Universal Language

by Marilyn Anne Campbell

Stage play: Sci-fi comedy, one-act, 2W/2M/1 either
When low-level staff at an interstellar supply station find themselves on the frontlines of alien contact, workplace dissatisfaction could lead to an inter-species incident. 
Production Information:

Universal Language is scheduled to premiere in August 2015 at Otherworld Theatre's Paragon: A Sci-Fi and Fantasy Play Festival in Chicago Illinois.

Taking place at the Genesis Event Space at 2525 Elston Ave, Paragon will present 40 short plays in 2 days. As directed by Lauren Fields, Universal Language will appear as part of the 7 pm - 8:15 pm block on Sunday August 23rd.

Facebook event page:

A Little History

Universal Language was written the first time I participated in a 24-Hour Playwriting Contest. It was for the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival, and participants were given four things that had to be included in the final script: a pas-de-deux, a border dispute, third base, and the phrase “the economy is the secret police of your desires”.

I didn't win the contest - I didn't even place - but I did have fun participating. Still, I thought I'd made a mistake writing a one-act sci-fi comedy, as it seemed like a stretch that anyone would ever be interested in producing it. I left it in the virtual drawer of my hard drive, gathering virtual dust.

Luckily for me the Otherworld Theatre company formed in Chicago three summers later, and three summers after that organized a new play festival looking for short science fiction for the stage. Which means the first 24 Hour Playwriting Contest I ever participated in will, six years later, lead to my first US production.

  • Slated to premiere in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2015
  • Available for future productions; contact the playwright to obtain a reading copy

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FringeKids! 2015: Thumped!

Sunday July 5, 2015

Thumped! doesn't appear in the printed Toronto Fringe Festival guide because it was a late addition to the FringeKids! lineup, brought in at the last minute to replace an out-of-town show. Production company Ten Toes wasn't even on the Waiting List after the lottery draw in November, which suggests that the Fringe organizers ran through quite a few companies before finding someone so ready-to-go on short notice.

It's a nice thing that Thumped! was added to the lineup, because with a simple story and a focus on movement, it's a good show for the very youngest Fringe-goers and can serve as a suitable first-time theatre experience.

Thumped! follows rabbit friends Chase and Hide (Emma Letki and Kelly Morden, though I confess to not remembering which one was which)  as they set out to follow a map to a secret carrot patch. This is essentially a dance show for kids, with large stretches of stage time dedicated to the bunnies moving through their world.

The show is underscored with some lovely original music by Franc Adamczyk. The guitar is gentle enough that it doesn't overwhelm the action, but is still driving enough to add a bit of intensity to the show when necessary. Here's a sample on SoundCloud:

The set is sparse, but the use of lighting cues and projections (mostly of illustrations by Jim Fitzgerald) help create different locations and reveal the dangers in the rabbits' world.

Letki and Morden are both dance artists, and their skill and athleticism show. Overall, some of the movement sequences work better than others; the following-the-map sequence could use more variation (perhaps more set pieces or levels to interact with, or actually leaving the stage to move through the audience), but the wonderful synchronized chase scene is a stand-out.

Taking the Experience Home

For pre-show activities, parents and caregivers may want to share Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny books, or Joyce Sidman's "Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow" with slightly older kids (though Thumped! really isn't really designed for the top end of the FringeKids age range). Post-show, dramatic play-acting as bunnies is the obvious choice, with all the hopping and nose-wiggling that entails. Drawing favourite scenes, creating or following a map, and making Tumble Bunnies are more great options, as is taking a nature walk to talk about the world from a rabbit's point of view.


Remaining Shows (at the George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place):

July 06 at 2:30 pm
July 08 at 10 am
July 09 at 3:15 pm
July 11 at 5 pm
July 12 at 4:15 pm

If you miss it in Toronto, Thumped! is also part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival's Family Fringe schedule this year, on July 18 & 19, and July 24-26. You can read an interview with Morden and Letki on the Hamilton Fringe Festival blog post "Fringe for the Whole Family" (which includes a photo of the elbow and back of yours truly, working Bingo the dog at last year's Hamilton Family Fringe.)

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The Knight's Errand

by Marilyn Anne Campbell

Stage play: Theatre for Young Audiences, one act, 4 performers
King Arthur, Lancelot, and Percival recount the story of Ferldamed, a lesser-known knight of The Round Table who must overcome his fear of the dark and his general lack of knightly skills both to fulfill a simple errand and to save his friends from a fearsome foe.
A rhyming play.

Production Information:

Poster © Child's Play Theatre

The Knight's Errand premiered as an outdoor production in July 2015. Nova Scotia's Child's Play Theatre performed the show busker-style on the Halifax Waterfront.
(Performance dates: July 4, 5, 11, 12)

Directed by Carolyn Thomas
Produced by Zara Tufts

Carey Bray as Ferldameld
Dana Thompson as King Arthur
Jessica Oliver as Percival
Luciana Silvestre Fernandes as Lancelot

A Little History

The Knight's Errand began as a narrative poem that I wrote when I was in high school. Thinking myself an utterly brilliant seventeen-year-old, I immediately sent the poem out to several big-name picture book publishers, expecting instant success. Although the slew of  no-thank-yous I received were all very polite and encouraging, I nonetheless shelved The Knight's Errand for several years.

I rediscovered and rewrote the poem while in university and, thinking myself an utterly brilliant twenty-one-year-old, read it at a few semi-private open mic type events, expecting instant accolades. Although the applause I received was polite and the comments generally encouraging (with a lot of, "you know, for kids" caveats), I had no idea what to do with this thing I had written. After all, every picture book publisher in town had already said no. So back in the e-drawer it went.

Many, many years later, after I started playwriting, I rediscovered the poem yet again and realized it had been in slightly the wrong format all along. So now I no longer consider myself an utterly brilliant anything, and the poem has grown up to become a rhyming play, which I suspect is what it wanted all along.


  • Premiered with Child's Play Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the summer of 2015
  • Available for future productions; contact the playwright to obtain a reading copy

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