9 Questions: Bradley Hayward

April 22, 2014

Bradley Hayward grew up in a small Canadian town, where the overall lack of things to do left him plenty of time to write his first play. Since that time, he has written many published plays that have been produced in over 20 countries around the world (India, Germany, Spain, Australia, and Japan, to name a few). Two of his short plays, The Yogurt Connection and The Sexual Conspiracy, were produced Off-Broadway. His one-acts geared toward high school students have been presented at Thespian festivals across the United States and Canada. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada.

1. A group of friends is having a potluck – what do you bring?

Having a sweet tooth as long as I can remember, I would undoubtedly bring dessert.  It would be something fruity, very likely pineapple, with marshmallows inside and on top.  Jell-O vanilla pudding mix and Cool Whip would also be in there somewhere.

2. What have you sacrificed for your career?

I sacrificed my original career as a television writer for my current one as a playwright.  While both careers contain the word “writer,” they could not be more different.  The television industry does not allow writers the same creative freedom the same way a life in the theatre does.  Working with actors, onstage, is far more rewarding than dealing with executives in suits who are more interested in the bottom line.

3. What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a first draft?

This may sound glib, but I am being totally honest – when I sit down to write, I need a case of Diet Coke and bag of Goldfish crackers.  I’ve tried writing without them and in those instances I always find myself stumped for ideas.  Perhaps this is superstitious on my part, but my philosophy is to never argue with what works.

4. If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you end up doing?

I’ve recently become interested in fitness, so I would seriously consider becoming a personal trainer.  I spent the first half of my life avoiding exercise, but now I look forward to waking up in the morning and immediately getting my body in motion.  Now I sleep like a baby, require less of it in general, and have far more energy than I ever have before.  To share this amazing feeling with others would be as rewarding to me as sharing a draft of a new play.

5. Is there a book you read, play or movie you saw, or story you heard as a child that had a significant impact on you?

I have spent my entire career trying to write something that captures the same heart, soul, and fancy as Mary Poppins.  In my opinion, it’s the most perfect film ever made and embodies most, if not all, of my attitudes toward living life to the fullest.  Whether the movie instilled this in me, or I was drawn to it because this outlook has always been part of my personality, I do not know.

6. What is the biggest obstacle or setback you've ever faced in creating a play, and how did you move past it?

I had the idea for my play I Don’t Want to Talk About It for several years before I finished writing a draft that was even remotely coherent.  I knew what I wanted it to be, and how I wanted to tell it, but I could never capture the style and mood that seemed so clear in my head.  Every time I wrote a new draft, it made less sense than the one that came before it.  People who normally enjoyed reading my work were perplexed every time I sent out a new version.  So I would throw everything out and start anew.  I kept doing this for nearly two years, until one morning I realized exactly what the play was missing and it was the revelation I had been waiting for.  I wrote steady for 16 hours after that and did not change a single word after hearing it read aloud for the first time.  In a way, it was a first and final draft, but one that could not have existed without the dozens of failed attempts that preceded it.

7. How has your writing changed over time?

I write a lot slower than I used to.  I once would write a play in a day, edit it the next, and send it on its way.  Now I am more methodical in my approach because I discovered I was falling into the same patterns over and over again.  I am far more careful to come up with something new every time I put pen to paper, which has led to plays I otherwise would have never created.

8. If you could ask another playwright, living or dead, to read your work and give you notes on your latest play, who would that playwright be and why would you ask him/her?

Paul Osborn (b. 1901, d. 1988) wrote my two favourite plays of all time, On Borrowed Time and Morning’s at Seven.  The humanity of his characters, particularly in these plays, is something I strive for when creating the people who populate my plays.  I would love to share my work with him and see if I would get the same “yes, of course!” reaction that I get every time one of his characters says or does something that, for a brief moment, shines a light on the human condition.  I’m not sure I’ve ever achieved that, but I like to think I’ve at least come close.

9. Have you ever seen one of your plays produced poorly? What was your reaction?

I was invited to attend a high school production of one of my plays and the whole experience was very exciting.  They rolled out the proverbial red carpet – my name flashing on the school marquee, a banner over the entrance to the theatre, a four-course dinner with the most delicious tiramisu I’ve ever tasted.  Then the performance began I was horrified to discover that they had rewritten much of the dialogue, added scenes, and eliminated all traces of a moral by replacing my ending with one that made no sense whatsoever.  As the play progressed, I sunk lower and lower in my seat, mortified at how I was being represented.  To think of all the care that went into my being there, only to have so little put into the production itself.  The students were so proud of what they had accomplished, so I did not let my dismay be known to them, but I did have a long chat with the (adult) director that evening.  She was very kind and understanding about the whole thing, so I hope she learned her lesson.  I certainly learned one of my own–never announce my presence at a production of one of my plays until after the curtain has fallen.

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