profile & blog
Profile

Education

Royal Conservatory, Windsor, ON
Artist-Educator Foundations Certificate

Western University, London, ON
Not-For-Profit Management Post Degree Certificate

Gotham Writers, NY, NY
Playwriting Intensive; Playwriting 1; Playwriting 2

Institute of Children's Literature, West Redding, CT
Writing for Children & Teenagers

Heritage College, London, ON

BRE Degree: Youth
Gerry Benn Award for Christian Education


Centennial College of AA&T, Toronto, ON

Aircraft Maintenance Technician

Trinity Western College, Langley, BC

Associate in Arts Degree: Aviation Minor
Licence/Ratings: Commercial Pilot, Night, Multi Engine Land/Sea

Blog on Writing

Lawrence Station: The Making of a New Play
October 2, 2022


Early in 2022, I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to write short plays about significant Canadian Aviation events. I had a half dozen event stories in mind, but the one that topped the list was from 1941, and occured 20 km from where I live right now. I happened upon it by accident while riding my bike for cancer in the Summer of 2020.

A Douglas DC-3 operated by American Airlines, as mail run number 7 and flight number 1 was enroute from NY LaGuardia airport to Chicago with four stops along the way. During the leg from Buffalo to Detroit, the aircraft travelled across the Dominion of Canada, reporting position to ground stations along the way. For an unknown reason, the aircraft crashed in the oat field of Thompson and Viola Howe in the small village of Lawrence Station. Residents of the village and surrounding towns came to try and rescue but all 20 people on board died. It was Canada’s worst aviation disaster. Black boxes didn’t exist so there were no voice or data recordings to help.

I did a lot of search of this event and discovered that a plaque had been erected in 2018 at the crash site. A gathering and ceremony took place and several family members from the US attended. One thing I discovered was that Thompson Howe’s son, Ken, was at the event. He was 5 when the crash happened and was now 85.

My first task was to try and contact Ken because he would have the most first-hand information of anyone, but I didn’t know where he lived and I had no contact information. I found a listing for a Kenneth Howe in Shedden and it seemed like it was the only possibility. There was a phone number, but I didn’t want to cold contact an 85-year old out of the blue. I didn't have email information either, so I relied on the old fashioned method of putting pen to paper and mailing a letter to him. In the letter, I had to say that I didn’t know if I had the correct Ken Howe, but if I did, I wanted to write a play about the event and wondered if he could assist with any information. Off it went via Canada Post.

A couple of days later, my phone rings. It’s Ken Howe. He is intrigued, curious and rightfully cautious of who I am. We talked briefly and suggested maybe a connection sometime in the future. After hanging up, I thought, well, that’s that, but at least I got to talk to the real deal.

The following day, I receive a call from Ross Burgar, chairman of the Southwold Historical Committee saying he had talked to Ken Howe and heard about my letter and the phone call. He was ecstatic about the idea of a play being written about this event. He set up a lunch meeting at Ken Howe’s home where I met with Ken, Ross, and another committee member. We had lunch and talked for four hours and looked through the scrapbooks, news articles and artifacts that Ken’s mom had created and gathered and left with Ken. It was a plethora of accurate first-hand eyewitness information.

This was the beginning of the journey towards a production of a play with the title, Lawrence Station: The Crash of American Airlines Flagship Erie that will be staged in Shedden, Strathroy and London in April 2023. The stars have continued to align since this first meeting with so many interesting events.

Running Back to Toronto ~ 107
September 22, 2022


I've visited Toronto many many times since the 1970's. I grew up in the Hamilton region and I would often drive my old beater car to downtown TO just to wander and discover, sometimes on my own, sometimes with someone else. I visited all of the record stores on Yonge Street and bought what I could afford. I travelled up the CN Tower to take photos of the island, the Railway Roundhouse right below (that is now a park) and all parts of the growing city. I travelled to the second level once, just because. I remember being entertained by the people hanging around the iconic but now closed, House of Lords, and watching Canadian oddity movies like South of Reno at the Carlton Theatre. I went to the CNE once in my life. In the 70's, most of the land on Front Street was huge empty and expensive parking lots and you could see the whole CN tower from almost anywhere ... in fact you could walk right up to it. Not anymore.

In the 1980's, I travelled to and through TO on GO transit and the TTC to attend Centennial College in Scarborough -- a 2.5 hour trip each way from home. While at school, I worked at Toronto Pearson Airport at Air Canada just before they built Terminal 3. I cleaned Air India flight 182 before it took off and blew up over the ocean, but that's another story. I worked for two years as an aircraft mechanic for now defunct City Express Airlines on Toronto Island. I took free flights to Montreal, Ottawa and Newark for work and personal trips. I even piloted myself into the island a few times from Hamilton. I saw many concerts at different venues, including Gordon Lightfoot at  Massey Hall. I attended several indie theatre shows at small theatres (like the long gone Poor Alex Theatre that was at 296 Brunswick) with performances by new-at-the-time companies like DNA and Buddies in Bad Times, both that are still in existence. I had a yearly subscription to shows at the Factory Theatre and regularly saw shows at the Tarragon. I attended concerts at Ontario Place's outdoor rotating stage (now replaced by Budweiser Stage) and saw Blue Rodeo when they were just starting out and saw movies like Amadeus at the IMAX.

I never lived in Toronto, but I feel like it was home to much of my spare time and adventures in the 70's & 80's.

Fast forward to this past Summer. After having attended many Toronto Fringe Festivals in the past several years (except during COVID years), I now had the perfectly timed opportunity to stage my own new play, 107, at the Toronto Fringe at the Al Green Theatre, where I have seen a variety of shows.

I love going to the Toronto Fringe, but being able to return and stage a show there, in a city that has transformed dramatically over the past 35 years was very exciting. 107 was staged 7 times between July 6 and 17, 2022. One of the cast members is my son, Fynn Cuthbert, who now makes his home and place of work in the Metropolis of Toronto. Click HERE to visit the production page.

107 was first staged in London at the Palace Theatre in September 2021 and was also produced by the Newmarket International Festival in Newmarket, September 2022.

The Gift Exchange from Reunited Shorts
June 19, 2022


The Gift Exchange is the second of six plays in Reunited Shorts. I don’t remember exactly where the idea came from, but the play revolves around the translucent vinyl record version of Pink Floyd's, The Wall with references to the line, If you don't eat your meat, how can you have any pudding from the song, Another Brick in the Wall. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the foundation to a short play.

I always felt the original script lacked until the two actors that staged it as part of Reunited Shorts at the Fringe Festival blew it out of the water so much, that it was the reviewer’s favorite. They did such a fantastic job of it, I discovered it’s potential.

The play was a finalist in four play festivals and produced in two others before being staged at the London Fringe, later in the garage of Garage Theatre Canada during the pandemic. It was also part of the FringeNorth Digital Fringe Festival in 2021.

One of the festivals was a conference for Georgia lawyers, because the play was a comedy about a lawyer and a client with a ridiculous case. The gig paid nicely.

It’s a fun play to watch and is available to view at Garage Theatre.

Table for Two Rendezvous from Reunited Shorts
May 10, 2022

This short play lands third in the line up of short plays about reunions. When I was at University in British Columbia, I started using the catch phrase, hold on to your face, although I'm not sure why, other than I thought it was cool (emphasis on "I thought"). Many years later, I had forgotten the original source of that phrase, until one day, I listened to an old favorite song by the Canadian band, Trooper, You Look So Good. The track opens with a band member saying, "Hold on to your face" and then the R&R song takes off straight uphill from there.

The idea for Table for Two Rendezvous came from that song, and my life long interests in theatre and aviation. The original script with the title, The Circle of Life Can Make One Dizzy, was first produced by n.u.f.a.n. Theatre in Chicago in 2011 and later by a company in Luxembourg in 2012. I've changed many play titles before and this one needed a change, so I restructured a couple of lines from the song that ended up being, Table for Two Rendezvous.

I later sent an email to Trooper and mentioned that my play was inspired by their song and would be on stage in an upcoming festival. They thought that was cool and yet bizarre, and referred to it in their online blog at the time. It's a fun short play that has a great monologue for the female role half way through.

Last Dance from Reunited Shorts
May 4, 2022

In the collection, Reunited Shorts, that contains 6 short plays about reunions, the final play is Last Dance, another one of my favorites, that was also popular in festivals. The play wasn't always called, Last Dance. I was told by a festival producer who staged it, that the previous title which included the word "posthumous," gave away the delayed reveal that the characters were no longer alive. Great advice that helped me find what I think is now the perfect title.

Long before writing this short play, I came across the name, John Gillespie Magee Jr., who was a pilot officer of the Royal Canadian Airforce during WW2. His story was so intriguing and interesting, that I wrote his name down, hoping that one day I might fit this character into a play. That paper sat in a file folder until one day many years later, I came up with an idea and wrote Last Dance.

John was born in China to an American father and British mother. In 1939, the US hadn't joined the war, so John chose to cross into Canada and join the RCAF to fly in Britain. John was also famous for having written the famous poem, High Flight.

The play takes place on a dance floor in the afterlife. John meets a girl who was also a writer and victim of the war.

At the end of the play, the girl remains a stranger to him, but the audience finds out who she is when she says to John, "I'm Anne. Anne Frank."

In the first draft, I only wrote, "I'm Anne," assuming that with all of the previous clues, it would be obvious to the audience that she was Anne "Frank." I had submitted the play to a local contest but it was not selected. I assumed that maybe the readers didn't know who she was. So in the next draft, I wrote, "I'm Anne. Anne Frank." This time, it was selected by one of my favorite short play festivals, the Toronto InspiraTO (the largest of its kind in Canada). It went on to be staged in several other festivals. So I further assumed that her last name was necessary.

In later performances and readings, I heard that some people were disappointed that I put her last name in the line because they thought it was obvious who she was, and almost an insult to their intelligence.

The play was later developed into a 2-hour musical, with the same reveal at the end of Anne's identity.

After many read throughs, productions of both the short and the 2-hour show, I have made the discovery that, on average, 50% of the audience figures out that it is Anne Frank before she tells us, and 50% are pleasantly surprised when she says, "I'm Anne. Anne Frank."

It's always a delicate balance knowing how much information to tell an audience in a play script. But because all audience members are unique, there's not always the perfect solution.

A recording of this play can be seen here. It was produced and recorded in a single car garage during the pandemic. The actress really dressed the part almost too well and, in this case, may even give away her identity all the more. Regardless, these two are sensational in my opinion.

delilah. from Reunited Shorts
April 18, 2022

The short play delilah., is a favorite in which its popularity took me by surprise. Horse Trade Theatre Company with Rising Sun Performance Company in NYC first selected it and 13 others from 450 entries for a public reading on March 29, 2011 at St. Mark's Theatre. Audiences and the theatre ensemble voted it and four others as the best five short plays to be performed as part of their Cravings One Act Series, July 7-23, 2011 at the Red Room Theatre, NYC. The play featured actress Tedra Millan, who later went on to appear in Noel Coward's, Present Laughter on Broadway in 2017, earning 3 Tony Award nominations, where Kevin Klein won for Best Actor.

The short play was later produced at the London One Act Festival (2011), InspiraTO Festival (2011), BoxFest Detroit (2011), Acme Theatre (2012), Blue Slipper Theatre (2012) and was short listed for the Minnesota Shorts Festival (2012).

Supported by the Ontario Arts Council, the play was developed to a 60 minute script and staged at the 2012 London Fringe Festival where it received outstanding reviews. It was further developed to a 2-Act play and was produced independently in 2013. The same year, the full length won a playwriting contest in NYC, and in 2014, scenes from the script received a public reading before an audience at a Surrey, UK theatre.

Reviewer Jamie-Lee Wilson said the full length touched on "issues of child abuse and neglect, the meaning of "family," coming of age ..., the right to live and right to die as one chooses ... in this sensitive, heart-warming, and often humorous story."

The theme of the 10-minute play was primarily about passive euthanasia. It affected a variety of audience members in different ways. After the performance of the 2-act show, two audience members approached me to tell me how the characters in the play were exactly them. Everyone has their own story and I'm moved when a play makes some sort of worthwhile connection.

Plays and their performances can either hit or miss with various people. At the one act festival, the adjudicator evaluated the play and production with the audience present. She announced publicly, "when I read the play, I didn't even like it." Fair enough, but the play went on to win the festival "People's Choice Award" selected by the audience. Two extreme opposite opinions from the same performance.

10 years after it was first read before a live audience in NYC, Nyack High School in NY staged Reunited Shorts during the pandemic (with masks), and presented an outstanding performance of delilah with student actors Lula Talenfeld and Tatum Hopkins.

You, Me. Me, You. from Reunited Shorts
April 13, 2022

Reunited Shorts is a collection of 6 short plays about reunions and was published in 2020 by Dramatic Publishing in Illinois. Each of the six plays were written at different times and each have had from 2-7 productions in festivals in Canada, US or Europe.

They say, write about what you know. This time, in the short play, You, Me. Me, You. I wrote about something I knew very little about. I learned a lot about the subject, and at the same time, I discovered that I knew so much less than I thought I knew.

You, Me. Me, You. is the one play of the collection that has had the most traction and yet has also been the most avoided. It has been popular but has also caused some friction along the way.

The premiere production was staged by a company in Kentucky in 2015. The theatre company's mission is to produce plays using all black artists. 2015 was their first festival, and all the plays that were submitted from around the world were written by white playwrights. Apart from not getting any plays written by black writers, the idea of restricting the call for plays was innocently overlooked. Unfortunately, when the local theatre community found out, there was understandably some backlash. There were attempted boycotts against the festival, and unhappy people on both sides. I understand why, but the bumpy outcome was the result of an unexpected and innocent oversight. Needless to say, the festival made changes for the second year.

Two festivals that planned to stage the play felt that the roles required specific actors and had to cancel because they couldn't find the actors they wanted.

Because the topic is strangely somewhat controversial, the more conservative groups either received some heat over performing it, or avoided the play and just put on five of the six. Despite that, it has still been the most produced of the six.

In 2021, a student at the University of Rome was assigned to translate it into Italian as part of her program. In 2022, it was translated into Spanish and produced at a festival in Los Angeles.

You, Me. Me, You. is the fourth short script in the collection, Reunited Shorts and is available from Dramatic Publishing.

Not a Blogger
April 10, 2022

I used to claim that I was not a blog reader, until I discovered how much web content was actually blog material. And when someone used to say, they're starting a blog, I'd take a look at my watch (because I don't wear one) and guess how long their great new adventure was going to last. And one out of every one times, it didn't.

I still would not consider myself a blogger, because I would never want to have commit to something like that and leave myself open for failure. Yet, the most unusual thing is, is that one of my many side gigs ... is writing blogs for a web design company across the border. And for someone who doesn't write blogs, since May 2021, I have written more than 150 blogs (in reality, pages of web content). And they're about the most unusual and unexpected topics that I've ever researched and written about. The great thing about it is, i) I get to write, ii) I get paid to write, iii) I've learned a huge amount about things I never would have otherwise. Triple word score!

And so I am writing this, not because I am going to be a blogger, but because there was this box with blank space that screamed to be filled with words. So I did.

If you've read all of this, congratulations, you're clearly a blog reader. Although, I don't consider this a blog.