Why He’s A Top 40: He uses theatre and humour to speak out against injustice and social problems, from homophobia to teen pregnancy.
Key To His Success: Keeping his finger on the pulse of the time. “I’m a political animal and a political artist.”
Not only does Chris Craddock own more than 100 Incredible Hulk action figures, he also possesses a similar dichotomy to the mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner and his raging alter ego.
“It’s a potent metaphor,” says the actor, writer and director. “My adult self appreciates it on that level, because you have a guy who’s a smart guy, a gentle guy, who would never hurt anybody, but if you make him mad, he will destroy you.”
For the record, Craddock won’t physically harm anyone. He’s actually a very funny, good-natured guy. But his politically charged works don’t pull any punches in exposing injustice and confronting issues like teen pregnancy and suicide, and thanks to his biting humour, his works have raked in award after award.
To date, Craddock has picked up five Sterling Awards for Alberta theatre excellence, including Outstanding Independent Production for BASH’d! a gay rap opera, which he co-wrote with Nathan Cuckow, about a hate crime victim and his lover who avenges the crime with “straight-bashing.”
BASH’d! worked the fringe festival circuit in 2006. It was an instant hit and accumulated international awards, including a GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award in 2007. The opera also landed a three-month run off-Broadway.
“Even though I’m a straight, married guy, I don’t see the disconnect. A lot of people have asked me what’s up with all the queer content in my work, and I don’t get that,” Craddock says. “There’s injustice out there and it’s for all of us to be involved in [fixing it].”
Craddock’s gentler “Bruce Banner” side is best demonstrated by his work with youth. As the Edmonton Public Library’s writer-in-residence, Craddock uses the At-Risk Youth Improv Education Program he created in 2005 as a tool to help inner-city kids deal with their issues by offering them an outlet through improv acting.
“Self-expression will hopefully lead to them disclosing things happening to them behind closed doors that contribute to the fact that they’re homeless, to the fact that they’re involved in drugs and sometimes prostitution,” Craddock says. “It’s a little thing we can do to create a little positive benefit.”
Theatre for young audiences has always held a special place in Craddock’s work. In 2001, NeWest Press published his Alberta Book Award-winning Naked at School: Three Plays for Teens, a collection that addresses the issues of suicide, sex, pregnancy and substance abuse.
For Craddock, the trick is finding a way to play the roles of mentor and warrior and, unlike the Hulk, switch between the two at will.
“This is what we all want,” he says. “To be thought of as smart and gentle and kind, but also to be thought of as someone to never, ever fuck with.”