August 21, 2007

When Reality and Theatre Butt Heads

Brian Hotter       posted 21 Aug 2007, 09:40 AM / edited 21 Aug 2007, 10:49 AM

I wrote a play based loosely on my brother.  A man who had cancer, who was plumber and a pig hunter and passed away at a young age.  My play follows simply the previous line; otherwise there is very little bearing on the reality of my brother’s situation.  Understandably it took a long time for me to understand that if I were to write a play about my brother rather than about a character it would be inherently undramatic.  So over the years I eventually separated my copious notes and interviews with him and other hunters to write the draft which is now going to be performed.  Anything remaining of him in the play is on an unconscious level.

Now here is the issue of the matter:  My family want to have nothing to do with this play.  Their first reason is that it will remind them of my brother and the second is that they are worried that the public will think what happens in the play happened in real life.  I did not see this coming.  I thought they would be rapt.  To protect my family I have stated that the play is a work of fiction.  That all the characters are works of fiction and any resemblance to people living or passed is purely coincidental.  (I assume they or anybody they know won’t read this).  They felt so strongly about this they asked me to call it off.  Obviously I have not.  

Has anybody else had this experience?  What would you do in my situation?

Aaron Alexander              posted 21 Aug 2007, 02:40 PM

Hi Brian. First of all congrats on getting the play produced. I think it was a little naive not to expect a little resistance from your family. Whether or not you’ve moved through a directly biographical phase and into something else, as soon as your play has certain elements (pig hunting + cancer) your family are going to find it touches a nerve.

I don’t know what to tell you about bringing them around. If it were me, I might go the other way a bit, and rather than trying to distance the play from your brother, maybe dedicate it to him. It’s not ABOUT him, but it’s FOR him, and explain it to your family that way. I hope that those among them who do come and see it will recognise it as something to be proud of.

Tread carefully, my friend. People’s memories are precious. And, hopefully it goes without saying, try not to make a villiain out of a relative of the main character.

Share on social


Make a comment