Douglas Bowie

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Canadian screenwriter and playwright Doug Bowie has written a wide range of film and TV dramas including The Newcomers, The Boy in Blue, Chasing Rainbows, Love and Larceny, Grand Larceny, and the Christmas perennial Must Be Santa. He has won an ACTRA Award for the hit CBC mini-series Empire, Inc., and a Gemini Award for an outstanding body of work in television. His stage plays include the award-winning comedy The Noble Pursuit; Goodbye, Piccadilly; Love & Larceny (the musical); Rope's End; Till It Hurts and Somewhere Beyond the Sea, which premiered in 2012 at the Thousand Islands Playhouse where he was playwright-in-residence for many years.

Life & Career

Doug Bowie fell into a writing career when he entered a CBC TV contest on a whim while working as a copywriter for an Ottawa ad agency. His teleplay Who Was the Lone Ranger? won a top prize, went on to be produced, and launched a 40-year career.

"Looking at it later, I realized it wasn't all that good," says Bowie. "It was the first thing I'd ever written, and I'd pretty much thrown it together in my spare time. But it had a catchy title and a trick ending which probably caught the judges' eye. For better or worse, it saved me from a lucrative career in advertising or possibly corporate law. While it was great to win, it was also something of a snare and a delusion, because it made me think writing was easy. I promptly dashed off a couple more scripts, which were just as promptly rejected."

Bowie persevered, however, and eventually sold a second script to the CBC -- Amnesty, an offbeat comedy-drama about two old men living amidst a mountain of long overdue library books. It was later produced on stage as well by the Smile Company in Toronto. After leaving the ad agency, and a sojourn in law school, Doug eventually became a full-time writer.

Numerous half hour and hour dramas for the CBC and NFB followed, including, The War Is Over, Breakdown, Gunplay, The Krokonol Hustlers, The Contest Eaters, You and Me, A Gun, a Grand, a Girl -- as well as a couple of radio dramas, including an adaptation for CBC of one of his favourite books, "That Summer in Paris", and the feature film U-Turn, starring David Selby.

Following these, Doug found his stride with a succession of well-received and wide-ranging film and television dramas, including The Man Who Wanted To Be Happy, The Newcomers (starring Bruno Gerussi and Martha Henry), The Boy in Blue (starring Nicolas Cage), Obsessed, the epic mini-series Chasing Rainbows (starring Paul Gross and Michael Riley) which critic Gerald Pratley called "wonderfully dramatic and romantic ... a triumph for Bowie".

Doug also wrote the Gemini Award winning Love and Larceny, starring Jennifer Dale, and its sequel Grand Larceny, for which he won the Columbus International Screenwriting Award. Almost all original scripts, many of these are period pieces which interweave real and fictional characters against historical backgrounds.

In this vein, Doug's most acclaimed work is probably the CBC mini-series Empire, Inc., the multi-generational saga of Montreal tycoon James Munroe. Called "quite possibly the network's best drama ever" by Canadian Press, it won critical accolades and several ACTRA Awards, including best writer for Bowie and, according to the reference book The Film Companion, "set new standards for Canadian drama on television." It has subsequently been seen in some 75 countries, and was recently included on the Ottawa Citizen's list of the best TV dramas of the past 50 years.

Bowie also authored Must Be Santa for the CBC and Universal, starring Dabney Coleman, which has become a Christmas perennial, and was called "dazzling ... one of the best new holiday films in years" by TV Guide.

Bowie edited the book "Best Canadian Screenplays" with Tom Shoebridge, and was honored at the 1998 Geminis with the prestigious Margaret Collier Award for an outstanding body of work by a writer in television. He has also taught occasional writing workshops, and worked as a dramaturge in theatre and story editor in film & TV.

In mid-career, Bowie began writing plays (The Noble Pursuit, !Sgodsdogs!), and now divides his time between playwriting and screenwriting. While many of his TV scripts have been set in the past, most of his plays are contemporary comedy dramas.

Doug was the Playwright-in-Residence for many years at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, one of the most successful summer theatres in Canada. His play Goodbye, Piccadilly premiered at the Playhouse and has gone on to several more productions, including the Blyth Festival, Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton and The Red Barn Theatre, Jackson's Point. It was termed "wonderful" and "particularly delicious" by Toronto's Classical 96.3 FM.

Working with composer David Archibald, Doug created Love and Larceny, an "almost true" musical based on his Gemini-Award-winning movie about flamboyant Canadian con-artist Betsy Bigley. It opened at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in 2004 and was called a "singing, dancing delight -- a toe-tapping jewel of a musical."

It was followed by Rope's End, a bittersweet comedy/drama about the choices we make in life. It premiered during the Thousand Islands Playhouse's 25th anniversary season to great critical and popular success, and has gone on to further productions at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Orangeville, the Blyth Festival and elsewhere. Next came Till it Hurts, perhaps the first comedy written on the subject of philanthropy and undoubtedly the first to feature Beethoven, Stephen Lewis and Bono. Bowie's newest play is Somewhere Beyond the Sea, which premiered in 2012 at the Thousand Islands Playhouse.

Doug lives in Kingston, ON. and has served on the boards of Theatre Kingston, Cinema Kingston and Hope Theatre. He was also president of the Kingston Tennis Club for several years. When he isn't working on the a new play or script he can often be found on the courts, working on his backhand.[1]

Theatre

Somewhere Beyond the Sea (2012)

Comedy. 2m, 2f (many characters). 2 Acts Brief Encounter meets The 39 Steps.

As Robbie Burns said "The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft aglay." When Celia, a newly retired librarian, and closet foodie, escapes her stay-at-home hubby for a long dreamt of pilgrimage to the Scottish Highlands for a famous food and wine guru's "Beyond Bangers and Mash Tour", she finds her world hilariously upended by cataclysmic forces beyond her control. And if we're far from home and the world seems to be coming to an end - how would we behave? “Charming, with a hint of tannins!”

Somewhere Beyond the Sea premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in June 2012.

Till It Hurts (2010)

Comedy/Drama. 2m, 2f (several characters). 2 Acts Seymour Mann is in a state of panic – stark naked at a podium in front of a crowd of people. This turns out to be a dream, but Seymour’s waking predicament is almost as nightmarish. An English professor on the verge of retirement, he’s due to deliver a Last Lecture to a large, elite audience. It's a prestigious occasion on which he's expected to distill the life lessons he's learned, the wit and wisdom he's gained, over 30 plus years. But this has forced him to face the fact that he feels he has nothing to say worth saying. And in mere hours he's going to be publicly revealed as a fraud, a Hollow Man, who’s lived a life signifying -- nothing. So, as the clock ticks down, his state of mind is a toxic mix of depression, denial and panic. He's ready to implode. Or explode. Or pack up and flee – and then he gets a call from a telemarketer …

With "guest appearances" (real or imagined) by such icons as Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki, Beethoven and the King of Ireland himself - Bono, Till It Hurts poses the age-old question - can a call from a telemarketer change your life?

Till It Hurts opened to a sold-out audience at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in September 2010.

Rope's End (2006)

Drama/comedy. 1m, 1f (3 characters). 2 Acts “Hopeless Romantic Fantasies for 200, Alex.” Rope’s End opens with a middle-aged man, Toby Boone, alone in a drab room, talking to himself and an imaginary Alex Trebek. He's reached the end of his rope - figuratively - and perhaps literally, because he's trying to tie an ominous-looking loop in a length of rope. But he happens across an old photo - the love of his life. Maybe she can somehow lift him out of his terminal funk, if he can just get up his nerve to contact her. There's only one problem. He's let 31 years go by. He last saw her at summer camp when they were 13. And in 31 years, things change. What if she doesn't remember him? Even worse, what if she does?

Douglas Bowie’s most produced play, Rope's End is a bittersweet comedy about the choices we make in life, leading us through twists and turns, and ending up in a surprising and memorable place.

Rope's End premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in August 2006.

Love & Larceny: The Musical (2004)

Musical. 11m, 6f (some flexibility with doubling). 2 Acts An "almost true" musical, Love & Larceny (the musical) is the larger-than-life saga of Betsy Bigley, a simple Ontario farm girl, born in 1857, who became one of the most successful con artists of her age. The "seductive swindler", she used brains, beauty and sheer nerve to separate rich men from their money all the way from small-town Ontario to Wall Street.

Betsy’s audacious and improbable journey from the farm fields of Oxford County to the boardrooms of Manhattan is a rollicking adventure, a caper, a romance. Her many schemes and dreams lend themselves to a variety of musical modes -- from yearning ballads to patter songs to foot-stomping hoe-downs. While a "true" story, the facts of Betsy's life are hopelessly intermingled with rumour, gossip and legend, and this infectious caper, inspired as much by the legend of Betsy Bigley as the life, shines a musical spotlight on one of our most notorious and compelling characters.

Love & Larceny (the musical) premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in 2004.

Goodbye, Piccadilly (2002)

Comedy/drama. 2m, 3f. 2 Acts. Goodbye, Piccadilly begins with Bess Brickley in a flurry of excitement. She's just learned that Brick, her husband of 50 years, has been awarded the Order of Canada. This has barely had time to sink in, however, when she receives the shocking news that Brick has been found dead on a bench in Leicester Square in London, England. This is a tragedy cloaked in a mystery because she thought he was on his annual canoe trip in Algonquin Park. As layers are peeled away, secrets stretching back to World War II are uncovered. Full of heart, humour and surprises, Goodbye, Piccadilly is a universal story about the families we have and the families we make.

Goodbye, Piccadilly is Ottawa Little Theatre's entry into the 2015 Eastern Ontario Drama League Festival. The play premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in 2002.

!Sgodsdogs! (1997)

Comedy/Farce. 3m, 2f. 2 Acts Tim "Timbit" Simkins' little theatre is on the verge of bankruptcy when he gets the bold idea of luring back his old university pal, Jacko Germaine, now a famous, albeit B-List TV actor, to play Leonardo da Vinci in his new play "A Time of Gods". He expects Jacko to attract sold-out crowds and save the theatre. But Tim gets much more than he bargained for as an insecure star, a bumbling stagehand, a frustrated wife, an ambitious ingenue, and a trap door with a mind of its own combine to turn his plans on their head in this rapid-fire spoof of the fraught and frantic world of amateur theatre.

!Sgodsdogs! premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in September 1997.

The Noble Pursuit (1991)

Comedy. 3m, 2f. 2 Acts The Noble Pursuit is a farcical but literate comedy set in the backbiting, back-scratching, backstabbing world of CanLit. Rumours are rife and excitement is running high that Canada's pre-eminent man of letters, the august Noble Harmsworth, is on the verge of becoming the first Canadian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. But if the Nobel poo-bahs want to immortalize him, why does his former friend and admirer Lyle Lemmerman want to kill him? A lovestruck acolyte, a nosy critic, a dyspeptic agent, a missing manuscript (and a missing author) all contribute to the twists, turns (and laughs) in this sophisticated, suspenseful comedy about literary fame, fortune and fakery.

The Noble Pursuit premiered at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in 1991.

Amnesty

Drama. 4m. 1 act.

An offbeat drama about an aging odd couple -- two old men who have lived forever in a small apartment amidst a mountain of dusty library books, many of them years overdue. Their relationship is brought to a crisis when the library declares a one week amnesty on overdue books.

Produced by the CBC. Directed by Gary Plaxton

Produced on stage by The Smile Company, Toronto. Directed by Peter McConnell

Film & Television Productions

  • Must Be Santa (1999)
  • Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy (1999)
  • Grand Larceny (1991)
  • Chasing Rainbows (1988)
  • Obsessed (1988)
  • The Boy In Blue (1986)
  • Empire, Inc. (1985)
  • Love & Larceny (1985)
  • The War Is Over (1978)
  • Breakdown (1977)
  • Bargain Basement (1976)
  • U-Turn (1973)

Filmography taken from IMDB [2]

Awards

  • Columbus International Screenwriting Award for Grand Larceny
  • Best Writer (ACTRA Award) for Empire, Inc.
  • Margaret Collier Award (Gemini Award) for outstanding body of work by a writer in television

Publications

  • Douglas Bowie Two Plays: Rope's End & Goodbye, Piccadilly. Theatre Communications Group, 2009. [3]
  • Best Canadian Screenplays. Douglas Bowie and Tom Shoebridge, eds. Quarry Press, 1992. [4]

Name: Douglas Bowie
Location: Kingston
Category: Artists
Latitude: 44.2333
Longitude: -76.5000