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Posts tagged ‘plays’

Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights Unit: Playwright Profile – Evan Webber

by Bailey Green

I connected with Evan Webber to ask him a few questions about working with the current Tarragon Playwrights Unit. The upcoming Play Reading Week runs from Tuesday November 18th to Saturday November 29th in the Near Studio in the Tarragon Theatre. Each reading is at 8pm. Other Jesus, the play Webber workshopped in the Unit, will be read on Friday November 21st.

BG: Tell me a bit about yourself, where you’re from and where you live now.

EW: I’m from Ottawa, or at least I mostly grew up there. I came to Toronto when I was still young enough to do some growing up here too. But I was old enough that I only have one layer of association on things. No nostalgia.

BG: When did you start writing? Did it begin with plays or have you experimented with different forms?

EW: I always wrote things as a sort of game with myself, from when I was very young. I couldn’t read or write until I was pretty old so I listened to things and got my mom to help me write things down.

Later, writing plays became a way of expanding that game to include other people, so I started doing that when I was in high school. It gave some form to the socializing, helped me to understand the dynamics of people, so I guess I liked that. I always felt drawn more to other forms of writing, but I liked the way that reading and writing plays always implied or assumed some other collective action to come, one set in motion by the text. Most of the writing I’ve done in the last five or ten years has been with other people, collaborative writing of one kind or another.

BG: Tell me about the play you’ve written with the Unit this year.

EW: I’d had this very schematic idea to make a pageant play about the life of Jesus for non-performers, a kind of allegory about virtuosity for presumably non-virtuosic people. It’s about the life of a teacher in ancient Judea who starts performing miracles and how that changes him and his friends, and about how he takes on that identity as a miracle-performer. I guess it’s about leadership in cultural projects. 


BG: What was the experience of working with the Playwrights Unit like?

EW: It’s nice to realize that everyone has a different idea about what makes something good. Like I don’t think anyone agrees. That’s really cool. That’s evident all the time.

BG: How has the Unit helped with the creation process of this play?

EW: I wanted to produce something out of the constraints of the theatre and the Playwrights Unit. There was no other good reason for me to be there or for me to take part. I don’t mean to say that you’re only supposed to do one thing in the Playwrights Unit, I just mean that there are a number of assumptions that a conventional theatre company like Tarragon holds, it’s in the walls and the floor, it affects everyone there. So I thought, maybe I can exaggerate these particular institutional assumptions into a kind of system and make something out of that. So the play is all about the Unit from that perspective. Every part of the play reflects the conditions of the Unit.

BG: What has been the most challenging aspect of this play? What themes does it deal with?

EW: Sticking with the approach. The play sketches some people who grapple with their fundamental interchangeability. So I didn’t want to write something I recognized as my own: I wanted the language of the play and its structure to come to terms with interchangeability too, to be just barely acceptable or competent. It was a challenge to stay committed to that, to not make it more clever or polished, to stick to my constraints, even when they seem to deflate the drama.

BG: What advice has helped you the most in your creative career?

EW: I don’t know. I had a dream once where I went to a Japanese restaurant with an artist I really respect and this artist told me, “Okay Evan, you’re an okay writer, you work hard and you’re thoughtful but you don’t have any vision for feelings, and without that your work is meaningless, you’re in the wrong business…”

But that was just a dream.


Some Favourites:

Playwright(s): Heiner Müller’s and Gertrude Stein’s plays always surprise me. Richard Maxwell

Author(s): Lately, I keep going back to Kathy Acker and Roberto Bolaño

Time to write: Whenever

Coffee shop: Oh, huh

Website or Blog: Facebook or maybe Bomb magazine


More information on the Tarragon Playwrights Unit and the playwrights involved can be found on their website


Past In the Greenroom Playwrights Profiles:

Playwright Alexandria Haber:

Dramaturg Andrea Romaldi:


Follow our writer Bailey on Twitter: @_BaileyGreen

Ryan Recommends: Death and the King’s Horseman

Wole Soyinka – Death and the King’s Horseman

In this examination of Nigerian colonialism and what follows it, a man meant to sacrifice himself for the passing of a great king is interrupted by British forces who seek to save his life without knowing the symbolic nature of the death. This beautifully written piece is relevant to both the ever present climate of “colony-vs-colonized” unrest in Canada; and to the continuing Westernization of media and history. In that sense, it reminded me a lot of another great work from Nigeria, Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. In this piece as well, we have not only a hero doomed to tragedy, but an entire way of life and a culture doomed to tragedy because of the dominating force of Western influence. What I find most interesting, though, is that neither of these works is interested in specifically choosing a side. Neither explicitly tells us that the entrance of the Western people is a force for good or bad, simply that it puts into motion a paradigm shift that is very alienating for the Nigerian people.

The dialogue is quite difficult, repetitive and ritualistic at the beginning, but this transforms into a very easy-to-understand drama that can provoke a great discussion. It is almost as if the play itself is forced to adapt to colonization, as its form turns from a sort of dance ceremony into nearly becoming a conventional well-made play. However, I believe something is lost in that transformation. We move from lyricism to plot. We move from forces to characters. We move from summoning to staging. Both of these halves of the play have their own merits and worth, but in the midst of one, I found myself yearning for the other. To me, that means the show has really done its job. Incredibly highly recommended, and I’d love to see a staging of it.

Casting: 3F, 9M plus singers and dancers

Get a Little bit Closer

By: Erin Reznick

I’m sitting with Caleb McMullen and Gaby Grice, the producers of Patrick Marber’s Closer, with the undeniably delicious scent of pad thai and spring rolls wafting through the air. While chatting and scarfing down Thai food, I can’t help but notice how extremely exhausted the two look. They managed to squeeze in time for an interview in between shopping for costumes and putting together props for their upcoming show. Though the dark circles under their eyes may be larger than the average person’s, so are their grins. Discussing this project with them still gets them excited even after hours and hours of arduous rehearsals.

Why did you want to produce Closer?

G: Well to be honest, it was a play that I completely fell in love with. I read it in third year and I immediately knew that I wanted to put it on. It’s an easier show to produce with there being only four people in the cast. It doesn’t need an extravagant set, the characters are amazing and I could think of so many actors who would be great for the roles.

C: It actually took me a while to sign on to this project. I had just finished producing Wolfboy a few months before Gaby came to me with Closer and it just seemed like a daunting task. It took me around six months to say yes.

G: I don’t remember hounding you that much.

C: Oh you did. You would come to me every few months or so asking me if I wanted to do it. Finally you said that you were going to do it with or without me and that really lit a fire under my butt.

G: I’m so happy you did. I don’t think I could have done this without you.

Caleb, what is it like being a director and a producer?

C: It’s really difficult because I wear so many hats that I’m the only resource I have to get things done. I’ll be working on a variety of things throughout the day, then I’ll light up a cigarette, sit in my directors chair at rehearsal for 4 to 5 hours, and then go back to working on whatever needs to be done. I’ve lost around 15 pounds putting this show on.

G: I hate you.

C: I treat myself as an employee of Mnemonic Theatre Productions and my hours are from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. As my own boss, I set deadlines and parameters for myself. I have this list of things that need to be accomplished before the show goes up and every day I work a little bit on every one until they are 100% complete. My last bullet on my list is “produce and direct Closer.” And on February 4th, after the curtain falls, I get to check that off my list. And that’s my reward.

Your theatrical trailer for Closer looks awesome. How did you decide to create that? 

C: We wanted to market the show in a new and interesting way. We also wanted it to be professionally done so I went to my friend Alex Josselyn, who is brilliant. It took us two days to film that.

G: And we’re talking 14 hour days.

C: Yes. But it was actually a really good time on set. Everyone was so cooperative and professional. And Alex let me come in while he was editing incase I wanted to put my two cents in. And I’m so happy with how it came out.

Watch the theatrical trailer below:

What advice do you have for people who want to produce their own work?

G: You really have to love what you’re doing. You have to be willing to sweat, bleed and cry for it. If you’re not going to love the show after a month or so in, you’re fucked.

C: You’re so fucked.

G: You also need to know what you’re good at and what you’re not. Know your limitations. I knew I needed someone to compliment me and Caleb is definitely good at the things I can’t do. I knew that I was willing to put my time, money and passion into this project but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Know your scale. Know what you’re capable of but respect what’s not possible at the time.

What do you want people to take away from the show?

G: I really think people are going to relate to the show. Patrick Marber is a genius. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had. There are really bold things said and done in this play, and I know people will walk away saying that they have at least thought about doing or saying those things before. It’s really interesting because all of the actors have completely different relationship statuses.  There are actors who are single, in a relationship, gay, married but it doesn’t matter. We all feel connected to the thoughts and words of these characters because they are so true. And I want the audience to feel the same way, and I think they will.

C: I want audiences to recognize that independent theatre companies are capable of producing high quality theatre. I truly believe, and am willing to say, that Closer will be an incredible production. As a producer, I strive to make a theatrical experience that cost $25 a ticket feel like it should have cost $100 a ticket. That’s why it was important to us to make a really professional trailer as well. I want people to walk away from the show with a new expectation from small, independent theatre companies.

What have you learned from being a part of this show?

G: I’ve grown so much as an actor with this show. I’m so happy I did [Hart House’s] Lysistrata when I did, but I only grew so much because I had played roles like that before. This show really took me out of my comfort zone and I had to experience a lot of new things. I learned that I can be a dramatic character. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and I don’t want other people to pigeonhole me either.

C: I’ve learned that I want to be an artistic directer. I really feel like I want to spend the rest of my life creating new projects.

Closer runs from February 1st – 4th at the Winchester Street Theatre. For tickets and more info visit 

Read another interview with and about Gaby in our Actor Profiles