Thursday, April 28, 2011

PTC writers go global

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the many writers whose work we support here at PTC. There's often a gap between the moment I encounter a play as dramaturg, and opening night. But you if you're quick, you can catch three of our writer's works - in Vancouver, Dublin, and New York City - all within the next month.

Dave Deveau's My Funny Valentine (held over until April 30th) has garnered attention from as far away as California, in addition to rave reviews here in Vancouver. The play, which Dave workshoped and developed with guest dramaturg Don Hannah at the 2009 PTC Colony, is produced by Zee Zee Theatre at the PAL Theatre. Tickets are at The creative team behind this production is stellar: we wish Kyle Cameron, the star of this heartbreaking and galvanizing solo show, the best of luck as he takes off to New York for his MFA in the fall.

PTC Associate Jan Derbyshire takes her solo show Funny in the Head (also developed at the 2009 PTC Colony) to the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. Opening on election night (!), Funny in the Head is the rollicking story of a seriously bipolar comedian and her fight to stay funny. Derbyshire makes challenging stereotypes and upending the notion of mental illness and the mental health system a very funny thing indeed. Written and performed by Jan Derbyshire, A Squid Ink Production, Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival, The Cobalt CafĂ©, May 2 – 7, 2011, 9:30pm.

PTC alumna Miranda Huba will be opening her latest work, Dirty Little Machine, May 19th, at The Red Room in New York City. You can read an interview with Miranda about her writing on the blog I interview playwrights. Dirty Little Machine follows Jane and Dick, and their relationship with pornography and each other. Written in Huba's trademark blend of fairy tale and contemporary cultural critique, Dirty Little Machine is an investigation of sexual relationships and intimacy in an increasingly voyeuristic culture. The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery), May 19-June 4, Thursday through Saturday at 8pm. Tickets ($18/$15 students & seniors) are available online at or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444.

We applaud the work going into production - meanwhile, all burners are on high back at PTC headquarters. Martin Kinch and I are engaged with another exciting crop of new works aimed at the 2011/12 season. Development continues with the next round of PodPlays by Jan Derbyshire, C.E. Gatchalian, Joy Russell, and Quelemia Sparrow with Neworld Theatre, Screaming Weenie, and Ravenspirit Dance; Salmon Row by Nicola Harwood with Mortal Coil; Re:Union by Sean Devine with Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and Pacific Theatre; and Sea of Sand by Eric Rhys Miller with The Only Animal.

Next week, look for updates from Jan Derbyshire as she takes on Dublin, and a conversation with PTC Associate Tim Carlson and director Richard Wolfe on our recent workshop of Tim's new play, Nine Tenths.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lenore Rowntree reports from New York

Not timeless...simply annoying

Okay I’m lucky ‘cause recently I got to go to New York City, and I’m especially lucky because the group I went with was hosted by one of Vancouver’s best jazz musicians, Cory Weeds, who showed us all the secret jazz hot spots in the city. I even felt lucky when I wasn’t discovering jazz and instead was sneaking away one evening to watch a reprise of Wallace Shawn’s 1978 play Marie and Bruce. How fabulous to be seeing a smart New York writers’ play in the big apple itself, especially when it was starring the Oscar-winning actress, Marisa Tomei.

But by the time I was in the lobby of the off-Broadway Acorn Theatre reading some of the posters of past productions, I felt my luck begin to slip. The production I was about to see was being mounted by the New Group, and the posters revealed a history of productions by the New Group including several plays by Wallace Shawn, directed by Scott Elliott (who was also directing the play I was about to see), and which very often starred Frank Whaley (who was to play the part of Bruce). I started thinking cynical things like God, everywhere it’s a closed circle… even the greats have to band together … when do the little grunts like me get to have a show … why do Wallace Shawn and Frank Whaley need a group … I think you get the drift. A little more dread slipped in when they announced the production time was nearly two hours with no intermission and the lineup at the women’s washroom grew exponentially.
The cynic in me nearly said out loud, Afraid to let us out in case we don’t come back?

Sometimes my inner voice is off, but not this time. The play that I had expected to be timeless was quite simply annoying. It wasn’t the actors’ fault. They were good actors trapped in an unpleasant play about old-fashioned Yuppie existentialism. I don’t want to spend time with these kind of people in real life, so what do I do when I encounter them in the theatre? I fall asleep. As did the man beside me, unlike the woman on the other side who started checking her text messages halfway in. When it was over, before the very brief smattering of applause had even finished, the people behind me stood up, and one of them said in her most out-loud voice, “That was appalling.”

It wasn’t until I was in the lobby afterward, milling about trying to eavesdrop, that the penny dropped on why even Wallace Shawn needs his group. Frank Whaley the male lead in the show came out into the lobby and everyone sort of cleared a circle around him. Finally an acquaintance of hi
s came forward and shook his hand. Frank looked exhausted and he simply said, “That’s a really tough play to be in.” Of course it was, how could I have forgotten that? And whether it’s one of Wallace Shawn’s best plays or not, it’s really tough for him to put his words on the line and ask other people to stand up and read them, let alone ask an actor to breath life into them. We all need our groups. It’s something I learn every time I sit down with our Unblocked A group and one or the other of us trots out a new play. The writer almost always begins with some sort of caveat. “It’s not really finished… I’m hoping you can tell me if you get it … I’m even wondering myself what it’s about.” We all have to have a safe place to land.

Lenore Rowntree

Lenore Rowntree’s writing has been published in several Canadian literary journals and magazines. Her poetry was included in the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2010 and her self-published collection of children’s poetry won a gold medal in 2007 from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. She was nominated for a CBC literary award in creative non-fiction in 2009, and her play The Woods at Tender Creek was produced in 2010 as part of the Walking Fish Festival. She is the co-editor of a collection of essays with a working title of Into the Bell Jar to be published by Brindle & Glass in 2012.