trailer Park debuted in Philadelphia in 2011 and was produced as a stage reading by Richmond Shakespeare in 2012. His second play - Writers’ Weekend – A Musical will debut at Richmond Triangle Players on May 11, 2014. He currently lives in Richmond Virginia, where he writes novels exploring the cosmically comical nature of the universe, the purpose of which is to create someone who lives in Richmond, Virginia and write novels exploring the cosmically comical nature of the universe.
Joanna S. Lee has never been formally trained in any kind of writing, thank you very much. She can, however, dissect the brainstem of a neonatal mouse or diagnose your lower back pain. Her first full-length book of poetry, the somersaults I did as I fell, was released in January of 2009. Her work has been recently featured in Right Hand Pointing and qarrtsiluni, among others.