Sarah Higgins, sfh, is a storyteller in multiple genres — stage, screen, fiction, graphic forms. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her plays have been produced across the country, from the Halifax Fringe Festival, to the NotaBle Acts festival in Fredericton NB, to a One-Act Showcase with Little Mountain Lion Productions and the Brave New Play Rites festival in Vancouver, BC. A work she co-wrote with Falling Iguana Theatre (Toronto) was produced at the Island Fringe Festival in Charlottetown, PEI. She’s had staged readings of her work given in Fredericton, Saskatoon and Vancouver, and writes theatre reviews for the literary magazine PRISM international.1
We are thrilled to present Sarah’s rapid fire comedy about two friends locked in a semi-serious game of competitive Scrabble, and to discuss with her and the cast, (Pedro Cyr and Kris Nason) their creative processes.
Comedy is a funny thing – it’s hard to pin down what exactly makes it click. However, most comedians do agree that it depends on a critical balance between timing and spontaneity. In a script so dependent on focused banter and awkward pauses, we were curious to ask how Sarah approached writing scripts that were both structured and fun.
“To be honest, I don’t think about the rest of the team when I’m writing it (initially). It’s going that fast, that much back and forth in my head. So that’s what comes out onto the paper.”
“I write to a very quick rhythm in my head— which hopefully translates to the people reading it.”
“I think if they can embody the characters and the kind of playful banter that they have (on the page), then really, you can take those words and (it will fit naturally with) that rhythm.”
Of course, if you want people to have fun reading something, it always helps to have fun writing it.
“I had (the most) fun reworking it. It was originally written for the New Voices competition many many years ago, where it had to be full of New Brunswick trivia, which is why there was just so much of it (originally).”
“When I was revising some of the parts like, ‘my grandmother watches me sleep’ and the other sidebar stuff (that was my) favourite part. I had a lot of fun with that. And I also had fun reading it with my roommate so that we could get the pacing down. We were shouting words at each other. And thinking, ‘this is a great evening!’”
“I definitely laugh at my own jokes. This is like a running theme in my family. Actually, we all just laugh really loudly at our own jokes. So I’ve definitely laughed out loud and then been like, Well, I hope nobody knows that was just my own brain.”
Sarah was delighted to hear of the cast’s rehearsal stories.
“One day we were having fun with the characters— you know, they’re obviously, we’ll say not the most suave, so, I decided to just make my character look like the nerdiest possible glasses-wearer, with a blue light filter, and I bought a pair of suspenders. And I’m also gonna have a button up shirt with just the pins in the breast pocket. Almost going for a ‘Steve Urkel’ look.”
“We did a read through when we got the scripts, like in October. … And afterwards I said, Yeah, we might up the sexual chemistry. And then someone said to me, I forgot who think it was Jane, who said ‘it’s already there.’”
One of the characters’ last name is ‘Butts’, which only adds fuel to the fire.
“What I just recently started doing is that for the ‘Butts’ part I sort of tried to imagine (what it would look like from) the side of us. I’m a very thin person. … I don’t really have that base for good side view.”
“When I’m holding the board, and I just go ‘butts are never wrong’. I sort of arch my back and sort of stick out my butt.”
Fun stuff. However, Kris also noted some degree of initial anxiety in working with a script so heavily dependent on obscure words and intricate wordplay. Fortunately, as the actors became more comfortable with lines, they began to enjoy the game of understanding exactly what sort of person would take a scrabble contest so seriously.
“He would definitely be creating a Wikipedia entries on Alfred Butts (the character’s relative) And he it would be very detailed. They would be deleted a lot, the amount of detail he puts in these posts, because he’d be writing about whether it was the day that he first had the idea of Scrabble. You know how on the top of Wikipedia pages, where they say this article needs trimming down? Yeah, it would be my fault that the article would say, this article needs trimming down.”
“We did a little experiment one day in class where we had, where Len (their director and professor) gave us a location. And then we had to see how our character would act there. And one of those locations was an art gallery. So, I just sort of imagine him being just very critical of the arts. Saying things like, ‘no, this right here isn’t exactly right, it should actually be more like this!’ And then the other location was a beach, where we both got the same idea right away, where we just like, drew a Scrabble board in the sand and then just started carving in different words that we thought of.”
Character development, it seems, was the path to finding the rhythm and the fun that had so animated the script’s development. And fun it will be! Sarah expressed her excitement at the upcoming performances, and her gratitude towards the cast for discussing their experiences.
Want to hear more from Sarah? Check out:
1 – Credit to sfhiggins.com for the biography.