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“Power, Authority & Shaking Up Traditional Structures” In Conversation with Rob Kempson, Playwright/Director of TRIGONOMETRY

Interview by Brittany Kay

We had the pleasure of re-connecting with playwright/director/artist/educator/all-around smart-cookie Rob Kempson to chat about Trigonometry, the final instalment of his trilogy, The Graduation Plays. We spoke about what can come with taking time to explore a subject more thoroughly, the need to shake up traditional structures with power and form, and how he wants these plays to ignite more complex discussions that continue beyond the show. The world premiere of Trigonometry runs from March 16th to March 25th.

Brittany Kay: Tell me a little bit about your show?

Rob Kempson: I think the best way talk about the show is in the context of it as part of a bigger series. I think, like all the other shows in the Graduation Plays series, Trigonometry is about the interaction of power and authority structures in a school setting. What I found from my own teaching is that students have the capacity to take power that maybe isn’t assigned to them in a traditional school atmosphere. The authority in the school is clear but the power is not. These plays explore how we manipulate power and how the powerless gain their voice.

I have found in this series that some sort of student expression of sexuality is a great way for them to steal power because, being in a school setting, a lot of that is about tight-lipped, very square principals. It doesn’t always mean that they’re having sex. It means that they understand that by talking about, or referring to, or in some way bringing up sexuality, it makes teachers uncomfortable because they’re not allowed to talk about it in a school. I found that sort of tension really interesting.

Photo of Daniel Ellis, Alison Deon and Rose Napoli by Robert Harding.

BK: Why are you so drawn to the themes of student power and authority?

RK: I’m really interested in that idea because I don’t know how the education system can grow and change and find what’s next, unless we address the way in which students are now on the same level as teachers. We aren’t as different as we once were. I think unless we figure out how to tackle that, the education system is going to be stuck in this bizarre route for a long time.

BK: What makes Trigonometry different from your other two shows in the series?

RK: In this particular case, I tried to take a different perspective than the other two plays. If I was to simplify it down, I think SHANNON 10:40, Mockingbird and Trigonometry are all about the same thing. Something happens where a student takes power, it’s unexpected, and it’s about the way into that, which I think is different between them. SHANNON 10:40 is a largely student perspective, Mockingbird is a largely teacher perspective and Trigonometry is about the parent perspective. I think that’s why this is the end of the trilogy. I sort of found three different ways into the same problem. I don’t think I’ve solved the problem in any of the plays, but I’m interested in finding out how using those different perspectives enlightens new aspects of it.

Trigonometry 1

Photo of Rob Kempson by Robert Harding

BK: In the Greenroom has been able to talk to you about both shows in The Graduation Plays. You and I spoke at the beginning of your process and here we are at the end of it. Do you feel satisfied that this is the final play of the trilogy?

RK: I needed to work out what I wanted to work out. What all of this meant? Why this has been a multi-year process of writing all these things? I think this started as a nugget that I was picking at and I realized I wasn’t going to be satisfied just picking at it. I needed to go as deep as I could. I felt in writing the first two that I hadn’t quite uncovered everything that I wanted to uncover. I knew there was more there to explore, but I didn’t know exactly what that was going to be. The Graduation Plays, in a way, is a graduation for me as a writer and as an artist because I really gave myself the opportunity to spend time exploring a particular theme in a particular area. Not only with different plays, but in different structures of those plays with really different numbers of characters and really different play setups.

Photo of Daniel Ellis by Robert Harding

BK: Why the title Trigonometry?

RK: Everyone should read Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Sarah Ruhl is one of the greatest writers still living and that book says a lot of smart things that are very digestible. She talks a lot about play structure and one of the things she questions is why we see plays as having an arc and what would happen if a play had a different shape. I started thinking about that, what would a triangle shape play be like? The laymen’s answer is that it would have 3 people in it. I just started to think about why that was an interesting structure to explore. What did making a triangle play mean for me? Does this play have an arc? Of course it does, but it does happen in 3 separate parts. Each character is used in the same way. Each are only in 2 of the three scenes.

BK: How does trigonometry come into the structure of the play?

RK: The play is designed like a trigonometric function. If you know the sohcahtoa method, so SOH stands for Sine, which is opposite over hypotenuse; CAH stands for Cosine, adjacent over hypotenuse; and TOA stands for Tangent, opposite over adjacent. I built the play that way. If you assign each of those to characters and you sort of extrapolate as to why you might call those characters by those titles and then you apply those trigonometric functions to those characters, what happens in those scenes is mathematical.

Photo of Alison Deon by Robert Harding

BK: Incredible. Do you need to know anything about math to see the play?

RK: No. (laughs) If you watch it, you would never see that unless you really went into it with that perspective. That’s where the title came from. It came from me wanting to write a triangle play and I get a bit obsessed with ideas like that. I sort of spin into what could that mean structurally, what could that mean in content, in tone, and form, and all of the other things you think about. I love finding things to weave through.

One of the most common things teachers say is that math is all about relationships. If math is all about relationships between angles and lines and numbers and symbols and all of the things that go into that, then math is of humans and humans are of math. There is a connection there that maybe we like to sometimes deny. It was a really neat discovery… I also had to watch so many Youtube videos about trigonometry to try to remember.

Photo of Daniel Ellis, Alison Deon, Rose Napoli by Robert Harding

BK: Where did the inspiration for this specific story in the trilogy come from?

RK: I have no idea. I mean a lot of the catalyst for the first play, SHANNON 10:40, came from what was the 2015 fight against the new Sex Ed. Curriculum. This play riffs on that in a way that Mockingbird didn’t. I needed to explore it more actively. It started from there.

The other thing that is true of Trigonometry, is that I don’t really love any of the characters. That’s not something that people generally do. I tend to write people who I mostly like with some villains. I started thinking about people who I don’t agree with politically or philosophically or educationally. We are living in such a polarized world that we have to try to learn how we listen to one another and who’s deserving of that respect. I tried to listen to what those people had to say. They became some of the voices in the play.

BK: Why this story right now?

RK: I think that this is a story that is now. One of the things that I think is a fact in contemporary classrooms that is such a struggle are cell phones. It sounds so simple and silly and trite. The effect of having personal property that you can’t abscond or take away from kids that is so distracting to them changes the education game entirely. It changes the power dynamic between students and teachers. I think that anyone who has been in a contemporary classroom will see themselves in this play in a way that is frustrating.

BK: Oh yes. It’s insane, they’re just staring at their phones and re-watching Snapchat videos.   

RK: I’ve been in those rooms, where the integration of technology is really exciting and innovative, but where I get a bit lost, is the way in which it allows a whole other avenue for students to be making bigger choices in the way they choose to react to what their teachers are saying. It’s not only the choice of apathy or tuning out and looking at their phone, it’s also the choice of if they record you. Are they taking your picture? Are they texting their friends saying something about you? The power dynamic really changes because students have this thing that disables you. This play is for “now” because this is a story that happens everyday in schools and I really wanted to explore that.

Photo of Rose Napoli by Robert Harding

BK: Tell me about your cast?

RK: The actors are the most amazing humans. Rose Napoli is giving a performance that will be talked about for a long time. She is remarkable. I was new to Daniel Ellis. I saw him in The Circle and, working with him, he has just so many great insights about who the character of Jackson is and how he is able to tread the line between being a good kid that maybe does bad things. Alison Deon, who I think is one of the most under-used actors in the country, who I’ve known for a number of years from the Thousand Islands Playhouse, is a brilliant performer. Her range is enormous and it’s really exciting to be able to showcase her in this city. People deserve to see the work of all three of these actors. They’re just phenomenal.

BK: And your creative team?

RK: I’m once again collaborating with the fabulous Lisa Li. She’s the best and has been a real dream to work with as she always is. She’s also working with the support of Erin Vanderberg. Katie Saunoris is our marketing and publicity person. Beth Beardsley is our stage manager and is amazing and everyone should hire her. They are an amazing team. Dream dream dream.

Then we look into the design. Anna Treusch is our set and costume designer and is one of my most deeply loved collaborators. In the next 3 months, we are working on 3 shows because we work so well together. She forces me to work really hard. It’s a good relationship. Kaileigh Krysztofiak is a new collaboration for me and is a such cool up-and-coming lighting designer. When I found out that Andy Trithardt, who I’ve seen as an actor a million times, was also a sound designer, I wanted to get him on board. He’s looking at how the idea of trigonometry comes into the design. How and where do we see triangles and how do we hear that? How can we hear things in three? The design team is allowing this play to be explored more fully and deeply.

Photo of Anna Treusch, Beth Beardsley & Rob Kempson by Robert Harding

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

RK: I want them to be divided. My favourite thing is for audiences to walk out and have something to talk about on the car ride home. I don’t want them to come out and have the same opinions of each of the characters. I want people to like one character over the other. Questioning who is making the right decisions for the right reasons. I hope that there is a lot of disparate conversations happening after the show. I really want audiences to walk out with something to chew on for themselves. John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt is such a brilliant parable not only because it’s such a well written play, but because it makes you feel doubt. You walk out feeling the thing that he asks you to explore through these characters. While my play is not called Doubt, I want people to walk out feeling differently about the people that they just witnessed and maybe testing their own morals or testing their own values through the lens of these characters on stage. That’s exciting…I think, I hope!

BK: Anything else we need to know about?

RK: This play stands on its own, so if you haven’t seen the other two in the trilogy that’s okay. You don’t need to. There’s nothing that you will miss. For those who have seen both or any part of it, I think that this will be a really great conclusion for you. I feel so grateful that I have been able to work with collaborators on all three of these pieces that have allowed me the artistic freedom and desire to explore something as fully as I can. If you want to see the outcome of that, I’d encourage you to come out and check out the show.

Trigonometry

Who:
WRITER & DIRECTOR: Rob Kempson
SET & COSTUME DESIGNER: Anna Treusch
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Kaileigh Krysztofiak
SOUND DESIGNER: Andy Trithardt
FEATURING: Alison Deon, Daniel Ellis, Rose Napoli
PRODUCER: Lisa Li
PUBLICIST: Katie Saunoris
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Erin Vandenberg

What:
Gabriella wants action. Jackson wants a scholarship. Susan wants a family. In this new play by Rob Kempson, three disparate people find themselves bound together by desire, destiny, and a few scandalous photos. Trigonometry is about how far we go to get what we want: what we do to survive.

Where:
Factory Theatre, Studio Space
125 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M5V 2R2

When:
March 16 – March 25

Tickets:
416.504.9971
trigonometrytheplay.com

Connect:
#trigtheplay
w: trigonometrytheplay.com
fb: Trigonometry Facebook Event
t: @rob_kempson

Meet Some of the Cast & Characters: 

Artist Profile: Anthony MacMahon, playwright of “Trompe-La-Mort, or Goriot in the 21st Century” at SummerWorks 2016

Interview by Brittany Kay

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Anthony MacMahon to discuss his new play Trompe-La-Mort, or Goriot in the 21st Century premiering at SummerWorks. We spoke about his love for the festival and his way into writing through adaptation.

Brittany Kay: Where did the idea for this play start?

Anthony MacMahon: The idea for this play started when I was reading Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It’s a pretty dry book. It sits somewhere between a regular non-fiction and an economics textbook. There are continual references to literature in this book and how literature captures the spirit of an age. He talks about this book Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac, which is about a very wealthy vermicelli vendor and his two daughters who live in this common house with a young man named Eugene, who’s studying to be a lawyer. The entire book is about how this young man Eugene has worked so hard for everything and even if he is the best lawyer in all of France, he’ll never make as much money as this vermicelli salesman. And despite this vermicelli salesman being the biggest vermicelli salesman in Italy and France, he will never have as much money as a queen, a king, or a prince or a duke. This was very reflective of the age.

I was reading this book in Paris and I was on a train and saw a guy get pick-pocketed and I also saw the after effects of the pickpocket. I saw him get bumped, the wallet stolen, and then I saw him start screaming at his daughter who he was with because she was the one who had gotten them on this train in France. She was living in France and was British and the father was visiting from the countryside and was carrying a giant thick wallet in his back pocket. Seeing this in my surroundings now, and reflecting on how the economy affects people at any given day, I was inspired to update the book and to set it today. It’s the same characters, the same kind of action, but it’s modern and they’re dealing with modern problems. So rather than someone studying to be a lawyer, they’re trying to be a programmer, and rather than someone having made all their money off of vermicelli, they make their money off of the stock market. I tried to make it a thriller because the book is actually quite thrilling and that was how I got to the script stage.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: What has been the process in mounting this play?

AM: I went through a bunch of ideas of how I could do it.

At one point, I sat down and wrote an entire scene and got to this one line, which encapsulated my whole theory about how this play works. I wrote the rest of the play in about a week and a half, and it actually hasn’t changed that much since. I went through about 10 different versions before that one scene came together and then from writing that scene, it organically fleshed itself out into a full play.

BK: Has the play gone through any workshopping or dramaturgy or is this the first kick at the can?

AM: This is the first kick at the can. I normally do the very standard playwriting process of two drafts and then a dramaturg and then another draft and then another dramaturg and then a two-day workshop and then a five-day workshop and then potentially a festival performance. This script was really written in about two weeks and has been edited and changed since then. Its workshop development is this production.

trompe la mort image

BK: Why SummerWorks?

AM: SummerWorks has always been good to me. SummerWorks is why I moved out to Toronto. I got in while I was still living in Saskatchewan and as a result, I kind of love doing it. I have a soft spot in my heart for the festival and I think the festival has a soft spot for me. I’ve gotten in every time I’ve applied now. I think it’s a place that really encourages people to fail boldly and, in that failure, you can have some great successes.

It gives you enough infrastructure so you’re not an absolute disaster of a person trying to figure out how to rent space and hire someone to sell tickets for you. It gives you just enough infrastructure so that you’re not constrained in any way, which is kind of why I chose it. I’ve always just met the most exciting artists working at SummerWorks. It’s August, it’s on Queen West, it kind-of feels like a vacation in the city to do this cool festival downtown. That’s why I chose it.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: Tell me a little bit about your team involved.

AM: Ted Witzel is our director. I think he is the coolest artist in Toronto. He just kind of bleeds cool. I wanted someone who doesn’t bore me in any way and nothing he has ever said or done has ever bored me. That’s kind of why I sought him out. We’re working with Anahita Dehbonehie, CJ Astronomo and Wesley McKenzie for our design team. It’s a big design for the show. We’re really trying to push SummerWorks to its design and structural limits. So we have 2 projectors, we have things on rails and guides, and we have 5 giant pieces of plexiglass hanging from the ceiling with like a neon light show and potentially smoke. Wesley, CJ, and Anahita are people who can really move astoundingly fast. They have this incredible way of taking these giant visual ideas and putting them onto paper in a 6 hour tech time. The cast is Mark Crawford, Farah Merani, Lindsay Owen Pierre, Ewa Wolniczek, and Jeff Yung. It’s a really great cast. A lot of the kind of directorial atmosphere that Ted gives them and that they run with, is what can I get away with as an actor? It has created such a playful atmosphere. Michelle Yagi is producing and she’s great. Having someone know what they’re doing and with her kind-of organizational mind and ability to plan and hit dates and targets just gives the rest of the team so much more opportunity to create much more positively. Justis Danto Clancy is our Production Manager. Alana Dunlop is our stage manager and has worked with Ted before so she knows how to manage his big ideas.

BK: What are you hoping audiences walk away with?

AM: I hope audiences walk away from the show debating it. The show is a debate essentially, or 5 or 10 debates really. I try not to be too prescriptive or too partisan or soap-boxy for lack of a better term. I want to present these things that I’m actually grappling with. I think we’re trying to grapple with some pretty big ideas and I want the audience to have the second act of the play being them grappling with these ideas that we’re presenting, whether it’s in the courtyard after the show, or at the bar, or after another show they see that informs a different version of these ideas. Ideally, I just want them to walk away talking about it. That would be my big hope for the show.

trompe mask

BK: Now let’s talk a little bit about you.

AM: About me?

BK: Yes, you. What propelled you into playwriting?

AM: I kind of tripped and fell into it. My friend Nathan Howe was doing a show that he had written at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival and I asked him if I could be in it. He had already cast it, so I decided I would write a play so that I could cast myself, because I wanted to do a show. I ended up not actually being allowed to be in the play because my director dropped out so I had to take over as director. Then I just started writing more. I just continually tripped and fell into things, which is the dumbest, luckiest thing in the world. I just happened to find out that I wasn’t a particularly skilled performer and my way of performing was all through literature and writing and all through trying to organize ideas as words.

I lobbied for a playwriting course in my university and I ended up doing a couple of public readings in a little reading series in Saskatoon. It was really cemented for me when I was producing Vern Thiessen’s, Vimy and I saw that he was the senior playwright at the Banff Centre. I had an early draft of Wild Dogs on the Moscow Trains and I really wanted to meet Vern, so I submitted. I ended up getting a call as we were producing Vimy saying, “Hey, here’s when you’re coming to Banff. “ At that point I realized I wasn’t going to be doing much acting anymore. I guess I was going to start writing.

BK: How did you figure out that this is where you needed to be?

AM: I think I had one of those stories that’s pretty common among artists, where you have a lot of teachers that don’t inspire you but then you have a drama teacher that does inspire you. His name is Blaine Heart and he’s a fantastic man out in Saskatchewan. He was our drama teacher but also performed in a local improv group in the city and he would perform in local plays. He was just such an inspiring guy, so great to be around, and he kind of took me under his wing. His friend from university, Jim Guido, ended up coming back and teaching in the university there. Blaine told me about Jim and said “You have to go into drama, at least just to take a class from Jim because he’s such an interesting guy,” which ended up with me taking a bunch of classes from Jim and him taking me under his wing, as well, in a different way.

BK: And how was your experience in the University of Saskatchewan’s theatre program?

AM: The theatre program was quite an academic program. You had to take a fully rounded education in the department as well as a fully rounded liberal education outside of that. The people who went to the University of Saskatchewan had a lot of freedom. We had a fully equipped black box studio and we were allowed to put on plays whenever we wanted. We could stay in the building until 2 or 3 in the morning rehearsing shows. In the time I was there I think I did twenty-four shows in four years. A lot of them were short pieces, but you just had consistent performance opportunity. I ended up doing lighting design for two shows because they didn’t have a lighting designer and I was trained on how a lighting board works. You got a really holistic sense of the theatre almost accidentally. It’s a great model of how Toronto theatre or any kind of theatre works. People always have to take a second, third, or fourth job on the production. It was a really good training example of how that all works.

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

BK: When did you move to Toronto?

AM: I moved to Toronto in the summer of 2012. I was working on the show The Frenzy of Queen Maeve at the Saskatchewan Playwright Centre. I had read all of Hannah Moscovitch’s plays and I saw that they were all done at SummerWorks. I knew a bunch of other playwrights at SummerWorks and I figured that I would submit. I did and was accepted. I was considering either moving to Toronto or Vancouver because the Saskatoon theatre community is somewhat small. When I got accepted into SummerWorks, I decided that’s where I was going.

BK: When did Soulpepper happen?

AM: The program began in 2013. It kept me in the city. I’m happy with Toronto. I like this city a lot.

BK: How do you find inspiration for your work?

AM: I do a lot of adaptation… sometimes from literature. In this case it’s kind of literature and non-fiction. My way into writing, especially in the last couple of years, has really been about as a playwright trying to make a case for yourself in the theatre. I’ve always said “playwrights are the only people in the world who can have a dead person do their job,” in that if you can’t make a proper case for why your show should be done, people will just do Shakespeare or Ibsen or all the thousands of dead playwrights that are out there, who don’t have to be paid and have a name cache behind them. My way in is often through (whether or not it’s an adaptation) literature or non-fiction, it’s a hat tip towards it. I can interface with these old problems or these new problems and I can make them theatrical.

BK: What’s your process when you write?

AM: Usually I’ll do a lot of structural work beforehand… plot out scenes and find major action in the scenes. I’ll often work backwards writing a play. I figure out where I want a play to get to and then sometimes I’ll have where I want it to start and I’ll just fill in the middle. Generally, it will be a bunch of work that amounts to nothing and one line or one phrase that finally does something and that’s when I’ll pick that thing up.

BK: Do you find ways to keep yourself motivated?

AM: No… If you have any I’d love to hear them.

Deadlines are the best one. There’s always an internal motivation about just wanting to create something and wanting to show something. The best motivation besides deadlines, for me, is actually having a problem that I’m grappling with. If I am being dogmatic in my writing then I just get tired of it, whereas if I’m confused about why I’m writing something then that tends to just make me start writing it to try to work it out. I’m better at working things out on the page than I am verbally. Debating with myself on the page is the best way to do it.

BK: Do you have advice for emerging artists?

AM: I still consider myself one. The best thing that I have found as an artist is to not be afraid to ask. I never met Ted before I did this show. I sent him an email asking if he wanted to direct. You can get very far just by asking. The worst that’s going to happen is that they are going to say no.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: Taxi Driver.

Favourite Play: Light Shining in Buckinghamshire by Caryl Churchill.

Favourite Musical: Assassins.

Favourite spot in Toronto: East Side Riverdale Park.

Favourite Food: Good pasta.

What are you listening to: I’m getting into electronic music for the first time in my life.

Mantra/Best advice you’ve ever gotten: Quit trying to be cool, start trying to be good.

TROMPE-LA-MORT, or GORIOT IN THE 21st CENTURY

trompe la mort image

Who:
Company – Live Lobster Theatre
Directed by Ted Witzel; Written by Anthony MacMahon; Set and Costume Design by Anahita Dehbonehie; Lighting Design by CJ Astronomo; Projection Design and Sound Design by Wesley McKenzie.

What:
An anarchist holds the world’s secrets on a hard drive. Three developers try and disrupt stagnant markets, missed connections, and freedom of speech. A venture capitalist finds his profit in the rubble. The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.

A loose adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s Le Père Goriot smashed up against Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century asking what’s the difference between terrorism and whistleblowing? What’s the difference between a human being and a start-up corporation? What is the difference between freedom and control? This digital age thriller explores what happens when your work life, relationships, and ideas are reduced to data processed in an app.

Curator’s Note
“‘After studying the world very closely, you’ll see that there are but two alternatives–stupid obedience or revolt.’ – Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot

Anthony MacMahon, my favourite young commie playwright, has come to similar conclusions. This smart, fast, and funny play drops Balzac through the trapdoor of global capital.” – Guillermo Verdecchia

Where:
Factory Theatre Studio
125 Bathurst Street
Toronto

When:
Thursday August 4th 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Friday August 5th 9:00 PM – 10:30 PM
Sunday August 7th 7:15 PM – 8:45 PM
Monday August 8th 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Tuesday August 9th 10:30 PM – 12:00 AM
Saturday August 13th 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Sunday August 14th 4:15 PM – 545 PM

More Show Info:
summerworks.ca/trompe-la-mort/

Tickets:
summerworks.ca

Connect:
instagram – @livelobstertheatre
#trompelamort
#SW16

Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights Unit: Playwright Profile – Alexandria Haber

by Bailey Green

I interviewed playwright, actor and fellow Montrealer, Alexandria Haber as part of our series of profiles on the members of the 2014 Playwrights Unit at Tarragon Theatre.

Too busy to write? Alexandria Haber might inspire you to re-think what’s possible. A mother of four, Haber writes in the chunks of time she can find throughout the day, “It can be difficult to take advantage of those moments, but it has made me the writer I am.” It was during her second pregnancy that Haber began writing plays as a creative outlet. Birthmarks, her first work, led to her acceptance into the unit at Playwrights Workshop Montreal. With several years of writing credits under her belt, a few highlights include multiple Fringe shows, productions throughout Canada and collaborations with companies like Imago Theatre, Edmonton Theatre, Centaur Theatre (to name a few) and plays included in the Wildside Festival (essentially Montreal’s Best of Fringe.)

When the email came from Andrea Romaldi saying that the Tarragon Playwrights Unit was interested in Haber’s work, she actually didn’t have a play at the ready. What she did have was the image of a couple who had hit a girl with their car while on their way to a party. The girl survives and the couples takes her to the ER, where things become very uncomfortable for multiple, and undisclosed, reasons. The first pieces of this idea had taken shape a few years ago, but were put aside to make way for another play. “I dug it up, spoke to Andrea and then barreled through a first draft in three months,” Haber recalls.

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Over the months that the Unit has been working together, On This Day has been workshopped several times in meetings with dramaturg Romaldi, with actors reading scenes and in hearing feedback from the other writers. Haber’s play deals with happiness—the ways we define it, the choices we make to obtain it and what happens when those choices come at the expense of other people’s happiness. On the process with the Unit, Haber says that to sit in a rehearsal room with other writers and work on scripts for several days every three months has been a great experience. She also mentions the importance of moving a piece past the workshop phase, “At times, in Canada, I think we over-develop. When a play is done, it’s done. Not everything is going to be perfect about every piece you write. Some things only show up in the rehearsal room or in production.”

Born in Hamilton, Haber moved to Montreal when she was 5. She had some experience with Toronto’s theatre scene before the Unit, but not as much as in her home city. “[The community in] Montreal is smaller, so you immediately have that comfort level. I didn’t know the Toronto community very well,” Haber says, “but we have really gelled as a group which has been so nice.” Navigating how to speak with each other as fellow artists is always part of the learning curve, especially given the variety of voice and subject matter with each individual play and writer.

“I’ve had a lot of people who believed in me and supported me and I feel very fortunate to have had that experience,” Haber says of the tight-knit English theatre community in Montreal. “There’s a lot of self-perpetuated work and people getting things off the ground. It’s a great city, and an affordable city, which has helped me a lot as a theatre artist.” Haber’s husband, an actor and director, is one of her greatest supports and the first person to read every draft she writes. With an objective eye and her best interests at heart, he explores with her to discover what works and what doesn’t. Their fellow actor friends also deserve due credit for coming over to their house on Saturday night to share a bottle of wine and read scripts. Haber stresses the importance of hearing your script read out loud by people outside the immediate process.

Her advice to anyone struggling with their own writing? “It’s advice everyone has heard, but if you want to write, you just have to write.”

Some Favourites:

Playwrights: Caryl Churchill, Judith Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Craig Wright.

Authors: A.S. Byatt, Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch), Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong.)

Time to write: Mornings, and whenever she gets the chance.

Coffee Shop: Shäika Café.

Website or Blog: Not a huge website or blog person, but she currently enjoys Renegade Mothering

What she can’t live without (besides the obvious, e.g. her family, oxygen): My morning coffee. It’s gets me out of bed and I look forward to it the second I’m opening my eyes. And my yoga.

Be sure to check back over the next few months to follow our Tarragon Playwrights Unit Feature as we meet with each of the playwrights, culminating in their Play Reading Week in November 2014.

Follow our writer Bailey on Twitter: @_BaileyGreen