Female directors wanted for Women at Play(s) 4

Previously on The Next Stage…

we posted about the scarcity of female theatrists working in the Canadian stage industry, alongside a call for playwrights for Marianne Sawchuk’s Women at Play(s) 4. That production is moving into their next stage, and Marianne has now put out a call for women directors…know any? Are one? Read on…

Women At Play(s) is currently looking for female directors, emerging or established, for its fourth festival. This annual event has had very successful runs in the last 3 years with sold out shows and great reviews from audience members and critics.

Women At Play(s) provides a creative outlet for female playwrights, directors and actresses. It was created to give women a voice. It is meant to inspire and showcase artistic achievements in theatrical performance for women.

Women At Play(s) 3 was proud to have all original plays by female playwrights who all happened to be from Vancouver. 6 short one acts were selected from 55 submissions from across Canada and the United States. The plays ranged from dramatic to comedic and had issues dealing with religion, reconciliation, pregnancy, motherhood, death, & life. Women At Play(s) 4 will have original plays selected from 209 submissions from Canada, US, Russia, UK, and South Africa.
All characters are female and the plays no longer than 20 minutes in length. Please note it is produced as an Equity Co-op. Performances will be January 2-10, 2009 at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Submissions may be emailed to mariannesawchuk@hotmail.com

Please submit resume before August 15, 2008.

Thank you,
Marianne Sawchuk
Creator/Artistic Director of Women At Play(s)

Please watch for our website coming soon at: www.womenatplays.com
or check out our Facebook page

This One Goes to Eleven: Katrina Dunn

If you want an example of absolute commitment to our theatre, look no further than Katrina Dunn, who has been on the front lines of the fight to bring great Canadian theatre to Vancouverites for many years. She’s been the Artistic Director of Touchstone Theatre and its all-Canadian mandate since 1997, and was one of the architects of the envelope-expanding PuSh Festival, where she remains as Associate Curator. All this while working consistently as a Director-for-hire. Meet one of the stalwarts of our industry…


1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

If by “condition” you mean the condition of the show, I would say “poised” meaning poised to take off and meet it’s audience.

2.) Describe the condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.


3.) Please describe Touchstone’s criteria for choosing its material.

Our mandate is Canadian work. We pick the the most provocative and exciting new voices creating Canadian work.

4.) Can you tell us a bit about the working process of your Playwright-in-Residence program?

We work with playwrights over a long period – usually 2 to 3 years. The development process includes a series of workshops and hands on dramaturgy with myself and a dramaturg. We carefully usher a show to production and make a significant investment in its premiere.

5.) What advice could you give young companies with regards to structuring themselves towards long-term sustainability?

Diversify your audience and your revenue sources. Plan for things to change, especially when it comes to funding.

6.) How healthy do you feel Vancouver theatre is as a mutually supportive community?

It’s excellent. I think we work together more than any major centre in Canada. Because in the West we’ve been forced to work with less resources, we partner more and share more.

7.) So far, what has been your proudest PuSh Festival moment?

I think it must have been the 07 Festival, when I realize the thing had grown so big that it was impossible for me to take it all in.

8.) If you could offer only one piece of advice to our new directors, what would it be?

Believe in your vision and pursue it despite the nay sayers.

9.) Given a time machine, what one piece of advice would you give yourself as you start out on your career?

Try not to work so hard.

10.) What are your top three theatre reads?

Joseph Chaiken’s The Presence of the Actor

David Mamet’s True and False

John Lahr’s The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan

Tony Kushner’s Thinking about the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness

Four – I know but I couldn’t choose.

11.) What’s next?

Janet Munsil’s new play “Influence” about John Keats, the Elgin Marbles and the nature of artistic inspiration. Touchstone is producing it in November.

This One Goes to Eleven: Sabrina Evertt

A graduate of the theatre program at UVic, Sabrina has a solid academic footing in both directing and costume design. She is the artistic producer of Twenty-Something Theatre, a new, energetic Vancouver company that is already notable for its excellent taste in established material. Their next production is Wallace Shawn’s The Fever, opening January 29th at the Beaumont Studios.


1.) In one word, describe your present condition.


2.) In more than one word, describe the condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

The Vancouver theatre scene is a complicated one. I really believe that the issues concerning the Vancouver theatre scene generally reflect the issues that Vancouver is dealing with as a whole. Vancouver is not yet a BIG city in the way we think of New York, London or even Toronto. People resist change, and in much the same way that Vancouverites are resisting the amount of growth that is happening in this city (with condos being built, housing prices going up, fancy new transit systems being built, the 2010 Olympics), the established theatre practitioners in this city resist change as well.

For so long the theatre community and the audiences available to go and see theatre were comparatively small, so for these established theatres and theatre practitioners who have managed to gather a steady following I can understand how they don’t want to let go or risk the chance of losing what they have fought so hard to build. When I lived in London I had the great opportunity to hear Trevor Nunn speak and he said there is nothing worth doing if risk isn’t involved. The higher the risk the bigger the pay-off, consequently: the higher the risk the harder we may fall; however, it is from the great failures that we learn. Status quo takes us nowhere.

And that is sort of how I see the Vancouver theatre scene. It is happy with the status quo. You’ve got your established theatre who cater mainly to an older, loyal audience. Then you’ve got your alternative theatre who do very exciting but very different work. You’ve got a few festivals with the Fringe and PUSH, but where is the theatre for the young, average Joe? These are the audiences of the future so why aren’t we thinking about how we can appeal to them?

3.) What is the long-term vision for Twenty-Something?

Long term I would like to be able to produce a full-season of shows to continue giving more and more opportunities to young artists.

4.) What criteria do you use for choosing material?

Firstly, it must be a great play, and I understand that what makes a play great is subjective, but it must be, in my opinion, solid writing. Secondly, the majority of roles must be in our target demographic (approx 18-35). Thirdly, it must have issues that reflect the lives of this demographic and then society as a whole.

Then for me personally if I am to direct the production it must have some new element that interests me, that I haven’t done before or that I will learn from.

5.) What can we be doing better to popularize theatre for a twenty-something demographic?

This is “THE QUESTION” isn’t it?! Truthfully, I don’t know if I have anymore insight into this one than anybody else, but I will give it go.

The easy answer is to make going to the theatre an “it” thing to do for your average twenty-something demographic. Let me just clarify what I mean by average. I am talking about the everyone and anyone in the twenty-something demographic: the ones who listen to The Beat, who shop at places like Aritizia or Lululemon, who eat at Earls or Cactus Club, who go to the clubs on Granville, who go to see the big blockbuster movies, etc. These average twenty-somethings are looking for fun, but to them a night at the theatre does not equal fun. I’m not saying we need to pander to our instant gratification generation but I do think we can find a balance between commercialism and artistic integrity. I think we can make theatre fun and thought-provoking. How do we do this? By putting on high-quality productions that appeal to their lives, and most importantly market the theatre in the same way we market movies, or restaurants, or nightclubs. Somehow we need to make it hot, exciting, and the place to be. That could be a start.

6.) How well did your academic theatre training prepare you for running a company?

No training program is perfect but I feel that I developed a lot of skills that have become indispensable, especially discipline. Often when we think of artists we don’t think of discipline as an immediate tool, but it is necessary because in order to ever get things done (and done well) an artist must be disciplined.

7.) Costume design is often one of the last things considered in indie productions. Any thoughts on how to approach this component?

Well, first of all, costume design wouldn’t be one of the last things to be considered. Costume design is important because it immediately supports the characters in the story being told. It helps an actor find his/her character. And when it comes right down to it if the actors are not believable as their characters then the audience won’t suspend their disbelief. No matter the production, I personally believe design, all design, should be one of the first things to be considered. The design of a production supports the story and the visual story should mold seamlessly together with the action. This overall vision for the piece, in my opinion, should be the very first thing to be considered.

8.) Who are your major influences?

You would think this would be an easy one to answer, but for me not so much, because I am influenced by so many things. I try to read and go to see as many plays/productions as possible. I travel as much as I can and am often highly influenced by the places I travel, too. The people I meet. The plays and productions I see while I am there. I am influenced by my friends & family. I’m definitely influenced by other theatre practitioners whether it be old professors/instructors & mentors and/or other directors, actors and designers, etc. In many ways I am a like a giant sponge and I just soak up as much as possible from wherever I can. That probably sounded cheesy but, oh well, its true.

9.) What would you like to see more of on Vancouver stages?

I would like to see the Vancouver stages take bigger risks and do something that is daring and new and contemporary and relevant. I would like to see something that reflects the fact that we live in a cosmopolitan city. I would like to see some Canadian theatre that isn’t just about the prairies or the backwater experience or the Yukon goldmine. We aren’t just a bunch of hicks & outsiders. Why can’t we write plays and/or produce plays that reflect this?

10.) What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Oh gosh…this is a tough one to narrow down. Ok I’m just going to attack this one from a purely directing standpoint.

1) True & False by David Mamet
2) A Sense of Direction by William Ball
3) The Empty Space by Peter Brook

11.) What’s next?

Up next for Twenty-Something is the summer show and at the moment I am pretty sure, it is not 100% definite quite yet, that we are going to be doing SubUrbia by Eric Bogosian.

Getting the Ball Rolling…

My bogging has been a little blogged down of late, but my excuse is a good one: I’m back in the director’s chair workin’ on a new piece that I wrote for the company as my contribution to this summer’s Write Club. The work my lovely cohorts turned up with was breathtaking (it turns out actors, when pushed, have a natural bent for writing great dialogue), and duly inspired a new and ongoing LSP series of short play productions we’ve titled Riffs. The first series runs November 30 to December 2, details to follow. So, in preparation and inspiration I’ve been seeing tons of theatre around town and re-reading William Ball’s A Sense of Direction, as good a focuser of nervous energy as any book out there, some would agree. It’s too good not to pass on, so, inspired by Ian’s ongoing series of talking points over at Praxis, allow me to share some of the sentences that I’ve been running my turquoise Staedtler Textsurfer Classic over:

Theatre…is expected to reveal Universe.

The most important characteristic of a work of art is unity.

When it is not art, it lacks a sense of the beauty of humankind.

The experience of drama is one of those moments in which a human being sits in awe, wonder, and admiration of something outside of self.

[The actor] is revealer of the universe.

The director is entrusted with the care of these very special creatures. They are unique in society, and most of society does not understand them.

The artist is the conduit by which Universe expresses itself.

It’s important for a director to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Failure is a necessary and important part of the creative process. A director must encourage it and reward it.

A thing becomes beautiful because of the possibility of its absence.

To complain merely gives evidence of amateur status.

A wise director touches.

To interrupt someone who is trying to express himself is unforgivable.

For directors, line readings are forbidden.

…never permit an actor to tell another actor how to do something.

All directors, in my opinion, should have to act.

The best relationship between a pair of onstage lovers is a remote and professional relationship offstage.

If the director does nothing more than continuously ask the actor for his objective, he will have a successful production.

…most actors tend to resist acting.

The first off-book rehearsal is always a disaster.

Very few people can improvise in iambic pentameter.

The purpose of the improvisation is to awaken the actor’s imagination to the total life, the total experience, of the character.

One puts a pebble in an actor’s shoe by asking him to memorize before he understands.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”