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LEAP Playwrighting Intensive for Youth Writers Reading Series

Through the month of March, I’ll have the great pleasure in taking part in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s LEAP Playwrighting Intensive, facilitated by the amazing Shawn Macdonald.  Through LEAP (Learning Early About Playwrighting), 3 groups of high school and early post-secondary students have the opportunity to workshop their original plays under Shawn’s guidance, culminating in a public reading on an Arts Club stage with a cast of professional actors.  I am very excited to be joining Bob Frazer, Dawn Petten, Aslam Husain, Dmitry Chepovetsky and Meghan Gardiner for the reading series.

The Level 1 Reading took place on March 4th

At this stage in LEAP, each student gets a chance to have their script read and to receive feedback from the acting company, Shawn, and Shawn’s fabulous assistant Stacey Sherlock.  They have the opportunity to do one last edit based on that feedback before the public reading, where their works are presented in a staged reading.  It’s been an absolute joy so far – the young writers are extraordinary thinkers and passionate artists, and it’s inspiring to be around such talent!  With one reading down, we’ve covered the beginning of time, holographic  human beings, a cafe in a desert and much more.  The next two readings promise more excellence – the Level Two reading on March 11 features excerpts from 5 excellent one-acts, and the Level Three on March 25 will see us read a full-length play titled The Hunger Room, written by my dear friend Scott Button.  These readings are absolutely FREE and there is food after.  What could be better?  I urge you to come out and support these amazing budding writers – I promise an inspiring and entertaining night at the theatre!

The LEAP Playwriting Intensive for Young Writers Reading Series
Sunday, March 11 and Sunday, March 25
7 pm at the Revue Stage
FREE ADMISSION!

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What I’ve Learned – The First 9 Months

So, I’ve been bad with this  blog.

Like, really bad.  Like not updating since August bad.  But as it turns out, I’ve had a lot of very fun things to do since August, and I’m finally ready to process it all and get back on the blog-wagon.  In a tribute to Stephen Heatley’s famous ‘samplers’ (UBC kids will know what I mean here), here are a few of the valuable lessons I’ve learned in my first 9 months out of theatre school.

GOOD ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH – Vancouver Fringe Festival

I spent a lot of time running around the campus of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival this year, seeing as many shows as possible and flyering my tired butt off for Oh My God with Delinquent Theatre.  I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of artists, both local and visiting, national and international.  I saw a lot of amazing theatre, and a few disappointments.  The common thread between the best shows?  Attention to detail.  Without fail, the shows I enjoyed the most were created by artists who integrated storytelling, design, and atmosphere without sacrificing any quality due to lack of resources, or simply letting something be “good enough”.  From the international Fringe vets to the first-timers and wild Onsite shows, my favorite theatrical creations showed evidence of great care and vigilant creative standards in every aspect of the show. It reminded me to always look at my own work and think – could it be better?  What can I do to keep moving forward?

A CAREER IN THE THEATRE IS NOT LINEAR – Making a Scene Conference

In November I attended the Making A Scene Conference, presented by the GVPTA.  If you have never attended the conference before, I strongly, strongly recommend you do.  The short form explanation of MAS is a gathering of the best minds in the BC theatre scene gathered in a room to discuss, debate, and dissect the state of affairs in our local theatre scene, and what we can do to serve it better.  Check out the 2011 MAS report for some highlights – I left leaving, well… engaged and empowered, which was the title of the event.  One of the many things that have stayed with me was the remark made that “a career in theatre is not linear”.  This struck a chord with me and continues to do so.  Looking back on my time out of school so far, I can clearly see that every dream gig I didn’t land ended up freeing me to do something else different and exciting.  There’s no such thing as ‘lost time’, unless you make it so.  In this career, there’s no standard path to follow – it’s all up to you.  After 3 years of regimented theatre school where your time is not your own, it’s thrilling and terrifying to know you’re now holding the reins.  Talking with more established theatre artists helped me understand there’s no right or wrong path – just the one you choose for yourself.

THEATRE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN – Wizard of Oz at Carousel Theatre

It’s a simple lesson, but perhaps the easiest to forget.  After months of auditions, callbacks, anxiety and planning, I finally got to settle in and do my first post-school Equity contract.  And what a dream – The Wizard of Oz with Carole Higgins and Carousel Theatre!  With multiple character tracks, 10 costume changes, and wonderful choreography, Oz was one of the most personally challenging shows I’ve done to date, and I wouldn’t have survived it if it weren’t for the warm, fun and funny group at Carousel.  Whether it was through inventive and inspired choices on stage or MadLibs and fart machines backstage, they always kept me laughing and reminded me that – oh yeah, this is supposed to be fun. There is plenty to be anxious about in this career path, but it won’t be worth it if you can’t relax and enjoy the moment, and I am grateful to the wonderful folks I worked with on Oz who reminded me of that.

IT’S NEVER THE RIGHT TIME/IT’S ALWAYS THE RIGHT TIME – Delinquent Theatre

On January 9th, 2012, my friend and theatre partner Laura McLean and I got the news that our fledgling company Delinquent Theatre was officially incorporated as a non-profit society.  This brings us into a new and complicated era of AGMs, boards, grants, licenses and more.  It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s so very worth it.  We’re mounting 2 original musicals within the first 6 months of our incorporation, and doing everything on our own.  We’ve got ambitious plans for the next year and a bit for Delinquent Theatre, and you know what?  We’re ready for it.  There will never be a ‘right time’ to take a leap of faith – you can keep waiting for the time when you have a little more money, a little more time, and a little more experience – or you can jump in with both feet, open eyes, and an open heart and see what you learn.  We’ve opted for the latter, and I look forward to all the lessons I haven’t yet learned, but am about to.  Bring it on.

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Party… At My House?

The call came last Wednesday.  Party This Weekend, a site specific theatre production set at a house party, needed a new location.  Party This Weekend is the brainchild of my Delinquent Theatre partner Laura McLean and Scarlet Satin Productions’ Diana Squires.  Written by Arlen Kristian Tom, Taylor Basso, Josephine Mitchell and Diana, the play takes place at a private residence.  Audience members are assigned a party guest to follow throughout the night, and friends are encouraged to split up and watch different sides of the story.  There are acoustic guitar ballads, drinking games, dance parties and tearful revelations.  It’s a fun night at the theatre and an astonishing accomplishment in terms of logistics and stage management, and I had been a big fan of it.  And now the time came that Party This Weekend needed our help, a new and bigger house – and my roomies and I stepped up to the challenge.

This is what our fridge looks like right now. Not pictured: Anyone who actually lives here.

It’s sure easy to say you love and believe in site-specific theatre – it’s a whole other thing to make it happen.  In your own living space.  With 40+ people.  The stage management team arrived hours after we agreed to host, and we began cleaning and clearing the space – family photos and identifying details were taken down and stashed away.  After all, the house needs to appear to be the family home of Gen, Brij and Carmindy, not Christine, Arlen, Megs and Kim.  We quickly determined my bedroom needed to host a few scenes – instantly it became trashy teenage menace Carmindy’s room.  Down came my show posters and scripts, and up went posters of shirtless men and lingerie hanging off every piece of furniture. Before we knew it, it was Friday night and we welcomed almost 50 audience members and actors to our home. The show must go on!

This is clearly not what I normally put up in my room. No, seriously...

If I may digress and use my fancy BFA academic skills here, I just want to say what an interesting experience this has been in understanding how site specific theatre works.  I have always thought a major aspect of the form was re-contextualizing familiar spaces.  Bridge Mix, for example, took place in a parking lot, but the audience was opened to so many possibilities for story and setting within a mundane urban habitat.  In that same way, acting as an audience member on the first night, I got to see my house in a whole different way.  Entering my room with the audience with the understanding that it was Carmindy’s room allowed me to see it as the audience did – my personal items that have their own context to me took on whole new meanings in the setting of Party This Weekend.  It was really fascinating to see how our home, with some set decoration, became part of the story, and how I along with 30 audience members came to understand it in a whole new way.

This is for Gen's surprise birthday party on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the week I am pretending its an early Happy Birthday for me?

It’s been a blast having the talented cast and ninja-like stage management team of Party This Weekend in our house.   Hosting a theatre event has been crazy, and at times alarming (at one point the hostess is looking for something important in my/Carmindy’s room – “check the drawers!”  BOOM, my underwear drawer is opened) but it’s been a real honor to be part of such an ambitious and wildly fun theatrical experience.  PTW runs tonight and tomorrow night at 8PM -I hear they are sold out, but are taking a waiting list.  Check their website for more details.  Party at my house!