After being drawn in by stories in the news about gay people living increasingly openly in small towns, Mark Crawford decided he had a story to tell as well.
The Stratford, Ont.-based actor and playwright drew on his own history of living and performing in both urban and rural communities in his 2015 play, Bed and Breakfast.
“I was really interested … in all the different sides of that story: The great things and the wonderful opportunities that come with that and also the challenges,” he said. “And so I thought that because it was so multi-sided it could be interesting subject matter for a play.”
In Bed and Breakfast, Crawford and co-star Paul Dunn play Brett and Drew, a gay couple who move out of the city and open a bed and breakfast in a small town. Aside from the lead roles, the actors also play an additional 10 parts each. The play makes its Nanaimo debut at the Port Theatre on Nov. 6.
“The appeal of the play for me is that it’s a play about community and finding a home for yourself,” Dunn said. “And one of my favourite things about doing it is each of us plays 11 different characters. That’s not something you get to do very often as an actor.”
With no costume changes, Dunn said they don’t rely on “funny hats and glasses” to differentiate their characters. They instead use their voices and physicality to make the characters recognizable and distinct.
“It’s a lot of fun for us and it’s a lot of fun for the audience as well because these characters are created in the audience’s imagination,” Dunn said.
Crawford said he wrote the play with multiple casting because it’s a form of theatre he enjoys and it results in a “tour de force of character acting.” He said it also helps keep the focus on Brett and Drew, as the supporting characters are introduced from their perspective.
“I knew I wanted to write a play with a gay couple at the centre and that really, ultimately, even though we meet all these different people, the audience spends two hours with Brett and Drew and it’s their story and they are telling their story about this crazy year in their life,” he said.
Over the past four years, Crawford and Dunn have performed Bed and Breakfast in big cities and small towns alike. He said the “overarching” themes about community and home are universal and reach all demographics and that viewers have had very personal reactions to the piece.
“That’s really rewarding to hear people say that the play made them think about someone in their family, or it really resonated personally about something that they had gone through in their life, or it made them think about their own community,” Crawford said.
WHAT’S ON … Arts Club Theatre Company presents Bed and Breakfast at the Port Theatre on Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $42 for adults, $37 for members and $25 for students. Available at the box office.