Currently onstage at Florida Studio Theatre,  Wednesday’s Child marks the sixth work from playwright Mark St. Germain to grace the FST audience, and the second collaboration between the writer and the theater. A murder mystery surrounding the killing of a surrogate mother, St. Germain’s latest blends tension and plot with moral quandary, as all are suspect and none prepared for the ultimate twist. A veteran of TV, film and theater—and a rare breed who still writes longhand, “which is ridiculous,” he admits—St. Germain took a moment with SRQ to talk Wednesday’s Child, writer’s block and the realities of a playwright’s life.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

 

What is Wednesday’s Child really about?  St. Germain:  Primarily, it’s a mystery. And within the mystery, it’s about a surrogate mother. But it ends up involving everybody in the circle—the parents who wanted the child, the detectives investigating, a lawyer who’s trying to help out the parents—so you have a lot of people being able to talk about life, death, having children, not having children. 

Why address these questions via a murder mystery? To make it palatable to an audience. The first thing we should think about is when they come out. They’re not going to be arguing about the issues so much as the play and guilty/not guilty. There are a lot of twists. And then, indirectly, they’re going to be thinking about the issues. But, primarily, it’s a mystery. 

But was there something particular you wanted to say?     A lot of times, I write something just to see what I think about it, to understand it. So I thought this would be a real chance to do a lot of research, talk to a lot of people, and come to some kind of conclusion. 

Did you reach any conclusion?    The more you know, the more difficult it is. So, I didn’t come out with any answers.

And this has been in development for five years?   Super in development for the past two, maybe even longer. It was put in the drawer many times. And it was the staff here—Richard, Jason, Kate—who just kept saying, “Look at it again, look at it again.” We did a reading last year, and, for the first time, everybody seemed satisfied with it. There were some people who came up and said, “I’ve been seeing this for five years. Now it makes sense.”

Did you understand what they meant?    There’s a noticeable difference. Big difference. When you have a first talk-back and most of the questions are, “I don’t understand,” or, “Explain this,” it’s just not working. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it, I don’t think, at the beginning.

Did you feel trepidatious wading into these waters and, as a man, commenting on issues such as surrogacy?     That kind of thinking really gets a writer in trouble. A writer writes about what interests them, and I don’t think there’s anything that anybody would take exception to here. Even if they don’t agree with something, then you can see another point of view in another character.

This is your sixth play with Florida Studio Theatre. Is this sort of collaboration common?    I wish all playwrights had this, but they don’t. This is really rare, and I’m really fortunate.

And Wednesday’s Child was born of this collaboration?     Richard Hopkins was the person who really got me thinking about this, and he was talking about the plays that are not written, the issues that aren’t usually dealt with. The danger with this is it just becomes a rant. And I thought, “Well, a mystery is always fascinating.” And there aren’t that many done in the theater.

How did you approach crafting a mystery?     I did this in a really stupid way. I had never written a mystery before. Sometimes I’ll start out with an idea where I’m going. This, I had no idea, but I just kept going. And so, all of a sudden you get to the second act and you’re saying, “Wait a minute.” Then you have to go back to the first act. So many changes. But it taught me a lot. And finally, it got to the point where it logically works out. I don’t know if I’ll do it again. It’s a life-shortening experience. Mysteries are tough.

Do you believe in writer’s block?  I have it.

What do you do when you hit that block?  You have to force yourself to sit down, whether you’re writing or not, and at least give yourself an hour or two a day. Sooner or later, you’re going to be bored, you’re going to write something. Even if it’s terrible. Because walking around saying you have writer’s block, that’s easy. You force your butt in the seat for at least an hour. And maybe it won’t happen. But a writer has to write. 

Do you make yourself put in that hour every day?  Yeah, I’m trying to get through a block now.

You’ve worked in film as well, but what do you love about theater?   I always loved theater the most, but to raise a family, you can’t live on theater. You can’t do it. I don’t know anybody who does it. So, I started to do TV, then I started to write spec screenplays, and all the while I just kept writing. I enjoyed, particularly, the spec screenplays. And I enjoyed some of the TV stuff.

But the theater kept calling you?   It’s a whole different world. The advantage of doing this is that you have far more input than you do over anything else. When you sell something as a movie, they’ll pay you well, but then you’re gone. They can do anything. I’m taking my name off one that’s going be coming out soon. Better not talk about that, because I haven’t told them yet. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from Wednesday’s Child?    They’re going to find it an entertaining mystery with a lot of humor in it.