PGC's SummerWorks Q & A
PGC is excited to have so many members presenting works at the 2012 SummerWorks (August 9 – 19, 2012), that we decided to give our congratulations and chat with them about this wonderful accomplishment, and check in about how having a play in SummerWorks feels firsthand.
1. Give us a brief summary of your play, slated for this year’s SummerWorks.
Sean Dixon France or, The Niqab - There's a little political cartoon somewhere in which a woman in a bathing suit and a woman in an islamic veil are pointing at each other, each declaring that the other is a victim of oppression by the patriarchy. I hate that cartoon. This play, France or, The Niqab is the polar opposite of that cartoon: Take the same two archetypal figures and have them lock arms together and face in one direction with common cause. That's what this play does. Or at least that's where it ends up. It's a comedy, a romantic comedy even. But it's about how girls should run the world.
Jason Maghanoy Ally & Kev - Ally & Kevin are siblings. They have broken into a house. They are sitting in the kitchen... and they are waiting for him to come home. In terms of what I’ve been exploring with my writing, ‘love’ has been on my mind. Last summer, I directed a play called Swoon! for the Toronto Fringe that was about those breathless, joyous moments of desire. With Ally & Kev, I really wanted to explore the other shade of love... the part that can be so full of need.
Arthur Milner Facts - Facts is a murder mystery, based loosely on the actual killing of an American archaelogist teaching in the Occupied West Bank. It was workshopped at the Manitoba Association of Playwrights at its 2004 colony, and then an early version was produced by Rory Runnels at the 2005 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. After more workshops and rewrites, it premiered at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in 2010, in co-production with the New Theatre of Ottawa (NTO). Soon after, arrangements were made with the Palestinian National Theatre for an Arabic translation and tour in Palestine and Israel. The tour, co-produced by Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society and NTO, will open in Bethlehem, September 26, 2012.
Joanna Nutter My Pregnant Brother - My Pregnant Brother is a multi-award winning solo piece in which I tell the incredible and true story of my brother’s pregnancy. As I try to put aside the role of family caretaker and live my own life, my transgender sibling is preparing to bring a child into the world he is not sure that he can parent alone.
2. Why is the SummerWorks festival important to you?
Nicolas Billon Iceland - It's important to me for two reasons: One, it's where I've seen some of the best and most interesting theatre in Toronto. Two, it's one of the few venues where theatre is still affordable.
Sean Dixon France, or The Niqab - I had my first big theatre hit at the Summerworks Festival, back in 1995, with a play called The Painting, also directed by Tanja Jacobs. I also test ran an adaptation of Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone at the festival, with Bob Wiseman and a very talented bunch of Humber theatre grads. The festival is open to risk-taking, the audience is generous, and it's a great venue for whipping up an idea and producing it with a great big machine behind it, all within an eight-month period. Also, Michael Rubenfeld has done a lot of work to open the Festival up to wider audiences, cross-pollinating musical events with theatre, and solidifying the theatre presence on Ossington. It's great. It's a great festival.
Rosa Laborde Marine Life - The festival is a crucial step in developing my artistic skill set within an affordable yet creatively challenging environment. It's simply one of Canada's best venues to try out new work.
Jason Maghanoy Ally & Kev - I think that this is going to be a very exciting process: I wrote Ally & Kev in two hours and will be working with this collection of artists for the first time. It’s one of the best things about SummerWorks: how participation in the Festival helps artists grow and develop their artistic community within the city. I’ve built some of the strongest creative bonds through this Festival and I can’t wait to see what happens over the course of this creative process. It’s all part of the larger story of SummerWorks and how it contributes to the cultural ecology of the city and the country: we find our creative life‐partners and friends through the Festival... and how important is that?
Arthur Milner Facts - A great many people have been very supportive of this play, but no other theatres have picked it up. Performance at SummerWorks means reaching producers and a Toronto audience. We hope the SummerWorks performance, in combination with the coverage we expect for the Middle East tour, will lead to a million other productions.
Joanna Nutter My Pregnant Brother - It is a chance for me to engage in a theatrical dialogue with the Toronto theatre community. Since I began touring the show in 2010, I discovered that the rest of Canada was having a theatrical conversation that seemed to bypass Montreal to some degree. I'm hoping that our visit to SummerWorks will help promote communication between our two cities: there's a great deal of exciting theatre happening in Montreal right now - the Anglo side seems to be finding its voice at last - and perhaps our play can act as some kind of emissary. I'd also like to bring back some newfound Toronto gems to share with my colleagues at home. When theatre works, it's like magic. We should spread it around.
3. Any words of advice to aspiring playwrights who are thinking of submitting a play to SummerWorks?
Nicolas Billon Iceland - To go beyond "write a good play" (which is a given), my advice would be, "package your play". If you don't have a track record, attach a director, actor, or designer who is right for the project and will give your application some credibility. A good producer can help you find the right people. Basically, you have to include as many reasons as possible for the jury to say yes to your project. If you don't know anyone in the business, take the time to make those connections before applying to SummerWorks.
Sean Dixon France, or The Niqab - Assemble your team as thoroughly as possible, articulate your intent as passionately as possible, make your script as inspiring as possible for a complete collaboration, before the deadline. Lay doubt aside and ask people you want to work with to work with you. You might be surprised that they'll say yes.
Rosa Laborde Marine Life - Do it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Keep it simple. Manageable. So that your big concerns aren't 'How do I get a car onstage? or 'How do I find 30 actors willing to be naked for free?' so you can focus all of your energy on the play.
Arthur Milner Facts - This was my first application to SummerWorks, so I'm batting a thousand, but all I can do is pass on advice I was given: put together the best team you can and look credible; and be explicit about wanting the festival to be a showcase for your work. I'm told that the SummerWorks people want the shows to have a future.
Nicolas Billon grew up in Ottawa, Paris, and Montreal. His vocation as a writer first surfaced around the age of six, when he wrote stories on index cards which he stapled together and sold to his mother for a tidy profit. Greenland was staged at the 2011 New York Fringe Festival, where it made most critics’ “best of” lists and won an Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting.
Sean Dixon is a playwright, novelist, actor and banjo player. His plays have been produced all over Canada, the U.S, Australia and England. Sean is heading out to the Caravan Farm Theatre this summer to rehearse his play, The Notorious Right Robert and His Robber Bride, then back to Toronto to open a new play, France (or, 'The Niqab') at Summerworks. Another new play, A God In Need of Help, is in development at the Tarragon Theatre.
Rosa Laborde is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre as well as The Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa and is beginning a residency with Toronto’s Aluna Theatre. She has just completed her second residency with The Banff Centre for the Arts. Currently she completing her play Like Wolves for production at The Great Canadian Theatre Company in 2012/13. Her play Marine Life appeared at Rhubarb at Buddies in Bad Times in February 2012 and The Panamerican Routes Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille in May, before this current run at SummerWorks 2012.
Jason Maghanoy is a professional playwright represented by Rena Zimmerman at Great North Artists. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, was a member of the Banff Playwrights Colony and was short-listed for the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwriting Fellowship at the Juilliard last year. He was a member of the 2011 Tarragon Playwrights Unit, and is the current Playwright-In-Residence at Theatre Passe Muraille. Jason's plays have been produced in Montreal, Toronto and Japan and include: Teresa, Gas, Dust, K, Throat, Heart, Hangman, Cypher, Ally and Kev and Hit.
Arthur Milner was resident playwright at the Great Canadian Theatre Company from 1978 to 1991 and artistic director from 1991 to 1995. From 1993 to 1995, he was president of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. He has taught playwriting at Concordia University and has worked as a dramaturge for the Manitoba Association of Playwrights, the Banff Playwrights Colony and Playwrights Workshop Montreal. His most recent play, Facts, will be presented at Toronto’s SummerWorks Theatre Festival in August 2012. In September, an Arabic translation will open in Bethlehem, and will tour several cities in the West Bank and Israel.
Joanna Nutter is a writer and performer. She had her first role at the age of two in her father’s NFB film, Loose Associations. She trained with Actors’ Studio alumnus Warren Robertson (who taught Jessica Lange and Robert De Niro) for ten years and has appeared in numerous film and theatre productions. Johanna wrote and performed the solo show, My Pregnant Brother, for the Montreal Fringe 2009. After winning the best in the Fest, and a subsequent MECCA for best text, the show began touring across the continent. In November 2011, she took her French translation of the show to the coveted stage of La Licorne, where performances in its original English language were offered on Fridays - a first for a francophone theatre! Mon frère est enceinte went on to tour Belgium and to win the COCHON D'OR, Quebec's award for Best Independent Theatre production of 2011-12. My Pregnant Brother will take part in SummerWorks 2012, followed by FemFest in Winnipeg.