This past November I undertook a mini project to read a play every Monday-Friday over a period of four weeks (But why Mon-Fri? To execute the project like it’s my job… because it is). I made notes on content, theme, style, staging, and development history. This project was created to provide an education for myself that I do not have. In order to keep myself accountable and to share with others #aplayaday progress was posted on Twitter.
The Plays (in order of reading):
1. The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble – Beth Graham
2. Age of Minority – Jordan Tannahill
3. Blood (A Scientific Romance) – Meg Braem
4. The Fairytale Lives of Russian Women – Meg Miroshnik
5. Armstrong’s War – Colleen Murphy
6. That Elusive Spark – Janet Munsil
7. Concord Floral – Jordan Tannahill
8. Annie Mae’s Movement – Yvette Nolan
9. Tombs of the Vanishing Indian – Marie Clements
10. Brothel #9 – Anusree Roy
11. The Flick – Annie Baker
12. The Unplugging – Yvette Nolan
13. Café Daughter – Kenneth T. Williams
14. Pig Girl – Colleen Murphy
15. Night – Christopher Morris
16. Bug – Tracy Letts
17. All Our Happy Days Are Stupid – Sheila Hetti
18. Fred’s Diner – Penelope Skinner
19. Late Company – Jordan Tannahill
20. Kill Me Now – Brad Fraser
21. A Man A Fish – Donna Michelle St. Bernard
22. Antigone – Sophokles (Anne Carson)
Questions I Ask Myself:
Why this project?
There could be no better way to improve ones playwrighting skills than to read, watch, and write. That is: to read everything, to see as much as possible, and to write all the time. #aplayaday provides the opportunity to create an easy framework for studying contemporary scripts.
Why did I choose the plays I did?
First, I chose to catch up on reading the pieces I had on my ‘To Do’ list. Second, I grabbed contemporary, Canadian, female plays that my public library had on offer. I didn't think very hard about it and I didn’t go out of my way. It was just about reading.
What did I learn?
- Forcing myself to carve out time every day to sit and read a play was a great exercise in dedication, discipline, and self guided study.
- #aplayaday allowed me to ask the question ‘What makes this piece uniquely theatrical?’ of everything I read. In each play I isolated an element of style, setting, staging, timeline, or technical production which presented a theatrical highlight. The scripts that offered the opportunity to create a unique theatrical experience were inspiring and the most enlightening for my purposes.
- #aplayaday offered the opportunity to study dialogue, monologue, timeline, style, staging, precision of written direction, script development methods, rich content, and more. Each play showed me something I didn’t know and left me to ask many more questions.
What will I read next?
- Wajdi Mouwad’s quartet of plays: Littoral (Tideline), Incendies (Scorched), Forets (Forests), Ciels (Heavens)
- For the next #aplayaday I would build a specific curriculum to focus in on style/medium.
- More women playwrights, always.
- The best undertakings fill you with inspiration and #aplayaday was no exception. Reading these works was to be given access to an intimate world created and crafted by a playwright dedicated to investigating a question, person, or situation.
- The Canadian Drama cannon is rife with stories which explore all walks of life and offer the opportunity to expand horizons through sharing and investing in one another's realities. So, the next time ‘they’ tell me that plays written by women aren’t being produced because they are too hard to find - I'll know the truth - I'll know they just aren’t looking. I found a whole slew of them sitting, waiting to present their magic, in the stacks of a single library. A reminder not to let anyone tell you that your story and the story of your neighbour isn’t there to be told.
I’m passionate about new work so when I'm reading plays I like to keep track of development history. If you do #aplayaday look at who worked on the script, note which artists and which theatres have contributed to the development of new work. You will notice very quickly that the same names and theatres pop up again and again. Find out who these champions are and support them if you can! #aplayaday reminded me that here in Saskatchewan, Gordon Totoosis Nikaniwin Theatre (previously Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company) has been doing an incredible job of producing and developing new work. Many thanks to them for doing a very hard job and doing it well!
Thank-you to all the story creators and facilitators who make new Canadian Theatre possible!
(P.S. If you do a play a day will you share what you learn with me? I'd really like that!)