Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Playwright Profile: Steve Pirot

1) What is your writing process? Do you start writing right away? Outline? Research?
I am a student of the Dr. Frankenstein School of Formalism, which requires that I write at night when the screaming mob might shut the hell up for a few hours so I can focus on my craft, please-and-thank-you. What I create comes out my perpetual research. Most of my creations are abortive failures, which should never be seen or heard by another human being. Aimless. Musing. Experiments. Plain crap.
I regularly cannibalize myself. (I’ll probably try to put this paragraph into a play someday.) I have a graveyard of scribbling to steal from, from which I stitch together some kind of form from preexisting forms. At first all I expect is a mumbling, shambling beast, that might grow to be more articulate as it acquires self-knowledge.
I like to draw outlines. I like outlines that are shaped like clouds that are shaped like elephants. I don't plot stories. It’s a nasty habit. It stunts your growth. It’s expensive. It’s linear.
I write when I feel like it, but I'm always writing, so you could deduce that I feel like it a lot. It’s fun. When I have fun writing something, then I reasonably assume that actors will have fun performing it, directors directing it, stage managers stage managing it, and the audience audiencing it.
2) Where do you write?
I don’t particularly enjoy writing on my laptop, but I usually write on my laptop. I'm trying not to take my computer everywhere I go these days, so I mostly work at home. I do enjoy how easily computers can restructure text. However, I prefer to write with pen and paper, and there is a row of benches overlooking the river valley just a block away from where I live, so when the weather is not so cold as to freeze ink, that's where I might go.
3) What do you need to have with you when you write?
I don’t ‘need’ anything, but I do like to have music when I write. I also like a bar of Lindt Excellence 80% dark chocolate, a bowl of cashews, a bowl of walnuts, and a bowl of raisins, and a big coffee, and books, and water with bubbles in it. However, I must note that these are also the things I like to have with me when I’m watching movies, or reading books, or entertaining guests: they’re my regular domestic comforts.

4) What is the last great play you saw?, What made it great?
Ladyvision: a one-woman show created (with Trent Wilkie) and performed by Jill Pollock. It’s a particular expression of her peculiar genius. It defies expectation. And it’s hilarious. And it’s heartbreaking. I would say the same of Jason Chinn’s Ladies Who Lynch. Jason understands the expectations of the audience, he builds the expectation of the audience, and then he defies them. It’s great writing, but that only allows for the possibility of a great play: it doesn’t guarantee it. What made both of these plays great were great performances.
5) Mac or PC?
I wish I could proclaim Linux, but I’ve never used it.  I’m more excited about pens. The Sharpie Fine Tip Pen is my favourite. Relatively inexpensive and fun to scriven with. It reminds me of a pen I used to use in the 80s.
6) Who are your mentors?
I’ve been influenced by hundreds of people, but my two major mentors have been Tom Peacocke (Drama Department of the U of A), and Richard Fowler (ex-Artistic Director of PRIMUS Theatre).
7) Do you have writing rituals?
8) Best advice for when you hit a wall?
The ‘wall’ is just an excuse to not write. Perhaps it’s a valid excuse. Maybe you’re exhausted, or hungry, or there’s something else you’d rather be doing/should be doing, or maybe you’re just a lazy person, or you’re scared of failure, or scared of making the wrong choice… or some other bullshit. But, there is no ‘wall’ that is any more real than Santa Claus. Stop believing in walls; stop making excuses; keep writing. Or stop writing. Writing is an act of will. Either you will or you won’t.
9) Best piece of grammar or style advice?
Brevity. Soul. Wit. 
10) If you were to write a play about your own life, what would the opening line be?
“For fuck’s sake. Not again!”

Steve Priot is a born and bred Edmontonian theatre artist.  He has a BA in Drama and a BFA Acting from the University of Alberta.  He has worked with Azimuth theatre as a road manager, actor, director, playwright, and is currently their a Co-Artistic Producer.

Whirlwind Weekend

Well, then that happened...

This past weekend (Sept 23 - 25) I had the pleasure and opportunity to attend the Playwrights' Development Centres of Canada, annual meeting and conference, hosted by Maureen Labonte and the Banff Centre for the Arts. On hand were representatives from all of the PDCC's from BC to Atlantic Canada and every province in between. On the morning of the first day every centre was asked to give a report on what their organization was up to and what was happening in their region. I reported on the new initiatives (Prologue, Boot Camp) as well as our other programming (Act One, Act Two, Playwrights Circles) and spoke of our current trend of creating greater structure to all of our programming. Not to toot APN's horn, but honk honk, we have been one of the busiest centres in Canada over the past year both from an organizational standpoint as well as playwriting itself. I received many questions and inquiries about our programs and structures over the weekend ranging from how we work, what we do and how we do it.

Each centre (thanks to the Canada Council/Playwrights' Guild of Canada) was able to bring a writer with them to the conference and the afternoon was spent discussing the work that they were doing within their region. On the second evening we heard excerpts from plays the writers were working on, all of which were amazing and incredibly diverse. From Jenny Munday's new work called Bunk Beds about two young sisters fighting for space as they both grow older to a monologue by Atlantic playwright Ryan Griffith's about a married man who one night rolls over to look in his wife's eyes and falls in love with her. The readings led to a long discussion in the bar that night about how do we get the great plays being written in every region into the hands of producers outside of those regions. I feel that this is a conversation that is going to continue right up to the date of next year's conference.

We had information sessions from Canada Council regarding their new Operational Granting Streams and from the Playwrights' Guild of Canada regarding their new programs and policies. Both incredibly eye opening and interesting. Michelle and I then headed back to Calgary before the conference ended as we had to set up the Playwrights' Guild of Canada Meet and Greet event at the Auburn Saloon, where we were privileged to hear a reading from Brad Fraser of a new work he has in development.

All in all a busy, but fantastic weekend where I got my batteries recharged. I left the weekend thinking that the PDCC organizations are not all that different from the writers we serve. For a year we work in isolation and then emerge from our regional cocoons to greet each other and check in and talk about the work that we've been doing. I find it incredibly reassuring (as I've noticed most playwrights do) when you come out of the basement and chat with others like you and discover that we are all striving to do the same things...write the play or aid the play and that as regional as we may be, we aren't at all different.

Thanks to Heather Inglis our who organized a brilliant weekend.

And now, a nap!!!


Trevor, the ED

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Tip of the Trade ~ by Ellen Chorley

Tip:  Never forget the power of the the "Save As" option.  Hit a wall?  Hit "Save As" and then let yourself go in a completely different direction.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't, you can always go back to the point where you saved, only this time you might have a new perspective.

Ellen Chorley is an Edmonton-based playwright, producer and actor.  Recent plays by Ellen include "Tudor Queens: A Burlesque,"  "Big Winner,"  "Emma Burden" and the Sterling nominated "The Fairy Catcher's Companion."  Ellen is also the Founder and Artistic Producer of Promise Productions, an Edmonton based theatre fro young audiences company. 

When Art Mirrors Life or Vice Versa

Daily I get the Theatre newsfeed from the New York Times as well as getting the National and Arts newsfeeds from the Globe and Mail. This morning I came across these two articles (click on the newspapers to link to the articles), which started me wondering where do playwrights get their ideas from? If one gets their ideas from the current events of the day, how long is a current event current?

The year after 9/11 we had a number of plays with a variety of thoughts and responses to the tragedy. Then we had a period of silence until the recent 10th anniversary of the tragedy (on another thought, I always feel strange using the word anniversary when describing a tragedy as anniversary to me is a celebratory word). Will there be a time in the future when 9/11 will no longer be the subject of plays, just as the war in Vietnam has no longer become the subject of plays and movies? And when large subjects like the aforementioned are no longer the subject of plays, is that because the events are no longer current or because we've exhausted our voice on the subject? Does an audience no longer wish to hear or have we said everything to be said?

Food for thought and hopefully some dialogue.

I was also struck by the impending death of Clifford Olsen and began to wonder when a play about a man imprisoned for life who is finally facing death would surface in this country.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

APN Member Profile: Jacqueline Russell

Bio:  Jacqueline Russell is a director, performer, playwright, and producer. A graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting Program, Jacqueline has toured across Western Canada with her feminist play Raunch (with co-creator Alice Nelson). She has worked as a performer/creator on several projects with Swallow-A-Bicycle Theatre, including Into the Abyss (High Performance Rodeo) and Across the Tracks. Last year Jacqueline produced (and directed several pieces for) “Girls gone Wilde” a festival of new work from female Canadian playwrights. Jacqueline has worked extensively in the TYA genre as both a performer and director. She is the Artistic Producer of Evergreen Theatre in Calgary, AB where she directs and produces educational children’s theatre that tours across the province. Her newest artistic adventure is as the Artistic Producer for Urban Curvz Theatre in Calgary.

Who are you? 
A very lucky girl, who gets to do what she loves and get paid for it.

What are you working on?I am currently working on a play that was commissioned by the Town of Morinville in celebration of their 100th Anniversary. I went out and spent a week in Morinville last spring interviewing residents and researching the town's history and wrote most of it over the summer. It will be performed in October. Even though I made a few Corky St. Clair jokes about it, there is a lot of really griping material to be found in a small town.

What inspires you?
Other artists. Watching my friends and colleagues take on the crazy challenges of self employment, lack of resources, constant self doubt etc. and then seeing them some how managing to create phenomenal art. It makes me want to paint my face red and white and run up and down 17th ave screaming and cheering.
Jacqueline Russell in Raunch
Also brave, funny women. Tina Fey, Lucille Ball, Ariel Levy. The first play I ever wrote was about Nellie McClung. I was 13. I won a Canadian Heritage Prize for it. I always call on Nellie when I am in need of some guts and guile. 

What is your favorite play?
That's a tough question. I can think of three plays where the images and words have continued to float in my mind for years after I first saw them. I, Claudia by Kristen Thomson, Frozen by Bryony Lavery and Jake's Gift by Julia Mackey (which is part of Lunchbox Theatre’s season this fall! Don’t miss it!)

Who is your favourite playwright?
That's even tougher. Judith Thompson, Ann-Marie MacDonald, and Timberlake Wertenbaker are all playwrights who made me want to try writing plays. 

Interested in being profiled? Don't hesitate to email us and let us know! We want to get to know you. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Welcome to the BLOG!!!

Welcome to the newest addition of Alberta Playwrights Network – our blog!

One of the best things about APN is its ability to bring together playwrights from around the province. Whether you’re a seasoned professional playwright or an emerging writer, there is something incredibly special about sharing tips of the trade and learning about the process of your colleagues and peers.

The goal of this blog is to foster that sense of community. It is our hope to engage you in discussions, inspire you to write, and maybe teach you a trick or two. We encourage you to participate in the dialogue– so please comment often, ask questions, and feel free to interact with this fantastic network of playwrights.

On the right hand side you’ll see labels appear as we create posts under certain categories – with time that list will grow, and you’ll have a lot of knowledge at your fingertips. Some of the things you’ll find here are tips of the trade, playwright profiles, and exercises that will help you flex your writing muscles – just to name a few.  For other resources don’t forget to check out our BRAND NEW website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Of course this is a new endeavor for us, so if there’s something you’d like to see, a playwright you’d love to hear from, or a question your dying to ask please let us know.

This blog belongs to all the members of APN. As we continue to work toward bringing works from the page to the stage, we also aspire to create a solid network full of inspiration and support.

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Lana Michelle Hughes
APN Board Member and social media geek 

PS. If you don't like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, contribute to our blog, we'll begin stalking you...don't laugh...we have your IP Address.