Well, this year’s 24-hour playwriting competition has come and gone. I didn’t win any prizes this time, but I still have a lot of fun every year doing this.
This year was a lot of fun, since I did something on a character that I’ve always wanted to do, Paul Chartier. He’s an important figure from Canadian history, although most people will answer, “Who?” if you mention his name. I figured it was time to do a one-man, multimedia-assisted approach to his story.
As part of the festival, I did a short reading the other night, so here’s the excerpt I read. Note, of course, that this is a draft and still needs a bit of work.
Nakai 24 Hour Playwriting Challenge Cabaret
In 1966, Paul Chartier wrote the Speaker of the House of Commons asking to address Parliament. He was refused and died shortly afterwards. Now, he has been given his chance to address Parliament more than 50 years after his death, from the afterlife. The section being read takes place when he first appears before the House. The stage itself is empty, other than a projection screen with a slide of the floor of the House of Commons showing. He turns to the audience and begins his address.
Hello. My name is Paul Joseph Chartier. I was born in Fort Kent, Alberta, near Edmonton.
I don’t know where I am now, or how I know things that have happened since… since I died in 1966.
I wanted to speak to you on that day. I wrote a letter to the Speaker. The clerk wrote back and said that only members of parliament could speak here. I am glad to have this opportunity to do this after all this time.
Please. I’m very nervous. I wasn’t given any time to get ready.
(Paul stares at his speech in his hand for several seconds.)
I have this speech. I was going to give it that day. But, I think I should explain what happened.
I was angry. After all the things you have done to me, I had no way to tell you. You wouldn’t have listened anyway.
So I went to a hardware store in Newmarket. I bought ten sticks of dynamite. I opened six and put the explosive in a copper pipe. I had about two pounds of explosive in it.
I’d also bought detonators and some fuse. And then, I went to the parliament building. I had three fuses on my bomb. I had a short one, a medium one, and a longer one. I didn’t know how long to make the fuse, since I had to find out how long it would take to get from the bathroom back to the gallery so I’d know how long it should burn. I didn’t want it to burn for too long, or when I threw it on the floor, someone might realize what it was and put the fuse out.
I couldn’t sit in the visitors’ gallery that day. It was full. There was 900 school students there. I thought I would have to wait for another day to do it.
But the Commissionaire let me sit in the Lady’s gallery. They do that when it’s crowded. I was right above the centre of the floor. Right above Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker. And, they were the two main people I wanted to kill, although I really wanted to exterminate as many of you as possible.
So, I went out to the bathroom. I counted how much time I would need to get back to the gallery. Then, I went into a stall and lit the middle fuse. And, before I could even open the stall door, it went off. I died.
People laughed at me! And, it wasn’t my fault. It was that bitch at the hardware store.
I figured I needed about 20 seconds of burn time for the fuse. Twenty seconds. And I thought I had calculated it correctly. She told me it burned at 1 minute a foot. Twelve inches! One minute! I needed about 3 or 4 inches of fuse. So that was the one I used.
But, she sold me the wrong fuse. It wasn’t 60 seconds a foot. It was 40 seconds a foot. It burned for less than 10 seconds. I lit it, put it under my coat to hide it when I brought it into the gallery. I’d walk down to the railing, throw it down, and I’d give you a blast to wake you up.
But, I never even got out of the bathroom stall.
This is my legacy now. I wanted to change the country, to make it better. I wanted parliament to care about the people who make this country run.
And, all I succeeded in doing was to blow up the third floor men’s room in Centre Block of the Parliament Building. And myself. I died in a fucking toilet stall.
And it’s not fair. It should have worked.