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Professor puts a secret life on-stage


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March 10, 2011

Professor and head of Drama, alumnus and playwright Clem Martini’s play, The Secret Life of the Octopus, is coming to life at Saskatchewan’s Persephone Theatre.

It’s part of Persephone’s sold-out Sask Tel Youth Tour, which has become a mainstay in Saskatchewan and brings theatre to gymnasiums and other venues around the province.

Martini has had 30 of his plays produced in Canada and the US, while 12 of his plays–The Secret Life of the Octopus being the most recent–have been published.
The Secret Life of the Octopus follows Leah and Willis, two students who meet in detention after school and are tasked with maintaining the school’s aquarium. As they go about their detention chores, Leah and Willis discover an octopus and after learning the octopus will be donated to the local university, they hatch a plan to save their new friend and release it into the wild.

Animals have been a recurring theme in several of Martini’s plays over the years, but this is the first one to focus on an ocean-dwelling creature we really don’t understand.

“We tend to overlook all kinds of things because they don’t suit our notions of what’s attractive. With an octopus, there’s not the same kind of immediate connection we have with mammals, but it was just a great fit.”

At the Quest production of The Secret Life of the Octopus in 2006, the octopus was an extraordinarily designed puppet and when it came out “the audience was totally still, and every time the octopus did something, the kids would erupt into shrieks of excitement.”

Martini says that part of being a playwright is giving up control. “You give up ownership because once you write it, it’s open to everyone.”

In addition to producing and publishing plays and writing textbooks and novelettes, Martini has made room for many other types of writing. He has written screen plays for the National Film Board and other independents and radio plays for CBC. Martini has also worked with local theatre groups like Alberta Theatre Projects, Workshop West, the Calgary Opera and Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. Martini has also given back to his childhood neighborhood of Bowness and the local campus of Wood’s Homes where he taught writing and theatre. 

In addition to his teaching and administrative roles, Martini gets up early to write every day and is working on a series of novels and a play for the Blyth Festival. “Anything that I’m curious about could be material for my plays. You end up writing about whatever you’re engaged in.”