Friday, 27 January 2012

Looking For New Board Members

Are you interested in helping to shape and govern the future of your organization? APN is currently looking for members interested in joining the Board of Directors for the 2012 -2014 term.

Suggested qualifications for election:

- Must be a member in good standing of Alberta Playwrights’ Network

- Must have an interest in New Play Development

- Must have an interest in Alberta theatre community

- Should have some experience or familiarity with APN, its services and programs

- Previous non-profit experience would be considered an asset, but not necessary

- Could have connections to the business community but must be deeply committed to the arts and playwrighting in Alberta

The time commitment is minimal (3 – 5 hours monthly) which includes attendance at monthly board meetings conducted via conference call.

If you are interested in putting your name forth for nomination to the board, please contact Trevor Rueger ( Elections will take place at the Annual General Meeting on Sunday, February 26, 2012.

Volunteer your time and make a difference in your organization.

Monday, 23 January 2012

How to Write a Good 10 Minute Play

I've been seeing a lot of competitions for 10 min plays lately, this especially seems to be popular in the United States.  So I came across this article from NYCPlaywrights (which is another great resource for playwrights by the way) on how to write a good 10 minute play. Perhaps you might find it useful...

Here are some highlights:

  • Does the play pull me in right away?
    There are only 10 minutes - the play has to pull you in right from the start.
  • Does the play surprise me?
    If the play is about something I've heard a hundred times already, I'll be bored. Or if it unfolds in predictable ways, I will be bored.
  • Does the play make me laugh or well up? Or both?
    Art must have an emotional impact.
  • Does the play have a dramatic struggle?
    People sitting around bickering is not a dramatic struggle. So many people don't seem to understand that.
  • Does the play have vivid characters in compelling situations?
    People sitting around bickering is not a compelling situation. Especially if the characters are called "man" and "woman." If the playwright can't be bothered to come up with a name for a character, it's usually a sign that the character is as generic as the label. This is especially true of a 10-minute play where you really don't have time for generic supporting characters.
  • Does the play show more than tell? "Show, don't tell" has been said a million times and yet maybe about 20% of all the people who write plays - including lionized, famous playwrights - seem to get this.
  • Does the play blow my mind through sheer funky originality?This is the Holy Grail of ten-minute plays. I've seen only a handful of ten-minute plays that have blown my mind.
  • There isn't much different here from good playwriting in general, but I think the point is that when you've only got ten minutes, you gotta make 'em count.

    See the full article HERE.

    Monday, 16 January 2012

    APN Member Profile: Andrea Beca

    BIO:  Andrea Beça has a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Alberta and an MLitt in Playwriting and Dramaturgy from the University of Glasgow. She founded Cowardly Kiss Theatre in 2006 in order to produce her work at the Edmonton Fringe; since then, it has expanded to include independent production, and she is thrilled to be producing her first full season this year. When she is not enveloped in Cowardly Kiss Theatre, Andrea works as a freelance writer with her new company, Comma Dot Dash.  Her writing has previously been nominated for both Writers’ Guild of Alberta awards and for the national Journey Prize. In the midst of everything, Andrea spends 200% of her time with her two puppies, Oscar Wilde Beça and Lucille Ball Beça. 

    Who are you?
    My name's Andrea Beça. I'm the Artistic Director of Cowardly Kiss Theatre, an indie company currently based in Edmonton. I'm a playwright, director, and dramaturg. I'm also a freelance writer (through my company Comma Dot Dash) to pay the bills, so I guess I'm fully enveloped in writing! I like words!

    What are you working on?
    At the moment, I'm in the pre-rehearsal research-and-note-making process for Cowardly Kiss' second production in its inaugural season, which is Jean Genet's The Maids. It's a brilliant, crazy, challenging play; I'm very excited to get started with the cast and dive into the text together. I'm also sorting out final details for three shows in the 2012 Edmonton Fringe (doesn't it feel like the last one just ended?). 

    What inspires you?
    This is a tough question. I feel like just about anything can inspire me, if it happens to me at the right time, whether it's a piece of art or a random person walking by me on the street. I'd say generally, I'm inspired by people and landscapes. Most of my work stems from a conversation I've either taken part in or overheard. But I'm also often inspired by the feeling I get when I walk into a place, even if it's a wide-open space. I ask a lot of "Why?" - why would she say that, or why would someone come/live here? 

    What is your favourite play?
    I'm the worst at picking favourites. I blame the fact that I'm a Libra. But The Importance of Being Earnest is one of my very favourites. No matter how many times I've read and seen it (and trust me, that number is staggering), I never, ever get tired of it. I think a lot of people think it's very simple and funny, but there's a lot going on in that play, a lot of subversion of genre and society. The fact that you can enjoy it just for a laugh or really dig into it and find all of the different layers in it is what makes it so well written, I think.

    Who is your favourite playwright?
    There's no way I'm only going to list one! So instead, a few of my favourites are Oscar Wilde, Caryl Churchill, Martin McDonagh, Enda Walsh, Daniel MacIvor, Tim Crouch...

    Mac or PC?
    I'm pretty devoted to my Mac. I can find my way (very slowly) around a PC after nearly a decade of not using them, though I've never had anything against them. 

    Do you have any writing rituals?
    I used to be very particular about how I went about writing anything. I find that as time goes on, I have particular ways of writing depending on what I'm writing. I prefer, for example, to do professional, technical writing during the day, whereas my creative writing juices flow in the evening and wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, I've also found that I increasingly prefer to write plays by hand before I type them, or at least getting started that way. It's something I never used to do, but when I was in Glasgow writing my MA thesis play, I discovered I could write pages and pages in a notebook in the middle of an insanely loud coffee shop, while I'd go blank in my quiet flat, in front of my laptop. The Internet's become a big distraction over the last five years; maybe that's why. 

    What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever gotten?
    I'm sure that I have forgotten the best piece of writing advice I've ever gotten (oops). But there are a couple things that have always stuck with me. One of my creative writing professors in university always said that there was no such thing as writer's block, because as a writer, you should write every single day, and if you're doing that, it's impossible to be "blocked." You may have trouble figuring out where a certain piece of work is headed, but if you're always working on something, it'll eventually come to you, even if you're writing a magazine article and the thing you're struggling with is a play. I've found this to be very true in my career. In fact, when I'm feeling stuck with a play, I'll sometimes joke that I'm just going to start another one to find my way in the first. And then I usually do. And it usually works!

    I was also recently in a brief workshop with Daniel MacIvor, in which he said that one of the reasons we as humans are so attracted to theatre is because it's one of the only forms of entertainment that is actually life size. At the cinema, people are blown up on a huge screen to unrealistic proportions, and on TV, they're way too small - we can't connect. But when you sit in a theatre, the people you're watching are the exact same size as you. They're present. They're real. They're confronting you, whether you like it or not. Now, I'm not sure that's writing advice, per se, but it certainly made an impact on me and has already had an effect on how I approach my work. So there you go - thanks, Daniel MacIvor! 

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

    Monday, 9 January 2012

    Playwright Profile: Elyne Quan

    Elyne is a writer, actor and director. She holds a MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, a BA Honors degree in Drama from the University of Alberta and is also an alumna of the TV program at the Canadian Film Centre. Produced plays include the Sterling Award winning Lig & Bittle (with Jared Matsunaga-Turnbull), Stray, Look Both Ways, Souvenirs of Home, Trust, What, One Block Radius and a radio play, Direct Dial (CBC Radio). Upcoming projects include Retrospective, a new TYA play called The Dream Box and she is currently a member of the Citadel Theatre’s Playwrights Forum where she is working on a new play that doesn’t yet have a title. She was Artistic Associate at Workshop West Theatre in Edmonton where she led the Pitch-to-Play Playwrights’ Unit for the 2006/2007 season. Elyne currently lives in Toronto. She is a proud member, and current president, of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

    1) What is your writing process? Do you start writing right away? Outline? Research?
    I usually start with an idea, an image or thought that I’ve jotted down in my notebook and then I go from there. Most of the time, I let the idea sit for a bit in the notebook before I get started with any real writing. It’s almost like the idea needs time to cure or rise (to use a cooking or baking analogy) before I open it up and dive in. Some ideas sit for a short period before I crack them open while others are still sitting, waiting for me to do something with them.

    The notebook is key, though. I know some people jot their ideas on their computer but I really find that I don’t go back to look at the notes I make on my computer. They’re just abandoned, poor things. I routinely go through old notebooks and look at some of the ideas or images I’ve jotted down and consider them again. Sometimes they become incorporated into another work. Sometimes they become works in their own right. I really go by instinct and what I feel I’m ready for.

    In terms of outlining, I’ll often have a general idea, usually no more than a page, that sets out what the play is for me. How it opens, what it feels like, where it might go. It’s not a typical outline in any sense with headings and steps and act breaks. It allows me room to explore and to really find the heart of a work. I do have to have in mind where I’m going though, where the end is, or else I can’t move forward. Sometimes it’s just the last image of the play but that’s enough. If it’s just blank, I have to stop until I can “see” the end. Whether it ends up being the end doesn’t matter, it’s more important that I have something in mind, a destination. I should say that if I’m writing for any other format: film, TV, interactive games, or essays, I write a formal, detailed outline. The nature, structure and format of those mediums almost demand detailed outlining.

    I’m someone who loves research. When I was a child, I would take our family’s edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, choose a volume and just flip through, randomly reading anything at all. Or I would watch some program on TV and then want to research to find out more. Of course, now I can Google anything I’m curious about and that has its benefits and its downside. I can easily blow through an afternoon I’ve earmarked for writing by just continually going from link to link when I’m researching something. I’ll feel exhausted from being at my desk all day but have no real dialogue written to show for it. That’s a real “Alice falling through the rabbit hole” situation I now try to really avoid but it’s a constant struggle. My new motto regarding research is, “just enough to keep you going, not too much to make you stop,” otherwise I’ll never get anything done.

    2) Where do you write?
    I carry a notebook with me everywhere. I even bought a credit card sized notepad, with paper so thin you can almost see through it, just so I can have something to write on if I only have my wallet with me and not my bag and I get a moment of inspiration. I can write anywhere – libraries are very good for this and occasionally cafes if they’re not too noisy – but the bulk of my writing happens at home, in my home office.

    A favourite recent writing location was a little cottage next to a little lake that I stayed at this summer. I brought my typewriter and spent time each day clacking away at the keys. It was very productive and I came back home wishing I could do that more often.

    3) What do you need to have with you when you write?
    This is an interesting question. Something to write on, I guess. It’s my laptop when I’m traveling/writing out in the world or my desktop when I’m at home. Sometimes I write longhand in a notebook. Sometimes I write on a typewriter. I’m pretty low maintenance.

    I will say that I have become a snob about what notebooks I prefer to write in. Claire Fontaine notebooks have basically ruined me for any other paper products, though recently I have found a line of Japanese notebooks that are just as smooth and pleasing to write in. I found them at Stylus in Edmonton, one of the best stationery stores in the country and a hidden gem. I make sure to drop in every time I’m in town. If you love stationery products you must pay them a visit. The staff is so knowledgeable. It’s one of my favourite stores.

    Hmm… maybe I’m not as low maintenance as I thought!

    However, in the event of the zombie apocalypse or if I was imprisoned in a dungeon for whatever reason, I would just be happy to write with anything on hand.

    4) What is the last great play you saw?, What made it great?
    This is a really difficult question because it assumes that the “great play” had a “great production” and that doesn’t always happen (just ask Shakespeare). A recent “great” production was “Sleep No More” which I was lucky to catch in New York in the fall. It was amazing theatre and very inspiring yet it doesn’t qualify as an answer to this question because it wasn’t really a play. I really enjoyed “His Greatness” by Daniel MacIvor at Factory Theatre in the fall. The performances were all so strong and I was really moved so I definitely categorize it as a successful production of a good play.

    Oh, I know what it would be… “The Normal Heart” by Larry Kramer in a Studio 180 production in Toronto at Buddies in Bad Times. I first read the play during in undergrad in the mid-90s and I thought it was a strong political play then but that it wore its political message and criticisms on its sleeve. With this production, and thanks to the passage of time, the play hit me in a new, more profound, way. I think it works differently than it did when it was first produced because we can see it, truly see the events and characters of the play, against a backdrop of context and history. The emotions, the situations, the struggles each of the characters go through and the transformation of their lives is so clear because we as a collective body of human beings watching the play have lived through this period of time and have come out the other side in one way or another. As an audience, because we know what the future holds for these characters, we can experience pathos and catharsis, a notable feat for a contemporary play. This play is relevant, thought-provoking, moving, political, demanding, well structured, theatrical, gives the audience space to laugh, cry, and feel anger and gives actors space to make the words come alive off the page. It has survived the test of time.

    5) Mac or PC?
    Mac but I can use both.

    6) Who are your mentors?
    There have been so many in so many different capacities, I couldn’t name them all. I really believe that many people were influential to me at different stages of my career and life, and I owe them a debt of gratitude. Since this is about playwriting, I’ll keep my list to major playwriting mentors. I’m bound to miss some though. Vern Thiessen has been a mentor for a very long time. He really came in at important moments of my career. Jane Heather was an instructor who then became a great friend and taught me so much about living with theatre. David Ives was a strong mentor when I was in New York and for awhile after I graduated. Colleen Murphy is a recent mentor who is just tremendous. Smart, open, tough as nails, caring… just superb. As for dramaturg/directors, DD Kugler has been a mainstay, Iris Turcott was the first to invite me to Toronto to work, Adrienne Thompson has been wonderful friend and champion, and Brian Dooley has been incredibly supportive.

    7) Do you have writing rituals?
    Like sacrificing a chicken before the dawn of writing a new play? No, I can’t say that I have any.

    8) Best advice for when you hit a wall?
    Breathe, relax in a quiet room with your eyes closed, focus on what you want to create, open your eyes and get back to it. Repeat as many times as necessary until the words start flowing again.

    And tell that inner perfectionist to cool it. You can fix everything in the next draft. Just get the thing out.

    9) Best piece of grammar or style advice?
    Practice dramatic economy. Less is more.

    10) If you were to write a play about your own life, what would the opening line be?
    I did write a play about my own life! The first line was “(sigh) I’ve always wanted to be taller.”