A different kind of playbook
John Corrigan spent much of his spare time at Queen’s on the football field, where he played receiver and safety for the Golden Gaels. Although he thought of himself as a jock back then, he majored in drama. Nowadays, John is a primary school teacher and father of two, and he’s still a huge sports fan. But he says his life has come full circle. He’s using his degree in drama in a way he never really expected and has two plays to his credit with a third in the works.
The odd thing is that this quietly charming man with an offbeat sense of humour had no aspirations during his student days ever to become a playwright.
When he arrived at Queen’s in the fall of 1979 he’d never set foot on a stage. “I thought studying drama would be interesting,” John said. “And it was.”
His return to the theatre world has surprising origins. When his younger son was 15, he wanted to audition for a local play. To provide moral support, John also auditioned. Unfortunately, John got a part and his son did not. John found the acting interesting, and it got him thinking about writing a play. He took a look at a novel he had started writing and realized it might be better suited for stage. About the same time, he heard about the Herman Voaden Playwriting Competition at Queen’s. “I investigated and found out that there were only 60 days until the deadline,” said John.
Against all odds, he managed to rewrite what he had written, complete his first play, The Mollycoddlers, and submit his work in time to meet the tight deadline for the competition. To his delight and surprise, the play was chosen as one of the finalists in the Voaden competition.
Aside from writing a few articles for the Kingston Whig Standard, and a short story about his Great Aunt Margaret’s wake which he wrote while in was still in high school, John had no writing experience. How did he work up the nerve to write a play in less than 60 days and to submit it to a major writing competition? “Ignorance has been bliss my whole life,” he says.
With a bit of advice and some help from his schoolmate Kathryn MacKay, Artsci’82, Ed’84, and her husband, Greg Wanless, Arts’68, Artsci’82, the Executive and Artistic Director of the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario, The Mollycoddlers ended up on stage at the Playhouse where it enjoyed a successful run during the 2009 season. John co-authored with MacKay a second play, Up The River, which is based on Kenneth Graham's classic children's book The Wind in the Willows. That production was staged this summer at the Thousand Islands Playhouse to enthusiastic reviews.
With The Mollycoddlers and Up The River to his credit, John is now busy working on a third play, a farce that is set upon an island featuring a group of people trying to make a getaway. He’s also happily pursuing his career, teaching a grade one/two split class, but he admits, “I confess I’m dreaming about retiring early to write full-time.”
It seems that for this jock turned playwright, his drama degree proved to be so much more than just interesting.