Playwrights Jessica Schacht and Sam Young of Duncan and Burnaby, respectively, present an online reading of their play ‘You Are Not A Ghost’ June 8 as part of TheatreOne’s Emerging Voices series. (Photos courtesy Centric Photography/Sam Young)

Playwrights Jessica Schacht and Sam Young of Duncan and Burnaby, respectively, present an online reading of their play ‘You Are Not A Ghost’ June 8 as part of TheatreOne’s Emerging Voices series. (Photos courtesy Centric Photography/Sam Young)

West Coast playwrights turning viral advice column letter into experimental play

Nanaimo’s TheatreOne presents online reading of ‘You Are Not A Ghost’

A pair of West Coast playwrights are creating an experimental play inspired by an advice column letter that went viral on Buzzfeed.

In 2017 Burnaby-based playwright Sam Young read the column, in which a man leaves his live-in partner of two years without a word to take a job in another country, only to have his ex become his boss 10 years later.

“I remember reading it and thinking, ‘I don’t understand. This person’s mental. I can’t empathize with this so I have to write about it. I need to figure out what’s going through this crazy person’s head,’” Young said. “It was such a strange, self-deluded story that I just thought, ‘Well, that’s a character, right? That’s a story itself.’”

Young showed the article to his writing partner Jessica Schacht, who lives in Duncan, and two set out writing You Are Not a Ghost. The play is told using flashbacks and takes place in the HR waiting room while the two former partners wait to speak to a manager about their situation. A virtual reading of You Are Not a Ghost is taking place on June 8 as part of TheatreOne’s Emerging Voices series.

“At the heart it’s a story of a relationship and two people who are coming to terms with the actions of their past and the consequences are only just starting to emerge now,” Schacht said. “It’s told through two different perspectives and they sort of occupy different memories and the present-day situation and we, with the audience, move along witnessing the experience and all the different facets of this relationship.”

The duo describe their first play, the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival production Adult Company, as a “taut living-room drama.” With You Are Not a Ghost, they’re going in a more experimental direction. Young said the scripts doesn’t adhere to proper punctuation, as “people are putting periods in sentences where you wouldn’t put them, or just talking without punctuation.” Schacht said entire passages may end up being replaced with movement.

This is the first time Schacht and Young will be hearing their script read by actors and they say the experience will be useful as they continue to develop the play.

“I joke with Jess about this: I’m a very reductive writer. I take great joy in cutting things out of my pieces,” Young said. “And so this is a great opportunity for me to remove things because I love to sculpt away at scripts.”

WHAT’S ON … TheatreOne presents You Are Not A Ghost virtual reading on June 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets by donation, available here.

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