The Director and the Playwright: Rob Card on What Happened in Vegas

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KWLT’s opening show for the 2017-2018 season is What Happened in Vegas, a show written and directed by local playwright Rob Card. Last week, Melinda Mah connected with Card to ask for more details about the progress of the play and rehearsals, what inspired the play, and some sneak peeks at his favourite moments.

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How are rehearsals going?

I’ve rearranged some things to hopefully get everyone there for scenes that everybody’s in and get those nailed down so that if not everybody’s there in the future, then at least there’s some sense of “Well, remember we did this once and know where people are and that sort of thing.”

Yeah, people’s schedules are kind of crazy.

It’s summer, I expected that. We’re into the parts of the scene that you don’t cover in the initial rehearsal. Initially, you just make sure everyone’s there and knows what they’re doing and now we’re getting into the little nitty gritty of “Ok, what’s actually happening in the background?”

What do you feel is most relevant for this show in terms of what you’ve directed and written before?

Well, this is, in a lot of ways, a mix of the Quick Change farce scenario and the Who’s Crazy Now let’s-just-come-up-with-crazy-characters. And I was often selling the show as, “They’re mostly normal people that are in kind of a crazy situation.”

What, so even the smugglers are normal?

Well, they’re pretty much normal people. They just happen to be smugglers.

Ok. Not very good ones, but --

Oh, none of the characters in this show is really very good at what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s part of the fun of it. Cindy’s a really bad FBI agent.

Candy’s a...well, a decent marshal --

I mean, not the best marshal. She gets involved with the person she’s guarding. Generally not what you’re supposed to do.

Kind of, yeah.

Was there anything that inspired you to write What Happened in Vegas?

The story is: I wanted to propose a show for this season, and I had a play that I’d been working on... Generally, when I write a play, there needs to be something that’s new and interesting and different that inspires me to keep writing. So for Quick Change, it was how the acts were laid out and the fact that it was all happening at the same time. Who’s Crazy Now was the crazy characters, and I was writing another one based on kind of crazy characters in a crazy situation and trying to work through that. But I was also trying to write in pretty much every possible genre, and it wasn’t really working.

You mean switching genres?

Well, not exactly switching. I described it as a “Gothic horror murder mystery musical comedy romantic suspense…”? So...that wasn’t working. I reviewed it a couple times, and I needed the songs for it still and a bunch of other stuff. So I realized I couldn’t do that for this year’s show.

So I started looking for existing plays that I could propose, and there was a bunch of interesting ones. But the more I looked at stuff, the more I thought, nothing really appeals to me. So I thought, “Sure, I can write a play in a week.” And I wrote this one.

I went with the basic farce concept of silly stuff happening in one room and based it off of that. I took some time to plan it out, and then just wrote it, and yeah, it was sort of a last-minute thing. I wrote it in a week and a half, did a readthrough to make sure everything looked mostly okay and submitted it with the proviso that I was going to do a readthrough and there might be changes. I got to about early January and submitted the final copy by the end of January. An interesting process.

How many plays have you done with KWLT?

For writing, this is the fifth full-length play and I’ve written a couple of shorter pieces.

Are there any other writers and directors who inspire you?

There are - I’m not sure they inspire me to write these specific plays, but definitely anytime I’m working with Jonathan Dietrich (who will be directing KWLT’s 2018 production of Merchant of Venice) in any capacity, that’s pretty amazing. As far as writers go, I’m not sure I’m inspired, but I’m always kept comfortable by the fact that Norm Foster has had a really good business doing silly plays and he’s Canadian. There’s another person who used to be a KWLT member who wrote plays and his were much more extreme farce - silly - but he stopped because it was conflicting with his job as being too off-colour and off-the-wall. It was always a little sad. It was a reminder to me to just keep writing. And there are a few other people whose stuff I will read, and then I will be inspired to write.

How is working with a cast different than when you’re imagining characters while writing? Or is it similar?

It’s always interesting that some things will be exactly how I envisioned them as far as how that character is portrayed. And some people will do things completely differently that I either like or hate. But usually I let people go with their own flavour of things. What I like about working with the people versus working with the script is: The script has funny bits, but people create funny bits that aren’t even in the script. That’s what I like about actually working with people. Seeing what they come up with - it’s just hilarious. You never know when those sorts of things will spring up, but it’s always fun.

A lot of these people you’ve worked with before - is it like a family reunion?

Every time I propose a show, I want to work with the cast I did previously because we had such a good time. And then, you usually get some of the same people, and some new people. And you still have a great time - it always comes together in a different way. I wouldn’t say it’s like a family reunion. The plays are so far apart that it’s reconnecting with someone that you really like playing with, and you have another chance to do that for a few months. Most of them aren’t really close friends outside of plays, so when you do a play together, you get that greater intimacy for a short period of time.

Do you have any wacky vacation stories of your own?

I will tell you this much: the story that’s told in the play about Hugh spilling hot coffee on Tina’s dress and she has to strip it off in the middle of a restaurant is based on a true story. The facts have been muddled a little bit, but yes: hot thing was spilled on person who ended up having to take off their pants in the middle of -- not a public place -- but in front of people they didn’t want to be stripping in front of. Otherwise, I don’t have any silly vacation stories. This play definitely is not based on any other sense of reality. I usually try to stay away from reality when I can. (laugh)

My vacations are pretty normal. I’ve also never had friends and family crash my vacation.

Any favourite moments or lines in the show so far?

Again, it comes down to the favourite moments that I wrote and the favourite moments that have come out in rehearsals.

In terms of writing, it was the fight scene. I was looking forward to how that would turn out with the silliness of an ongoing fight scene going on in the middle of whatever else was going on. For the line, it’s the one that makes no sense at all. It starts off seeming like it might make sense, and then rambles off. That tends to be some of my favourite lines to write.

Isabella: Allow me to solve this. Hugh isn’t who you think Hugh is. He isn’t the man that he’s not and he wasn’t with the man when you were who you think Hugh was. See… simple.

I’m sure actors probably hate those lines.

Why should people come see What Happened in Vegas?

This is going to sound odd, but I’m not sure why people would come initially. It’s a funny show, they’ll laugh, they’ll have a good time.

I think why people would want to come back, is because there’s going to be so much going on that you’ll see something hilarious in a scene the first time, but there could be two or three other things that are also hilarious that you’re missing because they’re going on at the same time. There’s so many people doing different things and fun little bits all at the same time that just to catch it all, you’ll probably want to see it a couple of times to make sure you get all of the silly bits that happen.

So you’re saying, “Come to an early show. If you like it, come back to see it again!”

Well even if you didn’t like it, come back because you might like it the second time.

It’s a light, fun, don’t-have-to-think-too-much sort of comedy. You just wanna relax and laugh, then that’s what this is.

But pay attention!

Well, yes.

 

Add What Happened in Vegas to your fall plans for an evening of comedic entertainment (or more, as Rob Card suggests). Show times are September 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 28th, 29th, 30th and October 5th, 6th, and 7th. The show begins at 8:00PM each night. The performances are all at 9 Princess Street East Waterloo. Tickets are $25 for non-members, and $20 per ticket for members, youth or groups of six or more. Tickets can be bought online at http://kwlt.org/what-happened-vegas. Box Office can be reached through email at boxoffice@kwlt.org, or by calling the information line 519-886-0660.