Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wrapping up the Colony

This year's Colony was brimming with writerly talent and critical thought, as dramaturgs, writers, actors and PTC administrators gathered to hear and respond to four new Canadian plays. As the dramaturgical intern, I was completely giddy at the thought of sitting around a table with bright, sharp minds talking theatre. I was in dramaturgical heaven (read: nerd heaven.) I decided to see if the playwrights had as much of a blast as I did, so I asked José Teodoro and Lucia Frangione what they thought of their experience at the Colony and this is what they had to say.

José Teodoro

My time at this year’s Playwrights Colony was immersive and exhilarating: to find myself seated round a jumble of tables, being pummeled by such an array of fully engaged, thoughtful/impulsive, stimulating feedback, responses of such intelligence and specificity and just plain usefulness from everyone connected to Team PTC, not only the formidable dramaturgical bedrock, but also the guest artists, the interns, the administrative staff. And, of course, my fellow playwrights. Listening to and discussing their work was just as important a part of my play’s development and my Colony experience in general as were the hours devoted to my ownwork. (Where do they find these people, my fiendishly talented new comrades?) In an all-too short period of time my play was ushered to a place it would not have reached otherwise. So I’m grateful, obviously, and am already crating plans to persuade these people into letting me come back for seconds...

José Teodoro’s plays include The Tourist, Slowly, an exchange is taking place, Steps and Cloudless. His most recent play, MOTE, was developed at the 2011 Playwrights Colony.


José's new play MOTE is an inspired re-telling of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Psycho. In this re-imagined staged version of the much-loved horror flick, Marion Crane and Norman Bates are met with radically different destinies than what we as audience members have come to expect. José manages to reveal and highlight a layer of psychological complexity that creates a unique and compelling framework for Hitchock's story. He confronts and challenges our expectations and generates a profound level of investment in characters we thought we knew and understood, until now. At the PTC Colony, we were able to see the draft come close to completion as José refined it over the 10 day workshop, following feedback from participating dramaturgs and writers. By the third read of the script on the last day of the workshop, José remarked that he was happy with where he was able to bring it, and that it's nearly ready to get on its feet.

Lucia Frangione

The Colony reunited me with dramaturg Lisa C. Ravensbergen: we had worked together on my play Cariboo Magi ten years ago. I can't say that the three hours we busted our chops over my kitchen table analyzing my super structure were enjoyable, in fact, I got a little grumpy with her asking me "why, why, why" but that was precisely the question that needed to be addressed and she was tough enough to wrestle it out with me. She helped me find the driving force behind the play which turned it from a poetic wandering collection of stories into an active pursuit that now earns its ending. I wrote three drafts in under two weeks: about a hundred and eighty pages. I found the guided feedback from everyone around the table very useful. What a glory-fest of brainiacs PTC collected. And I particularly appreciated the involvement of the other playwrights. We all sat in on each other's readings and were invited to offer our responses, something not done at Banff. We lucked out as writers and enjoyed each other's company immensely. I loved discussing our varying approaches to the work, how our careers have evolved, how we each survive, what theatre is doing in the various provinces we're from...I loved hearing their drafts evolve. I wish I could do this every year. Thank you PTC for one of my most valuable writer experiences so far in my career.

Lucia is an internationally-produced and award-winning playwright and actor, best known for performing in her own works: Paradise Garden, Espresso, MMM, Cariboo Magi, Chickens, and Holy Mo. Espresso toured Western Canada and ran for a year at teatr Jeleniogorski with a Polish translation then picked up by teatr Powszechny in Warsaw. A thirty-minute version of her new play Leave Of Absence won the Amnesty International contest through Activist Theatre and was performed at the 2011 Vancouver International Fringe Festival. She is currently working on a new play about the Italian internment in BC called Fresco with Bella Luna for the Italian Cultural Centre and an adaptation of Loves Labour’s Lost for St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott. Her twenty three plays have been produced by theatres such as The Arts Club, Belfry, Ruby Slippers, Solo Collective, Chemainus Theatre, Prairie Theatre Exchange and Lambs Players San Diego. She has been the recipient of two Gordon Armstrong writing awards, the Sydney Risk award and the CAEA Stage West emerging artist award. She is published by Talon Books and is a proud member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and PTC. Lucia also teaches a popular on-line playwright course.

Walk a Mile Joe

Lucia's newest play Walk a Mile Joe presents a profoundly honest and vulnerable world in which Joe and Mary will try anything to understand the lives they've lived and all that they've misunderstood. After not seeing him for ten yeas, Mary comes to comfort Joe after the death of his parents on a cold, Prairie winter's night and together they plunge head first into the past. They re-embody memories from their childhood, all the way until their last meeting, trying with all their might to untangle any knots they find. Filled with vibrant imagery that burns so brightly it nearly ignites the page, Walk a Mile Joe submerges us into the intimacies of a life we've never known-- but a life in which we surprisingly come to recognize our own stories. No matter who we are, time's waves polishes our memories like pebbles, and so we each are each met with same soft erosion of the past. At the Colony, we witnessed Lucia's draft transform as she re-structured the script twice through the ten day workshop. On the final day, the poeticism and theatrical structure of the script began to merge in an engaging and thought-provoking way.

Final Thoughts

Besides being fertile grounds for the growth of new and vibrant Canadian theatre, the PTC Colony also provided a chance for four playwrights to come together from different provinces and do what writers do best (when they aren't writing of course)-- party. Below is a picture of their final night at the Colony. From left to right we have Lucia Frangione, José Teodoro, Greg MacArthur, Robert Plowman and their new fabulous friend whom they met at the bar. From what I've heard from the writers, the four of them have really come together to form a great friendship. I'm not sure if this includes the blue-haired diva, but I hope so.

Emily Kedar

Dramaturgy Intern at PTC

Emily is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with an Honours BA in English and Theatre. An emerging writer and dramaturg, Emily is honoured and delighted to be the newest member of the PTC team. She has worked as a developmental dramaturg at Factory Theatre under Iris Turcott and as a production dramaturg with the Driftwood Theatre Company in Toronto. Her three main passions are poetry, theatre and gardening, and she is happily pursuing all three in her new home of Vancouver. She is blessed and blissed out to find herself on the gorgeous Pacific coast and to be so involved in making theatre that challenges, delights, and jumps to life.