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Posts tagged ‘Tarragon Playwrights Unit’

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. 

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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: https://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/09/16/tarragon-playwright-profile-alexandria-haber/

Dramaturg Andrea Romaldi: https://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/06/19/tarragon-theatres-playwright-unit-an-introduction-with-dramaturg-andrea-romaldi/

 

Follow our writer Bailey on Twitter: @_BaileyGreen

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