Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Wordshed - The rebirth of our workshopping program

As many of you are aware, last year we had to put our workshopping program (ACT TWO) on hiatus due to a reduction in our funding. While we recognized the importance of this program in terms of play development it was also recognized that we simply couldn't continue to operate it as it existed. So, the staff and board went back to the drawing board to reimagine a new workshopping program and the result of that work is our new program - WORDSHED.

What is WORDSHED and how is it different from ACT TWO?

WORDSHED is a workshop program that is easier to access by any APN member than ACT TWO was. ACT TWO, because of the sizeable costs involved, was a program that was curated. Plays and playwrights were selected by the staff based on how far along the play was in its development and if it was decided that it was the next logical step for the play. As it stood before the loss of funding, we still didn't have enough resources for all of the great plays that deserved a workshop. WORDSHED is open to all playwrights and all plays, no matter what stage of development they are at. You can bring 10 pages or a complete draft. It's up to you and what your needs are in the development of your work.

WORDSHED is a better use of our resources. Through the ACT TWO program, the cost of a one-day (8 hour) workshop on one play with 4 characters cost APN about $800. That money provided service for one member, working on one play. Often that playwright and their play was still getting shortchanged. Often a play could use more than one day of workshopping, but in order to make the most of our resources, we would hold back that time in order to give it to another play and playwright. Through WORDSHED we can provide service to two different playwrights and plays in one day and because we are charging a nominal fee for service ($95), the cost to APN for the day is about $200. The math cannot be argued with.

How does WORDSHED work?

APN schedules and promotes a WORDSHED weekend. On a Saturday and Sunday (which seem to be good days for our membership to participate) we can offer 4 slots for workshopping (2 on each day). Members can apply on a first come/first served basis for a 3.5 hour session. Members are asked to submit their plays which are read by an APN dramaturg who then meets with you to discuss and strategize how best to use the 3.5 hour session. Again, this strategy is based upon what each playwright needs. Is there a character journey that you want to focus on? Do you want to look at plot? Theme? Subplots? Structure? Do you just want to hear the play out loud? It's up to you.

APN hires 3 to 4 actors to participate in WORDSHED. These actors will read all of the parts of all of the participating plays. We cannot guarantee that the actors will be the right gender, age or ethnicity for the roles in your play, but we can guarantee that we will hire the best workshop actors for the process. Most of the time, the importance of a workshop is simply hearing the words on the page spoken out loud.

As of the writing of this, we have hosted two WORDSHED programs, one in Calgary and one in Edmonton. We have served four playwrights and four plays. We have hired 7 actors. We have expended about $ The feedback from the playwrights has been excellent and all have been very satisfied with the work and the outcomes.

In September we will be announcing more WORDSHED opportunities. The plan is to schedule 6 of these programs each year (3 in Calgary and 3 in Edmonton) as well as opening this service up to Red Deer and Lethbridge.

We are very excited about this revision and relaunch of our workshopping program. What we do very well at APN is serve the needs of each individual member and the WORDSHED program is another opportunity for us to do exactly that. Our new mandate is "Developing playwrights at all stages for all stages" and this program will go a long way to our successfully meeting that mandate.

If you have any questions about the program, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Keep on writing!  

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