Frank Moher insists that the main character in his latest play is not based on himself.
In Run in Fields, the local playwright and Vancouver Island University professor tells the story of a professor at a small Canadian university who wins a $75,000 prize and chooses to use the winnings to help a student who is $30,000 in debt.
“It would be a bit of a stretch to say the central character is me,” Moher said.
“However I share certain concerns with the character, partly about the struggles of our students at the university, at all universities, especially trying to make their way towards their degree under extraordinary pressure of all kinds, including financial.”
The play is kicking off the Western Edge Theatre season at the Harbour City Theatre starting on Nov. 24. He said it’s exciting to open the season with a play that is new to the actors and the audience. In what he calls a break from “conventional wisdom,” Moher will be directing the play himself.
“It’s a way, as the writer, to kind of finish the play because one can continue to do revisions and sort of get it right in the process of rehearsing,” he said.
“When you’re a playwright you’re not always in the entire rehearsal process with the company. Here, because I’m directing, I’ve been able to sort of ride herd on the play as we go and make changes as we go. So I think it’s in good shape.”
This is Moher’s second turn as both playwright and director. He said there are “pitfalls” to directing one’s own work, like trying to adhere too rigidly to what’s on the page.
“You have this picture of the play in your head when you write it and it would be a mistake to try to get it exactly that or really anything even close to that on stage in a production because that’s not how theatre works,” he said.
“Every production has its own dynamic, every cast brings its own gifts to the play so as long as you know you have to let go of the production you had in your head and let it be the one it wants to be then I think it’s OK.”
Moher said he hopes the play communicates to students that they already have agency and value and don’t need institutional academia to bestow those traits upon them.
“University can be a valuable experience, but for some people there are many other experiences they can go out and gather that would be just as valuable to them and so and at the end of the play the professor learns that lesson,” Moher said.
“That’s what it’s about. It’s about the fact that students don’t need us at the university to make them valuable people.”
To view a video from rehearsal, visit nanaimobulletin.com.
WHAT’S ON … Western Edge Theatre’s production of Run in Fields by Frank Moher at the Harbour City Theatre. Show times are Nov. 24, 25, 30, Dec. 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Admission for Thursday performances are $22 for adults, $12 for students and those under 29 and $18 for seniors 65 and up. All other shows are $24 for adults, $15 for students and those under 29 and $20 for seniors 65 and up.