Carol Shields Festival of New Works

love-and-rageI am so excited that it is that time of year again…time for the Carol Shields Festival of New Works at the Prairie Theatre Exchange.

As a member of PTE’s Playwrights Unit, I will be hosting the Thursday Night Gala, and I am pleased to say my new short-shots, Agony & Ecstasy Parts I -V will also be a part of the evening’s proceedings.

But that is not why I am going to urge you to check out the Carol Shields Festival at PTE. It would be great to see tons of people there to see if my jokes are working, but I am really encouraging you to come check out the Gala and some of the readings because it is a unique and remarkable weekend that you should take advantage of. Also, there are a lot of us who need you there.

As playwrights, we work in quiet rooms by ourselves for very long periods of time. We engage in full conversations in our heads, characters fighting and laughing and loving each other pretty much non-stop. But for the most part is is a solitary endeavour, sometimes quite lonely. If you’re lucky, you have friends who will read your work, and if you are really lucky, you might get a workshop for it. If you have horseshoes shoved up your ass (read: extremely lucky) you might have a production of your play. But often there is a step missing, one that your play and audiences would benefit from greatly, and that is the staged reading.

I personally loved staged readings. In many ways they boil theatre down to its essence (I am referring to traditional, script-based, Western theatre in this post. Other forms of devised and collaborative theatre are mind-blowing and awesome too…). You’ve got the actors and the words and an audience. Brilliant. What a gift. You wouldn’t want it all the time of course. There is so much to be said for a gorgeous set, beautiful costumes, enthralling lights. When done right, those greatly enhance the theatre experience. But ultimately, if you are there to hear a story, the story is what is important, and everything else is there to serve that goal: tell them the story. Let it be known.

Actors and words are not hard to come by. Winnipeg is choc-full of incredible talent, and there are way too many gifted performers and writers for the slots available to them. But audiences…audiences are harder to come by, especially for the all-important staged reading.

But if you are not an actor or a writer, its the closest thing you can do to be a part of the actual writing process and it can be a very inspirational and uplifting experience. The work is usually far from perfect. But it’s part of the fun, hearing what is already great, ruminating on what still needs work. It’s like witnessing a birth. Or more like a small child taking her first steps. You know what she’s doing, but where will she end up?

The playwrights are pretty much guaranteed to be there, measuring your response, reading the crowd. And they are not sitting through an entire run and then revisiting it later. They are looking at these staged readings as a night of work, immediate bio-feedback. Many of them will be back at their computers the very next morning, taking your critique whether you knew you were giving it or not.

It’s like you are entering that small quiet little room with them, holding their hand and saying, “Thanks for writing this. Here’s what I think.” You’re opinion is so important. And you’re making the whole process a little less lonely. You’re experiencing theatre at it’s very core. Isn’t that something?

I look forward to seeing you there!

The Secret Annex at RMTC

Anne_FrankI am so pleased to announce that my new play, The Secret Annex, will have it’s world premier next winter at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. It’s an incredible honour that RMTC has chosen to produce this play, not only because they are one the oldest and largest regionals in the country, but because the line-up for the 2013/2014 season is so remarkable. I am humbled to be programmed alongside Chekov, Ives, and Williams to name a few!

It is also particularly exciting that the play Hirsch by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson will also be presented on the Warehouse stage in the same season. Annex is about a young Holocaust survivor named Anne Frank. It explores what she might have become had she survived the war. Hirsch is about a young Holocaust survivor named John Hirsch, who went on to found the Manitoba Theatre Centre and leave an unmistakable mark on Canadian and American theatre. There is a beautiful symmetry to programming both of these plays in the same season and on the same stage.

You can find out more about the incredible line-up and schedule here.

See you in the audience!

RMTC’S lineup for next season includes play about local theatre giant, two Pulitzer Prize combatants and a beloved Christmas tale
RMTC’s new season a mix of classic and contemporary

Final Weekend – She’s Not There @ Brown/Trinity Playwright’s Rep

What an awesome ride it has been! She’s Not There, my new comedy closes this weekend and I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on this remarkable summer.

The experience of working on a new play is often a stressful one. Not to offend my friends who are mothers, but in some microcosmic way, it’s like giving birth. You gestate for months and months, and then there is this furious rush to get it done. It’s painful and glorious and frightening and in the end you have this new thing stumbling around, finding its feet, engaging with others and seeing the world. Ok, so maybe its more like giving birth to a horse.

Anyway, now that the obligatory artist cliche’s are covered, I have to say this has ben one of the most positive theatre experiences I have ever had in my life. Shana Gozansky my director, Rich, Leah and Barrie the actors, all the designers and staff, we just had a great time brining this sucker into the world. And though I hope it will go on to see more productions and  many stages in the future, I think it will always be Brown/Trinity Playwright’s Rep’s baby. Or baby horse. You know what I mean.

Back to Winnipeg in a week.

She’s Not There

The first round of She’s Not There at the Brown/Trinity Playwright’s Rep is now completed, and it was a fantastic run! We had very nice houses of enthusiastic audiences and great feedback. There will be two more shows on festival weekend, July 29 at 8pm and July 30 at 1pm. You can find out about how to get tickets here.

In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out the next show The Killing of Michael X: A New Film by Celia Wallace by Cory Hinkle and the one after that, My New Best Friend by Brooke Berman.

Providence Revisted – going home again

Well, let it never be said that you can’t go home again.

After eight years away, I am back in Providence for the summer, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Thayer Street, the main drag at Brown University, is a mix of the startlingly familiar and just startling…East Side Pockets still nestled into its fragrant little corner of the world- now across the street from a trendy sushi restaurant. The dingy CVS still competing with an even dingier Store 24 (changed only in name to the bewildering Todeschi Food Mart) yet,  my favourite coffee shop, Oceans, is now replaced by a Thai restaurant. It’s hardly the town that time forgot, but there still remains a lot to remember, to reminisce about and to rekindle my love affair with this little college town of my youth.

And the play? The play is pretty good, if I do say so myself. With the incredible input of a fabulous director (Shana Gozansky – HIRE HER) and three pretty remarkable MFA candidate actors (Barrie Kreinik, Lean Anderson and the now graduated Rich Williams – HIRE THEM TOO) the play has already come leaps and bounds in just the first week. It’s such an amazing process to see it come to life in the hands of these very skilled theatre practitioners, and though Shana and I have been working on rewrites since March, that tweaking and shaping that gets done once the actors are on their feet really feels like the finishing touches.

In general I have spent the last week at rehearsals and reconnecting with this amazing little gem of a city- remembering with alternating laughter and cringes the rich and (mostly) happy years I lived here. Ah Providence. Good to be back.

She’s Not There – Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep

Hey friends! It’s been a very busy time up here in Winnipeg…and I am looking forward to upcoming summer!

Speaking of, this summer I will be in Providence RI for most of it working on my new-ish play She’s Not There. It is a comedy that appeared as a one-act at the Fringe in 2009, and now it will be a two-act with a brand new cast, an awesome director and a nice full 0n production.

The dates of the show are July 6-9 at 8pm, and then July 29 ay 8pm and July 30 at 1pm. You can find out all the details at the website: you’ve never been in Providence over the summer, its really beautiful!

I will keep you posted on all the happenings of the summer.

A reading of “The Golem”

I am very excited that my play The Golem will be presented by MTC as a part of this year’s Carol Shields Festival of New Works (put on by PTE).

It will be read on September 25th at 3pm at the MTC Warehouse. You can find all the info at the PTE Website.

Here is a description of the play in its current form:

The Golem follows the struggles of a Jewish theatre troupe in Warsaw in 1942, and their attempts to produce the classic Yiddish play about a powerful defender made of clay.  The director has trouble finding a strong enough actor among his emaciated colleagues, and finally casts a well-fed member of the hated Jewish Ghetto Police, whose presence in the rehearsal hall incites fear and suspicion among the other actors.

This play was produced when I was in University with my friend John Krasinski in one of the lead roles! It also had a reading last summer in NY. I am very excited to work on this script once again as I think it has loads of potential. If you are in Winnipeg, I hope to see you there.

A Moving Comment from Morely Walker

Much to my surprise and delight, I awoke this morning to find a very unexpected shout out to the play in Morley Walker’s column in the Winnipeg Free Press. For those of you who don’t know Morley, he is a notoriously picky reviewer, so it is especially exciting that he liked the play. You can find the whole article here, but below are some excerpts that I particularly enjoyed.

…beyond the easy identification with the play’s universal themes, it was the quality of the writing, the acting and the direction that left me gasping with approval.

The hilarious sparring between Sobler and Daniel Kash reminded me, oddly enough, of Neil Simon’s Odd Couple, a classic of 20th-century theatrical comedy.

Some Things You Keep was the most memorable evening of theatre I’ve had in years. I was expecting nothing special, but it blew me away. If there is justice in the world, this play will be picked up across the country.