Q & A with Lois Brown - Artist in Residence, Playwrights' Workshop Montreal
PGC member Lois Brown is the artist in residence at Playwrights' Workshop Montral for fall 2011. Lois, a playwright, director and dramaturge from Newfoundland has received numerous accolades for her work as a Canadian theatre artist. Below Lois shares details about her new role.
Congratulations on your recent placement as artist in residence at Playwright's Workshop Montreal for the 2011-2012 season. Can you provide some details on the role? What programs or activities do you have planned for the 2011-2012 season?
Thank-you. I am delighted and honoured to be here. As you all know, Playwright’s Workshop Montreal is a Canadian play development centre, and is dedicated to the development of contemporary Canadian work and new writers for the stage. Situated as it is in Montreal, it is also an influential centre for translation – bringing Quebecois and English language playwrights the opportunity for wider audiences.
My role is to participate in dramaturgy – witnessing, assisting or leading the dramaturgy of new works; reading and recommending work for workshops; participating in PWM’s critical reflection on its programs; and last but not least, writing.
PWM has a playwriting Unit which I am also working with.
Something I have developing is a discussion about dramaturgy with Montreal dance and theatre practitioners – that would be an exciting opportunity to deepen the discourse of dramaturgy. I have working with Montreal dance artist Peter Trozstmer over the past year in Newfoundland and now in Montreal – so as usual for any theatre artist, everything is overlapping.
PWM is an important place for me – a place of reflection and revelation. I also have the opportunity for rich discourse about playwriting and contemporary Canadian theatre with Artistic Director Emma Tibaldo. I am an interdisciplinary artist and a director, as well as a writer, so the way I see text, production, story and comes out of those sensibilities. As I commit to writing more plays, I am sorting through how that can be reflected in my work. The discourse is demanding and necessary.
It’s very hectic here – a lot busier that I expected…I go home most days with a couple of plays to look at. There was a workshop everyday of my first two weeks, with everything else fitted in around them. This week Tadoussac begins. In September, I will be going to Banff to participate in PDCC. I am excited about the discussion we will have there. And I have an opportunity read from my work, thanks to PGC.
Sounds like I am in heightened state of excitement doesn’t it? Usually, I have look to younger artists and hope their crazy enthusiasm rubs off, but it’s very exciting here. Last week, I met an artist who I have admired from a far for some time, at an interdisciplinary event. She is 78 and was by far the life of the event, so critically sharp and vibrant. Maybe it’s this place.
PWM is also very stylish, let me tell you.
What do you think are some of the major challenges faced by theatre artists/playwrights in Canada?
Carving out a dedicated time for each project, resolutely committing to the time required to make something and brazenly declaring that it takes the time that it takes – if just to yourself. Allowing yourself to stay confused, til you can make the right artistic choices. Doing what you want to do – that’s a hard one. Sometimes, you don’t know what you want to do. In St. John’s - finding a place to work. And, I suspect for most artists, enough money to produce the work properly. Then once you have taken the work to production and you want to congratulate yourself - touring or a second production. And all through all of this: fighting for the status of the artist and the importance of art and culture in everyday life.
Any advice for early career/emerging playwrights?
Work hard. Stay with it. Take time to think of yourself as an artist as well as the work.
Theatre is a collective creation, so work with actors, directors, dramaturgs as often as you can in whatever way you are comfortable with. See as much work as you can. Compel who you can to produce your work, or produce it yourself. You have to see it up to make sure the body of work you will create during your career is as rich as it can be.
Are you currently working on any new projects/plays etc?
I’m working on a couple of plays – one on pain – about my experiences with an accident I was involved in, the other is about the relationship of trauma and knowledge. As I mentioned, I am also working on a choreography – and that is helping me look at text and composition in relationship to a couple of unfinished plays I have. (I am also finally finishing a screenplay – really, I am. No, it’s been a bit of a structural problem, but the cement is poured. I wanted to say I had it by the horns, but the metaphor was too mixed, I thought. But since it’s more of a cliché than a metaphor – maybe I can get away with it.)
For more information on Lois Brown and Playwrights' Workshop Montreal visit www.playwrights.ca