Wed, 23 Nov 2005
Did I ever tell you the story of my archnemesis, Kevin Chong?
Back when I was 18 or 19 and living in North Vancouver with my dad, I entered a “British Columbia youth playwriting competition” sponsored by the Gastown Theatre. I won first prize. A kid named Kevin Chong took fourth.
Winning wasn’t that big a deal; the contest hadn’t been very well publicised, so there were only about fifty entrants, all from the Lower Mainland. I won five hundred bucks and I got to see my play workshopped by a real director and semi-professional actors. (Among the actors, incidentally, was Molly Parker, who went on to star in Kissed and has become a semi-famous Canadian film star.) After the workshop my play and Kevin’s were chosen from among the winners for a one-week run at the Gastown Theatre.
Kevin’s play was, I think, about as bad as mine. While I was clumsily imitating existentialist comedy à la Samuel Beckett, Kevin Chong was wallowing in Tarantinoesque hipster violence and pop culture references. In retrospect I think his play might have been slightly better, if only because it was more concise and conducive to staging. Mine had about a dozen characters and a ridiculous number of lighting cues; his had three characters and a gun.
Kevin was a friendly, gregarious young guy who liked to show off how clever he was. Everybody loved him. I was about the same back then as I am now – shy, morose, and self-critical. I made no friends at all. After the play ended, I lost touch with all the theatre people I’d met, including Kevin Chong.
Years later, while I was working as a clerk at an adult video store here in Saskatoon, I read a review in the Globe and Mail of Kevin Chong’s first novel, Baroque-a-Nova. Since then he’s released a non-fiction book about Neil Young and written articles for the Globe, the National Post, and Saturday Night magazine. I believe he’s writing a column for the Vancouver Sun now. If you do a Google search for Kevin Chong, you get dozens of hits.
If you do a Google search for “Michael A. Charles”, you get two relevant results. One is the Sea Water Bliss site. The other is a page at the Mendel Art Gallery’s website for our rock opera. Due to poor self-promotion on my part, Andrew and I are listed only at the bottom of the page under “musicians”, and aren’t even credited as the authors of the show. I complained to the Mendel about this once, but they didn’t do anything about it.
I used to think that if I kept plugging away at the creative side, I could overcome my utter incompetence at winning friends and influencing people. But hearing our debut CD has made me realise that I’m not good enough to get by on creativity alone. I think I’ve got just enough talent that, if it were wedded to a strong work ethic, an outgoing personality, and a can-do attitude, I could probably be successful. Not Madonna successful, but perhaps Kevin Chong successful. But I don’t think my personality is going to change.
Anyway, I guess I have to keep plugging away, because I’m not sure what else to do with myself. Sorry to ramble.
Update, August 11, 2011. Kevin Chong has a Wikipedia page.