Monday, March 28, 2011

Dramaturgy happens...

...especially when these folks are in the room. I'm pleased to introduce the 2011 Block D participants. Over ten discussions, we'll be unwrapping our own processes, noting current issues and practices, and examining the role of the dramaturg in the dramaturgical process. PTC Associate Lisa C. Ravensbergen will be co-facilitating the sessions as part of her new dramaturgy residency. Look for updates as the blossoms bloom.

Missy Christensen
y is a performer, creator, director, dramaturg, educator, producer, SM, production manager, production designer and inspirational speaker whose work in theatre and film has taken her across Canada. After studying Creative Writing at UVic, Missy plied her craft as a newscaster and editorialist at CITR Radio and as an advertising copy writer. A ‘life epiphany’ then led her to pursue acting at the National Theatre School of Canada. Playwrights’ Workshop was a frequent and favourite workplace when in Montreal, as was PTC in Vancouver. The investigative journey leading to discoveries of what a show, character or moment can be remains a driving force, as does the desire to work collectively toward understanding possibilities more deeply. A personal brush with death, and a subsequent acquaintance with the same as a palliative caretaker, strengthened Missy’s resolve to explore humanity; seeking connection, transformation and remembrance opportunities in art and life. Technology’s role is also of particular interest.

Yasser Ishmael
Yasser is a versatile theatre-maker, writer, actor, clown, friend and lover. Yasser grew up in the Republic of Maldives. Somewhere between ages six and nine, he read Bapsi Sidhwa's An American Brat, a book that he did not understand but
fuelled him enough to fall in love with words and imagine the journeys that awaited him beyond his small island nation. Yasser moved to Canada on his own at the age of sixteen and was introduced to the theatre, mainly training as an actor at first, at Simon Fraser University. During his acting training, Yasser also developed an interest in somatics, and currently is a student of Continuum technique (studying with Master Teacher Susan Harper on a continuing basis). His interest in the actor's craft, ensemble dynamics and somatics coupled with his love of modernist and world literature often lead to warm but unsettling theatrical events that uses a heady mixture of language and visceral aesthetics.

Martu Lasso
Martu Lasso came to Vancouver in September 2010. Since then she has collaborated on PTC´s Catalan C
onnection project, has engaged in Acting Workshops (Larry Moss), and the ongoing actors workout workshops at Vancouver Acting School. She is now a participant in the Community Dinner theatrical project for Rumble Productions. Before moving to Canada she received an MA in Hispanic Studies from the University of Washington, with a focus on 20th century plays in Latin America. Martu has performed as an actress both in Ecuador, where she was part of Malayerba Theatre Company, and in the United States where she worked with the Spanish and Drama departments at the University of Washington. In Ecuador she was part of the production team of prestigious theatre and film festivals such as Cero Latitud, and assisted the production of diverse TV and radio cultural shows. Outside of professional interests, she travels, reads, paints and cooks wonderful food for her family and friends. She enjoys living in Vancouver with her partner and two children.

Marilyn Norry
Marilyn Norry graduated from York University with a BFA in Theatre Performance. A Jessie award win
ning actor, she played Heidi in The Heidi Chronicles (Edmonton Citadel/ Vancouver Playhouse) and Hagar in The Stone Angel (Firehall), as well as performing in many new Canadian plays. Film credits include Battlestar Galactica, Reaper, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She was story editor on the series Madison and a dramaturg at Playwrights Theater Centre from 1996 to 2007, where she also directed many staged readings. A member of the Writers Guild of Canada, she has written television episodes and feature screenplays. On stage her play One Morning I Realized I Was Licking the Kitchen Floor: a comic look at depression was a hit at the Edmonton Fringe with subsequent runs in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Denver. Since 2004 she’s been developing the changing complexities of My Mother’s Story, a project dedicated to gathering women’s history one mother at a time.

Joy Russell
Born in
Belize, Joy Russell is a poet, budding playwright and writer. She attended Simon Fraser University, studying contemporary dance, film, English and American Literature. She lived in London, England where she played in Afro-Bloco, an Afro-Brazilian band, worked in community arts and television as a researcher and assistant producer on documentaries such as Rebel Music: The Bob Marley Story, Pump Up The Volume, and BAFTA-nominated The Hip Hop Years. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals and anthologies including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, Beyond the Pale: Dramatic Writing from First Nations Writers and Writers of Colour, Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature, The Capilano Review and Crab Orchard. She currently lives in North Vancouver.

Charlene Sayo
Charlene S
ayo is the co-author of Canada: The New Frontier for Filipino Mail-Order Brides and is a founding alumni member o f the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance/Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada-BC, the Tinig ng Masa Radio Collective on Vancouver's Co-op Radio and Sinag Bayan Cultural Collective. She has spoken on issues regarding Filipino-Canadian women and youth across Canada, the United States and Europe. Charlene has performed at a of number of Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society literary events, at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, at Vancouver's annual Word on the Street Literary Festival and in the closing production of Vancouver's Sistahood Celebration in 2009, Myrtle Silverspot: Kitchen Confidential. She has served as a production consultant for the Canadian premier of Dogeaters (Studio 58, Vancouver) for Pinoyville (Sinag Bayan, Montreal) and was an apprentice assistant director for Nanay: A Testimonial Play at the 2009 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping the faith

We’ve now had a few orphan (instructor-less) “Unblocked A” meetings, and we’ve fallen into a good pattern. We’re good at giving each other feedback. At least no one has cried during a meeting and it seems that we all keep coming back. We have our rituals. We start by talking about our lives between meetings, then any theatre we’ve seen lately. The conversation meanders around touching on a wide variety of topics before we settle down to work. It seems that we need to ease our way into it, but we do get there.

I had originally wanted to keep meeting with the group for a vague sense that we could “support” each other. I’m starting to realize the value of that support.

First because I’ve come to discover that the first draft is not the hardest part, for me, at least. I used to think “once I have something down, then it’s just a matter of building, sculpting, it’s a piece of cake really, once that first draft is there”. “Ha” is all I have to say to that now.

I'm now into the third draft of my first act, which bears little or no resemblance to its previous incarnations and I have no idea what to do with it. In the beginning, there was optimism. The ideas were there and I didn’t know what they would look like on the page, but they were beautiful. They had potential. And yes, I had to discipline myself to keep to my 4-page-a-day 5-day-a-week writing goal, but that was okay. I had enthusiasm.

Now I’m at draft three of Act 1. And to be honest, my second draft (of Act 1) was probably a bit – hmm “challenged”, shall we say. And yes, I know it’s only draft three and there are probably twenty more in my future, but it’s tough going. My initial enthusiasm has become full-on “I’ll do it right after I finish watching America’s Next Top Model” procrastination. The sense of potential that was palpable in draft one is nowhere in sight and the ideas are on the page, but where do they go and should I really put that unicorn in that scene? No one can say what to do, or how to fix it, except supposedly me.

In these difficult times, deadlines have become very important. We all take turns having our work read and because of that I am officially accountable to a group of people to show up with something new written by April 4. And although I know my laptop won’t explode if I show up empty-handed (at least I don't think it will...), that sense of accountability keeps me going. Without it, I might be tempted to jump ship, or at least to put the script in a drawer for a while and let other things become more important. With it, I soldier on, putting one foot heavily in front of the other.

The other reason that the group is important to me right now is this: I am an emerging writer. I have never published anything. I spend my days in an office where I might be identified as “administrator”, or “colleague” or “you know, that woman, in that office, with the emails”. After work, I shuffle my way through a variety of other roles, but there isn’t any space in my life where I get to fully inhabit the identity of “writer” except twice a month in the PTC library.

Now, I know it’s a dangerous thing to look to others for this kind of acknowledgement; that I should know in my heart I'm a writer no matter what anyone else says, but it's so good. It's good to be seen as a writer by someone else, even if there are only five people in the world who think it might be the case. For three hours every two weeks I get to “talk shop” and make jokes about the importance of scotch drinking in the “process” and pose questions that only other people in this group would even entertain and damn it, it’s good for the soul. These evenings fill me up, they re-inspire me and keep me going. The more I write, the more I realize how solitary it really is so I’m grateful for this community that we’ve created. It’s true that without them I would probably still write (slowly and furtively), but with them, I am buoyed up and the journey is infinitely more enjoyable.

- Melissa Haller, PTC Member