CBC Playwright Pilot Stream Pitch

Used: Tales from The History of The Condom

Pitch by Adam Bailey

Backstabbing and deceit, vivisection, prostitution, syphilis and the death of a prized lion are all part of the history of the condom.

Used: Tales from The History of The Condom, a drama for tv or radio that will keep audiences captivated with its unusual subject matter, roller coaster approach to storytelling and what we will crave the most after Covid-19 – a world with touch and intimacy.

Season 1:

While the nation readies for war, Canada’s Dorothea Palmer goes to prison for giving condoms away to the poor Catholic French in Ottawa’s suburbs. Her boss A.R. Kaufman is more than happy to use her as a pawn, turning her trial into a legal spectacle, but where he sees a path to profit, she sees one for women’s rights.

During this season we follow Dorothea as she struggles to keep her personal moral code while discovering that she’s a patsy for her amoral boss. Kaufman’s participation in the eugenics movement lurks in the background, causing suspicion at a time when divisions are already fraught between French and English. Meanwhile, Dorothea was supposed to only give the prophylactic away to wives who had already had children, and instead gave them to anyone who asked, including sex workers.

As the case turns into in Canada’s trial of the century, bringing in spiritual and scientific experts, public sentiment divides causing Dorothea to become infamous, and the target of sexual violence. After being attack while walking home from the courts, Dorothea claims to have protected her virtue fighting back with all her might. This lie, that she stopped her attacker, turns her into a hero. She and Kaufman soon win their case.

But when Kaufman goes to reward her with fame and a campaign to make her “Canada’s Margaret Stranger” – the face of a movement. She forcefully, and with dignity, declines. Wanting to take back control of her life’s story.

Characters:

Dorothea Palmer: Our quirky protagonist with a British accent and high moral code who seldomly realizes when she’s done something brave. A.R. Kaufman: A shrewd businessman, highly connected to Canada’s top politicians as a war manufacturer. He is both ally and antagonist. Miss Todd: Dorothea’s prim co-worker and friend, frightened of Ottawa’s French underclass and secretly helping Kaufman manipulate Dorothea. Various Women of Eastview: these French housewives, prostitutes and labourers mostly stand up for Miss Palmer while dealing with their own struggles. Pluss: A variety of experts during the trial, a judge, journalists, and the men who threaten Dorothea outside the trial including her attacker.

Episode Concept (Mid-Season):

The Women of Eastview debate whether reports of Dorothea fighting off her attacker are true. In flashbacks Miss Todd must convince Dorothea that if her reputation is ruined, they will lose the case. Dorothea wrestles with the one thing she promised she wouldn’t do during this trial, lie.

After our successful first season this anthology series continues to go backwards, delving deeper into the history of the condom.

Season 2: How it became illegal.

The eminently dislikable Anthony Comstock is a perfect villain, self-important, moralistic, a blowhard and a bore. He fights to make the condom “obscene” and therefore illegal as retribution to a series of misadventures battling the most prominent women of his time. Most notably he hated a woman dubbed “Mrs. Satan” the most: Victoria Woodhull.  The polyamorous woman who ran her own printing press, had the first woman run firm on wall street and was the first woman to run for U.S. President. She was so forward and progressive she made enemies with Susan B. Anthony. The ongoing battles between these two ends with a scandalous affair between America’s top preacher and one of his practitioners being exposed, and the creation of the Comstock laws, which turns the world against its favourite prophylactic.

Season 3: How It was Invented.

Promising young Anatomist, Gabrielle Falloppio, is favoured by Medici, who makes a spectacle of handing over a prized lion for public dissection, illustrating the favour bestowed upon this academic. But when “The Office of the Night” catches Fallaoppio participating in Pisa’s secret, illegal gay life, the fundamentalist Medici turns sour on his prodigy. Not wanting to draw attention to the truth of the situation Medici refuses to charge Falloppio with sodomy opting for a charge vivisection instead.

To prop up the charges, Medici makes claims against an invention Falloppio was claiming could stop the spread of the Pox. But word of this device gains the attention of powerful figures in the Venetian Republic, where prostitution pays for cathedrals to be built. They pay to have Falloppio freed and sent to them, sparing him from certain death. Here the world’s first scientific trials will be performed, and the condom is born.

This work is based on a play in development by Adam Bailey. Early drafts of some scenes were read at Toronto’s Sing For Your Supper script reading series.

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