passive income


Imagine That’s upcoming production of Holy Mo and Spew Boy, Jan. 17-19 at the Venue at 5708 Glover Rd. Tickets are $15, available through ImagineThatPlace.com

I went to see my retirement plan last night. (play royalties).

A community theatre is performing Holy Mo in Langley this week and I bring Nora and one of her pals from school. It is wonderful to share part of my history with my daughter. She turns to her friend before the lights go out and says, “Trust me, you’re going to laugh your head off. My Mom is a super good writer.” They dash to the front row, centre, out of my reach.

I am a bit nervous, they’re only 8. But they sit still as statues during the entire play which says something for the heart of the performers: it was in the right place. Kids can sniff that stuff out.


Meta Theatre’s Holy Mo

I now have three plays that get done somewhere in the world about once a year: Holy Mo, Chickens and Cariboo Magi. When I first started getting productions of Holy Mo I was a bit shy about it: such a silly show. But twenty years later, the play still stands up. People laugh at the jokes, people cry at the songs.



TWU’s Holy Mo

I wrote it collectively with Rene (Joshi) Sims and Marie (Anderson) Russell and all the memories of them and the other Bufoonas, Follies and Guffs since, compound into this amazing trip down memory lane for me. Each production has its own way of telling the joke. This production creates a lizard by giving Guff a party favour that she’d blow in and out like a long tongue. So funny. And this production has Guff (my rather inarticulate character) as someone with English as a second language, which adds a whole new moving twist on her fear of speaking.


Pacific theatre’s 3rd production of Holy Mo

Anyway…collective creation has been going on since the beginning of time. As for Holy Mo, we even did it “site specific” a few times, we just didn’t “devise” the fancy term for it back then. Last year I was an editor on the collected works of Jack Winter with Talon books. He was doing all this “devised” and “site specific” work with Toronto Workshop Theatre back in the sixties. So, I get a little snarky around the odd person or grant application who figures that collective creation is “innovative” and “new” and the way to the future. No dude. It’s just another way. It’s always been just another way. And in my books, often harder and more expensive. But in the case of Holy Mo, we got lucky. It was an absolute pleasure creating that show with those two brilliant dear friends.

Whenever I see these three shows it makes me wonder, “What have I been doing since?” Chickens I wrote when I was twenty four and Cariboo Magi when I was thirty. I look at my younger self and I hope I haven’t disappointed her. I hope I’m still moving forward. I think I am. Espresso, for instance, is my favourite play. But nobody does it. Not a single amateur or professional production.


Pacific Theatre’s 1st production of Holy Mo

And ah…this gentle pressure for the new. For the next. For something I can gain that passive income from because God knows, there won’t be a pension. Such a race for the innovative “must have” script. I have two plays sitting, waiting for a production right now, wall flowers. Holding my breath. Are they fresh enough? Are they good enough? Will they go the distance? There are people who LOVE them and people who have gone “meh”.  We shall see. I’m eager to share them. Diamond Willow for its storytelling and Frankie Armitage for its gentle simple look at a girl of fourteen. And until then…I clean houses.


the original Holy Mo 1994 “not quite as boring as going to church” the review in Toronto and “Pick of the Fringe Must See” in Vancouver

Last night, once the show is over, I am introduced as the playwright and some audience members gasp, clamp onto my shoulder to ask questions and pump my hand with a shake. My daughter is big eyed and smiley and proud and her friend says “please” and “thank you” now, on the way home: new found respect. It is nice to take off the rubber gloves tonight and feel like I have a little something in the bank.

There is a point in the Holy Mo play where the three fools consider giving up. They’ve been on the road for a while with their mystery plays and have suffered from spotty audiences, inhospitable sleeping quarters and have had nothing to eat but ratty asparagus. Bufoona, finally, in exasperation, says to Follie, “Why do we do it?!” And Follie says, “The Story. The Story must be told.”

It strikes me to the quick. I leave the theatre so incredibly grateful and humbled that Story is able to use me, at any age, at any stage, despite my failings. It can pour out of me. I never forget that it’s an honour. A gift. It really has so little to do with me. Story runs through my life like a river and for some reason I can see it. For some reason I have words for it. I get out my pen, like a paddle and try to navigate it best I can. And I happen to love asparagus. It’s one of the few things I am not allergic to.

This morning one of my little boys gets up in playwriting class with his first scene since the holidays. This boy has ADHD and all his stories have been rather illegible and almost entirely about explosions, aliens and fart jokes. Today, he shuffles up in his little brown slippers with his crumpled paper and his lisp and says,

“This is a scene about a man and a woman who are breaking up.” And he proceeds to read out this serious honest moving dialogue, “I don’t love you anymore” “Why can’t we try?” “It’s complicated, I don’t have the words…” and then he breaks into song, my little playwright has given them a duet, he sings out the words like the tiniest of budgies, “can’t we try, must we say good-bye…?”

And Story humbles me once again.

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  1. April Jean Coots

    Holy Mo (I saw the third production at Pacific Theatre) has gone down in my personal history as one of most memorable and incandescent moments of theatre I’ve ever experienced. While it’s ‘passive’ on the level of income for its playwright, at the same time this play certainly was ‘active’ for me. Seeing it as I did, at a pivotal moment of life (third year, University student), it informed my understanding of the transformative experience that live theatre can and should be.

    Reading this, I am brought back to the moment I was sitting in the back row of Pacific Theatre’s black box and feeling the delight, joy, and transcendence of watching that play and being immersed in the world of Holy Mo and its quirky, yet bold-hearted inhabitants (that even now I feel a pang of care for.)

    I agree with your daughter: her mom is a “super good writer.” I’m grateful that you used your gift to bring this and other plays ( I also dearly loved Espresso) into the world. We need more of your reflections from that ‘river of Story’ that you see, because it is a unique vision. And we look forward to those times when you ‘pull off those yellow gloves’ and put your stories out there. Not only does it give you a little more (deservedly) ‘in the bank’ they truly make our world a richer place.

    With love~

    1. Lucia Frangione

      what a lovely message to receive this morning, thank you so much April!

  2. Charlotte

    I’m sooo looking forward to Chickens this summer in Rosebud. Hoping I can get most of my grandchildren out to see it (and visit me too :).

    I’ve see Holly Mo but probably would benefit by seeing it again….sometimes I miss a lot by only seeing it once.
    One of the reasons I love living in Rosebud as I can attend several times/show if I feel the need to get more out of it than first time around.

    Bless you for sharing the stories placed on your heart.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      Thank you, Charlotte! Royal is directing Chickens I hear, that’s terrific, he’ll be great.

  3. William Hay

    Wonderful writing. I love Holy Mo. But I loved Expresso too.

  4. William Hay

    Wonderful writing. I love Holy Mo. I loved Expresso. I like aliens and explosions but I may well be too mature for fart jokes. I prefer “Depends” jokes, now.

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