by Linda McLean
directed by Jon Tracy
It’s 2pm in the East Side of Glasgow: Bill and Sadie are preparing for the arrival of their favorite person. It’s all going like clockwork until they discover they’ve forgotten the bread. Buying bread means going outside. Uh oh.
It’s 2pm in the West Side of Glasgow: two people are closing up the bar for the afternoon. A chance call opens up the opportunity for a future that they have stopped imagining. Leading Scottish playwright Linda McLean explores the fleeting nature of love and happiness set against a backdrop of violence and disappointment.
Winner of the Rella Lossy Playwriting Award.
"In Any Given Day, [playwright Linda] McLean is a gritty, fiercely empathetic realist of great skill. She elevates the ordinary, creating instantly recognizable people in spare but penetrating dialogue.
Director Jon Tracy's skillfully staged and sumptuously performed American premiere...is a special occasion for lovers of strikingly original character-driven theater.
But what's most striking about Any Given Day is the way its rich blend of comedy and drama gets inside its characters, so that we're never laughing at but with these people. The result is a play you may find hard to forget."
– Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
"Two slyly interlocking one-acts pop together like puzzle pieces…in this affecting post-modern tragicomedy, cleverly directed by Jon Tracy. McLean's drama is set in rain-soaked Glasgow but the ideas she explores with such brutal candor are universal. The Scottish playwright's boldness with form and structure also gives the play a feeling of timelessness.
[Amy] Kossow movingly evokes the innocence of Sadie...She seems to transmit all her emotions fully. [Christopher] McHale taps into Bill's pride.
[James] Carpenter and [Stacy] Ross are two of the best actors in the region, and their delivery of McLean's spare poetry is a masterful exercise in subtlety and restraint."
– Karen D'Souza, San Jose Mercury News
Linda McLean was born in Glasgow where she studied and trained as a teacher. She travelled teaching English as a foreign language in Europe, America, Africa and Scandinavia before she wrote plays.
Her plays include, for the Traverse – This Is Water (2010), Any Given Day (2010), Strangers, Babies (Susan Smith Blackburn prize finalist), Shimmer (Herald Angel), Olga (from the original Finnish play by Laura Ruohonen) and One Good Beating (winner of Best One Act Play 2008). For Dundee Rep and Oran Mor: What Love Is (2011). For Paines Plough and Oran Mor: Riddance (Fringe First, Herald Angel) and The Uncertainty Files; for 7:84 Theatre Company – Cold Cuts and Doch an Doris; for Magnetic North – Word for Word; for RSAMD – Reminded of Beauty. She adapted Like Water for Chocolate (for Theatres sans Frontieres, from the novel by Laura Esquivel). She has also written for radio, most recently a political satire, And So Say All of Us, co-written with Duncan McMillan and Dan Rebellato.
Strangers, Babies (Fractures); Any Given Day (Un Joure Ou'Autre) and The Uncertainty Files (Dossier Incertitudes) have been translated into French.
Linda is Chairwoman of the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and has worked for the British Council in Mexico City, Teluca and Bogota. She regularly works in schools
and colleges, encouraging new writers to find their own voices. In 2009 she delivered the keynote speech to the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada.
She is currently under commission to the National Theatre of Scotland, Magnetic North, and the Traverse Theatre. Her new play Sex and God for Magnetic North will be produced in 2012.
Linda is the Creative Fellow at Edinburgh University’s Institute of Advanced Studies in Humanities.
Jon Tracy works as a director, playwright, designer and educator throughout the Bay Area and beyond. He works with such companies as Shotgun Players (Company Member; directed The Farm, The Salt Plays Pt. 1: In the Wound, The Salt Plays Pt. 2: Of the Earth), The SF Playhouse (directed Man of La Mancha, Bug, Slasher, and Aaron Loeb’s award winning First Person Shooter, as well as being recently commissioned to write All of the Above (an adaptation of the story of Joan of Arc), American Conservatory Theatre (directing their MFA students in The Rainmaker, The Diviners), Darkroom Productions (Co-founder, Former Artistic Director; directed and designed productions of Macbeth, subUrbia, King Lear, Marisol, Some Devil Whisper (his movement adaptation of Titus Andronicus) and The Good News (which he also wrote), Willows Theatre (West Coast premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical), Impact Theatre (writer and director of See How We Are), Aurora Theatre (developed Ron Campbell’s Sinker), Marin Theatre Company (developed A. Zell Williams’ Blood/Money), Theatre FIRST (directing Grapes of Wrath), Sonoma County Repertory (directing Nixon’s Nixon, Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, and Macbeth as well as adapting Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), New Conservatory Theatre (Bay Area Critics Circle Nomination for Fight Choreography of R & J), Missouri St. Theatre (writer and director of the award winning Chatterbox: The Anne Frank Project), Traveling Lantern Theatre Company (former Artistic Director), Magic Theater (former Artistic Associate), and the San Francisco, Marin, Carmel, Napa, Sebastopol, and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals. Further, Jon is an Affiliate Artist with The Foothill Theatre Company (developed and directed Gary Wright’s Evermore) and Alter Theatre Ensemble (developed and directed Robert Ernst’s Catherine’s Care), a Company Member of PlayGround (developed Geetha Reddy’s The Safe House among others), an Associate Artist at The Berkeley Playhouse (director of The BFG, The Wizard of Oz, Narnia and the writer/director of Born and Raised as well as core instructor for their youth programs) and an Affiliate Artist with Marin Shakespeare Company. A graduate of Solano College Theatre’s Actor Training Program, he is also the recipient of the Kennedy Center Meritorious Achievement Award, fifteen North Bay Arty Awards, a Sacramento Elly Award, Bay Area Critics Circle Award and is a grant recipient from Theatre Bay Area and the National Endowment for the Arts.
James Carpenter* (Dave) After 30 years of performing in the Bay Area James is delighted to be making his first appearance at Magic Theatre. A former Associate Artist with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, he has performed in over 30 productions at Berkeley Rep. James’ other Bay Area credits include the Aurora Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and TheatreWorks. This will be his 11th year as an associate artist with the California Shakespeare Theatre. Regional credits include work at Yale repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre, the Intiman Theatre, The Old Globe, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is the 2007 recipient of BATCC's Barbara Bladen Porter award for Continued Excellence in the Arts and in 2010 was named a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow. James’ film and TV credits include Nash Bridges, the films Metro and The Rainmaker, and the independent projects Singing, Presque Isle, and The Sunflower Boy...
Amy Kossow* (Sadie) received her MFA at Catholic University and did her internship with Zelda Fichandler at the Arena Stage in 1990. Her first theater job in San Francisco, 20 years ago, was script reading at Magic for Harvey Seifert. More recently, Amy appeared as Mary Prime Deity in the rolling world premiere of The Lily’s Revenge at Magic. She also originated the roles of Hilda, Ma Humbert, and Miss Martin in Octavio Solis’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven at CalShakes and at the Arena Stage 2011 New Play Convening. Amy was a founding member of the Z Space Studio, and is a Charter Member of the acting ensemble of San Francisco’s renowned theatre company, Word for Word. Favorite WFW roles include Ottaline, in The Bunchgrass Edge of the World, Rose in Three Blooms, Abby Borden in The Fall River Axe Murders, and Miss Van Vluck in Xingu. With Word for Word, Amy has directed stories by Siobhan Fallon, Mavis Gallant, Nathan Englander, Kay Boyle and Lawrence Block. Amy also joined the wonderful mayhem at Magic as a director during the 2012 Asian Explosion readings series. In addition to her theatre work, Amy has for 15 years worked as an advocate for children with special needs. Love and gratitude to Peter and Robin, and Ina and Clayton, as always. This one is for my Dad...
Christopher McHale* (Bill)Broadway: Piaf, The Iceman Cometh, Execution of Justice, King Lear (Lincoln Center), Julius Caesar, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Lincoln Center). Off Broadway: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julius Caesar, King John, Macbeth, Othello, Richard II (all at the New York Shakespeare Festival), Domino (at the New York Theatre Workshop) and Defiance (at the Manhattan Theatre Club). Regional: Yale Rep., Shakespeare Theatre Company, Hartford Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, St Louis Rep., Cleveland Playhouse, Arena Stage, Merrimack Rep. among many others...
Daniel Petzold (Boy) is excited to make his Magic Theatre debut. He recently played Marcus in the world premiere adaptation of Little Brother with Custom Made Theatre. He’s also appeared in Romeo and Juliet with Pacific Rep, Three Sisters with Berkeley Rep, The Salt Plays: In the Wound and Of the Earth with Shotgun Players, Macbeth with Marin Shakespeare, The Tempest with SF Shakes on Tour, Twelfth Night with Town Hall, and Forever Never Comes with Crowded Fire. He earned a B.A. in Theater and Performance Studies from UC Berkeley...
Stacy Ross* (Jackie) is delighted to be at Magic, and to work once again with Mr.'s Carpenter and Tracy. She has appeared at CalShakes, Berkeley Rep., A.C.T., San Jose Rep, Marin Theatre Co., SFPlayhouse and Baltimore's Centerstage, among others. She is a member of Playground and an Associate Artist at California Skakespeare Theatre. She is also a member of Symmetry theatre company. Next up: God of Carnage at MTC...
Justin Schlegel* (Stage Manager) is excited to return to Magic Theatre after stage managing The Lily’s Revenge and An Accident, and he was the Production Assistant for Oedipus el Rey and Goldfish. Focusing on new works, he has stage managed Little Rock and a workshop of A Christmas Memory at TheatreWorks, and has also stage-managed at The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab (Citizen Josh and Steve & Idi), Ojai Playwrights Conference (Monkey Puzzle Tree), and the Los Angeles world premieres of Brewsie and Willie produced by Poor Dog Group and 11 September 2001 which premiered at REDCAT, written by Michel Vinaver and directed by Robert Cantarella, which also toured France. He received formal training at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and American Repertory Theater, and was a Production Assistant for Sir Peter Hall. Mr. Schlegel holds a B.F.A from Southern Oregon University and an M.F.A from California Institute of the Arts.
*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.
Magic Theatre’s NNPN Playwright in Residence Christina Anderson interviewed visiting playwright Linda McLean.
Christina: So, I wanted to sit down and chat. Every playwright interview up until this one used some form of social media. With Claire Chafee I emailed 6 or 7 questions. With Sharr White we did a pen pal structure via email. And with Lloyd Suh I conducted the interview over Gchat. But, since you’re here all the way from Glasgow, I figured it would be nice to actually do the interview face-to-face!
Linda: Great. That’s always a nice thing.
Christina: Right? It’s a bit old fashioned, I suppose, but exciting nonetheless.
Christina: So. How’s it going in the rehearsal room?
Linda: Good, good. One of the really interesting things is that we work on one play one day, and then the other play the next day. There’s a sense of starting and stopping, but what’s really good about it is they get a day in between to let what happened filter through. I don’t know about you, but I really like the gaps in between so I get a chance to look at it fresh. It’s a chance to remember what I’ve seen or revisit it again.
Christina: You’ve had a previous production of this play, yeah?
Christina: So, I’m curious. In that process, because there are two separate plays, each with its own couple, did the actors ever get curious? Did they come watch each other’s rehearsals? Or did they like to keep it separate and not know?
Linda: They kept it separate. We actually spent a few days together reading it through and doing the table work so that we were all aware of the world. And then they split up just like we’re doing now. I really think you have to have different techniques when working through the two plays because the second one will respond very easily to questions of motivation and so on. The first one doesn’t. It defies them all. You have to use a whole other set of understanding about people who are not thinking of what their motivation is going to be.
Christina: I feel like—with the first couple—they have a history. And it’s more intimate in a way. In terms of sharing a space together. And the second couple, it seems, has the potential for another type of intimacy. So, I imagine each play would require different conversations about technique and approach.
Linda: And the first couple has a much more gentle way of being because they’re survivors of a brutal regime. And the second couple—well, you can also call them survivors of a regime—but it’s everyday life. So, they’re a bit sharper and even a bit funnier.
Christina: How did this play come about?
Linda: Have all of the plays you’ve worked on been plays that come from within, or have some of them been suggested either as research or topics or…?
Christina: For me it’s a mixture.
Linda: You might feel differently, but I think when you set out to write a play and you have to research, that’s one way of thinking about a play. But there are other plays that come from something that’s been percolating inside yourself for a long time. And, when it’s suddenly the right time to write those plays, they just emerge of their own free will. Any Given Day is one of them. Because the first two characters are actually based on real people—my uncle and his partner.
Christina: Really? I didn’t know that…
Linda: Not their particular situation. That play isn’t what happened to them, but it references their history.
Linda: And the kind of childlike gentleness that they have…I’ve been wishing I could capture that in some way. But I could never find the right language. In that 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning time when you should be sleeping but you’re not really awake and ideas float up. And the first part of the dialogue of that just started to emerge, and I felt that I had permission to start writing that. When I finished the first play, I didn’t know about the second play. I didn’t know that there was a second one. But, after finishing the first play, I had a very strong feeling that it wasn’t done. As I’m saying that, I’m wondering if it’s because I find the ending so disturbing. I had to write it, but there was part of me that felt like I couldn’t let the audience walk away with that image. There must be something else. And it was then that I actually realized that the second play had to be the good day.
Christina: When those voices come to you at 3am, do you sit up and write it down?
Linda: I used to, but the thing that would often happen was…quite often I’d get up in the morning and look at what I had written the night before and go, “what is that?” And so I stopped doing that. I only work on the things that I remember when I wake up. Because if I don’t remember them, part of me thinks you’re not ready to work on that one.
Christina: How long did it take you to write this one?
Linda: These plays always come quick. The ones that you have to do a lot of research for, they take a long time to write. Because after you’ve done the research, there has to be a sedentary process. The material sinks in, and some other part of me reshapes it so I can tell it. But they’re the ones that take longer. With this one, I’m thinking it took weeks to a couple of months. Life gets in the way, you know?
Christina: Yes, I definitely know.
Christina: So are you born and raised from Glasgow?
Linda: I am. I spent a bit of time away from that area.
Christina: But you’re based there now?
Linda: I am.
Christina: For me, reading the play was an entirely different experience from hearing the first table read. When the actors delivered the text in the accents it seemed as if a whole world began to unfold with that addition.
Linda: When you were reading the play, would it have been clear to you that it was Scottish or Northern European? Did it strike you in any way as not American?
Linda: Could you tell me in what way?
Christina: I read a lot of Franz Xaver Kroetz who wrote Farmyard and Request Concert. And the head of my grad program is into European drama. So, I read his work and Churchill and Edward Bond. And that work always has a heightened and specific approach to language that I don’t see in American work. I see more examples of a beautiful precision and control as well as a sense of play in non-American plays. So, I can pick up on that when I read Any Given Day. I didn’t know it was Scottish specifically, but I knew it wasn’t American. But hearing the accents added a completely different texture. I was surprised by that first read because it felt more casual than what I heard while reading it.
Linda: Because you saw the construct of the language on the page.
Christina: Yes. I definitely heard it more stylized. Reading the play, I think your formatting is great.
Linda: I have to do that because if I don’t do that people mistake the rhythm and overlay their own rhythm onto the language. Even in England. I started doing that because the first people who were reading my play weren’t making sense of it. So, I started laying it out rhythmically, so they’d have to take a break and it would suddenly sound and feel like Scottish people were thinking their way through it.
Christina: And it was also great, too, when I was going through the script, and as I’m reading one page I could see through the paper to the next page, and there would be big, bold fonts to indicate volume and impact of a sound effect. It was this weird thing—I knew something was happening but I could also literally see that something was happening. That was a really fun experience, to read a play like that. There’s a mixture of a visual cue as well as tone and storytelling cues.
Linda: That’s why it should never be on a Kindle.
Christina: See? Exactly! It’s so interesting that you talk about rhythm and pace because, in my work, I often find it challenging to compose on the page so people can get a sense of the world I’m trying to construct.
Linda: Last year, I did two verbatim plays that taught me a lot about the rhythm of how people speak. I would never write a play like that, but the thing that really impressed me was the truer you are to the specific way people speak the more surreal it actually looks on the page. And you start to be able to see the things people are choosing not to say. And you get just a glimpse of the labyrinth and process that people use to form something semantic.
Christina: In terms of Any Given Day and your other work, what are the similarities? The differences?
Linda: I realized recently that the strongest analogy for me to playwriting is crocheting. I crochet all the time. I don’t crochet to a pattern but to experiment with what the materials can do. The reason I do that is I think I’ve got a low tolerance for boredom. [chuckle] And every time I write a play, it’s an experiment for me. And when I get to the end of writing it, then it has a production. The next play I’m going to write will never be that form because I’ve done that one. I don’t want to replicate that. Which actually makes it quite hard for a playwright, because if you write a play and it’s really successful, that’s most people’s way into your work and the thing that they want you to do is write that again. And it’s the last thing you want to do. In that way Any Given Day is a different structure than any of my other plays. So, the form is always different from one play to the next. There are probably some themes that are similar…I tend to be moved by people in the margins of society. And I suppose that maybe I’m the right person to write them because that’s where I grew up. So it’s not like me writing about people I don’t know. Even in the UK, most playwrights come from middle class backgrounds, and they haven’t grown up in the margins. Is it the same here?
Christina: Well…from what I see, I think there’s favoritism towards people who are coming out of writing programs in this country.
Linda: Which I never did.
Christina: And I’m speaking as someone who did come out of a writing program. But I can tell you it would have been significantly harder to even get looked at without certain kinds of credentials or recommendations. And quickly just going back to themes, I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I grew up in Kansas with a working class family in a Black neighborhood. And a lot of that culture and experience lives in my work. The thing that’s been a bit of a challenge for me is sitting down with a production team to talk about creating that world. Sometimes I find myself steering them away from stereotype and then I find myself having to give a bit of a cultural lecture.
Christina: So when you’re working with theatres here in America, in the UK, or other parts of Europe, do you find yourself having to …
Linda: Explain those things?
Linda: I’ll tell you one of the things that has come as a huge surprise to me: the last four plays I’ve written has been translated into French and are being done in Paris. And I don’t have to explain anything to them. I don’t know why, but they get it.
Christina: Go Paris!
Linda: Go Paris.
Christina: Linda, I know you have to get back to rehearsal.
Linda: I do. I’m sorry to rush off, but I’ve got to get back.
Christina: Well, thank you for talking with me.
Linda: It’s been great. Thank you.
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Magic Theatre every time you shop, at no cost to you! When you shop at smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to us. It costs you nothing, and you can use your existing Amazon account. Click the AmazonSmile button to start supporting Magic!
For additional information about AmazonSmile, click here.