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Goodnight Disgrace

Goodnight Disgrace
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Michael Mercer
Publisher: Talonbooks (cover image may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 115
Pub. Date: 1986
ISBN-10: 088922238X
ISBN-13: 9780889222380
Cast Size: 3 female, 4 male

About the Play:

Winner of the 1986 Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award.

Goodnight Disgrace is a full-length comedic drama by Michael Mercer. The play captures the fiery relationship between two literary giants, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken and his protegé Malcolm Lowry, and delves into the way in which that relationship both enriches and saps their creative powers. We remember the English poet and novelist Lowry for his short life and modern masterpiece, Under the Volcano, ranked eleventh by the editors of Modern Library in their list of the best 100 novels written in English in the 20th century.

Goodnight Disgrace is about the tumultuous friendship between writer Malcolm Lowry and poet Conrad Aiken. An alcoholic touched by genius, Malcolm Lowry wrote the novel Under the Volcano, which was continuously revised during many of his 14 years of intermittent residence in Vancouver and North Vancouver. Were it not for this single achievement, he would now be forgotten. Conrad Aiken was an important American poet, novelist, short story writer, critic and teacher. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, he was instrumental in establishing the reputation of Emily Dickinson. Yet he is seldom read today and is forgotten by all but scholars of American literature. These two unlikely figures pulse at the heart of Goodnight Disgrace, a biographical play that begins with Aiken in a nursing home. From his wheelchair, the aging Conrad Aiken recalls his long and torturous friendship with the hard-drinking, self-destructive Malcolm Lowry. When Aiken was 40, Lowry's straight-laced father paid him to tutor young Malcolm, who at 19 years of age is already a destructive drinker. This play reveals the shifts in the two men's intensely intimate relationship. It progresses through three stages as they struggle with alcoholism, women, creative energy, and each other. Starting as mentor and student, it develops into surrogate father and son, and eventually the student metamorphoses into a rival surpassing the teacher. The play is derived from two sources, the first of which is Michael Mercer's admiration for Under the Volcano, which he read numerous times over 35 years. Mercer was so impressed with Lowry's masterwork that in 1967 he went to Cape Cod to visit an ailing Aiken, who died seven years later. It's largely what Mercer learned from Aiken during his visit, augmented by Aiken's autobiography, that forms the basis of the fascinating memory play Goodnight Disgrace. The title comes from Aiken's parting shot to a drunken Lowry during one of their final meetings.

Goodnight Disgrace premiered in 1984 to critical acclaim at the Malaspina University-College Theatre under the auspices of Nanaimo's Shakespeare Plus festival, which has now evolved into TheatreOne. That first production went on to successful performances in Vancouver and Toronto, and the play itself has been enormously popular.

Cast: 3 female, 4 male

What people say:

"Knocked out by the richness of its language." — Vancouver Sun

"Mr. Mercer's play is about the tumultuous relationship the two men had from the perspective of Aiken as he sits dying in a Savannah, Ga., rest home in 1973. One B.C. critic has called it the finest Canadian play he has seen, and there is no question about the intensity created on the stage." — The Globe and Mail

"...a fascinating play about friendship, creativity and literary rivalry... what makes Goodnight Disgrace so compelling is its portrait of a friendship between men who love one another and who sacrifice all in the name of art including that which binds them together. As such, the play is a metaphor for the destructiveness inherent in the creative process that transcends Lowry and Aiken. It's the very stuff of art — sadly and tragically." — The Record (Kitchener, Ontario)

"There's a little part in all of us that would like to believe that the creation of great art is an all-but-effortless process; that words of wisdom, insight and truth spring from the page or that images of beauty and majesty flow from the brush in a magical fit of genius, leaving the creator unscathed. But all too often, that creative alchemy is fueled by the kind of sacrifices few outsiders would be willing to make – the forsaking of love, companionship, hope and even self-respect. Playwright Michael Mercer explores some of these sacrifices in Goodnight Disgrace ... a fascinating, intelligent play." — The Ottawa Citizen

About the Playwright:

Michael Mercer (1943-2010) was a Canadian playwright and screenwriter who wrote extensively for film and television. He began his writing career as a radio drama playwright and a television documentary writer for CBC and TVO. In the early 1970s, he moved to Vancouver where he became a prolific screenwriter contributing to numerous television drama series including cherished Canadian programming such as The Beachcombers and Wind at My Back, as well as Airwolf, Danger Bay, and Lonesome Dove. His first play, Goodnight Disgrace, was produced to great reviews and won a Chalmers Award in 1986.