Meet the Playwrights: Ted Westby and John D. Babcock III

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Wednesday night’s Bare Essentials reading is The Odds Against Death, co-written by John D. Babcock III (Independent, 2017) and Ted Westby. Read on to find out a little more about the pair, and about the play we’ll be seeing on Wednesday!

The writers:

John D. Babcock III is a writer for Agatha’s – A Taste of Mystery and the Mystery Café of Indianapolis. He is also a writer/performer with Sketchworks Comedy. John was cast in, and wrote additional scenes for, the Sketchworks Comedy production of VAPE THE MUSICAL– a parody of GREASE. VAPE won BroadwayWorld Atlanta’s 2018 award for “Best New Work” (non-professional). In August 2019, VAPE ran at Improv Asylum’s theatre in New York City. John’s play INDEPENDENT – about filmmaker John Cassavetes – received its premier at Essential Theatre’s 2017 Play Festival. John’s other writing credits include on-air scripts for Turner Classic Movies, Laughing Matters corporate entertainment, and the upcoming fantasy/comedy web series “The Campaign.” John enjoyed writing THE ODDS AGAINST DEATH with Ted Westby and looks forward to seeing their work on stage.

Ted Westby hails from a small Midwestern town and never really grew up. After somehow finishing college he spent twenty years writing and producing on-air content for TV stations around the country. During those tumultuous last years he foolishly wrote and produced four no-budget Indie short films that to this day have been seen by less people than it took to make them. For the past decade, after abandoning his steady day job and screenwriting aspirations, he has made his living photographing actors and a few regular people. In the last few years he has co-written two stage plays, a Television Pilot script, and threatened to finish his true-life book detailing his absurd life with photo models. Ted refuses to eat beets and still enjoys listening to music on cassettes and vinyl.

The Play:

THE ODDS AGAINST DEATH is a modern, classic farce in which a simple romantic dinner for two becomes an evening where five people are confronted with deceit, deception, and Death herself. The play “encompasses my feelings toward love, death, and foolish ideals – not necessarily in that order,” says Ted. “Our endeavor was to give an audience both an entertaining evening as well as a few choice bits to contemplate while they walked back to their cars.”

Where did the idea for this play come from?

Initially conceived by co-author Ted Westby as a short film, The Odds Against Death began its life as a good old fashioned farce about love, miscommunication, and death. He introduced the idea to Babcock and the pair fleshed out the idea and made it into a two act play. “I’ve always been fascinated by theoretical characters, ie: Death, Imaginary friends, anyone out of the accepted norms of ‘reality’,: says Ted, adding, “I found it a wonderful concept to have Death actually come and ‘kill’ someone’s romantic ideals, thus forcing them to come face to face with absolute reality.”

How did you get into playwriting?

Ted: I’ve been writing most of my life, predominantly scripts and screenplays. My original introduction to play-writing began years ago at the 24 Plays presented by the good people at the Horizon Theatre. I co-wrote three short plays during three different 24 Hour Play fests. The Odds Against Death is my first full-length stage play.

John: I began writing sketches and stories in grade school. I continued writing through high school and began writing longer pieces in college. I had a natural interest in writing and was something I always kept doing.

What is the importance of staged readings for your creative process and the development of your play? What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?

“Staged readings are a great opportunity to hear the characters come alive. It’s beneficial hearing actors read the work out loud and observing how they interpret the character,” observes John. “Reactions to staged readings inform me what areas need work and what areas did well.” He adds, “There are always surprises.”

“Until you hear it out loud, read by voices other than your own, you don’t really hear it live and breathe,” says Ted in agreement.

“THE ODDS AGAINST DEATH has had a handful of private readings,” says John, “but Ted and I are really looking forward to having the play read to an audience. An audience reaction is what we hope to gain from the reading at Bare Essentials.

Ted adds, “This will be our first reading with an impartial audience. This will be a real good test of how it will be received by a general audience… I hope.”

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The Odds Against Death will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Monday, August 12, at 7:30pm. Directed by Bill Murphey.

Readers: Mary Saville, Robby Owenby, Evan Cleaver, Diany Rodriguez, Steve Hudson, Christie Brumfield Baggett, Kathleen McManus, and Anne Stainback Davis.

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public thanks to support from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.