On the first day of my official residency at MUN I burbled around the campus, giddy from having said hello to Andrew Loman and Lisa Moore AT THE SAME TIME.
Today I am spending my day in bed because I am writing My Bed Play. It will be performed in my bed as part of my residency.
My mother said to me one time, “Your grandfather never had his name written down.” I asked her what she meant by that. She said, “No one ever wrote his name down anywhere. Not in history books or newspapers.” He was an actor, a poet, a playwright, and a journal keeper. He rowed from town to town in his rowboat. When people saw him coming they ran for their fiddles and accordions. Handwritten pages were passed around and roles were cast on the spot. He wrote to New York to get his plays, the ones he didn’t write himself. He also got books on the craft. The titles are fascinating.
So you want to be a director! (Make sure the actors wear the right amount of makeup.)
How to be an actor! (Be heard and seen.)
My grandfather also worked for Baird’s fish merchant all of his life. He was the weigh master. He earned ten cents an hour. He was paid on the barter system. On the day he retired he was informed he owed the merchant ten cents.
When I wrote about this in my award winning book “They Let Down Baskets” (with a CD documentary component from Chris Brookes and photographs from Jamie Lewis) my mother and my uncle were upset, because this was not a point of pride for them, at that time. We were not raised to be proud of ourselves. Big in ourselves.
I wonder if my grandfather ever imagined that all these years later I would be Writer-in-residence at Memorial University. What a majestic missive to us, from whence we came, reading Alfred Hithcock’s Mystery Magazine at the supper table. So very big in myself today.
John Butler. Daddy Butt. For you. For that ten cents you had to pay.