This past Sunday (Oct 21) Alumnae Theatre held its annual Write Now! event – I believe this is the 9th edition. Write Now! is a challenge issued by the theatre’s New Play Development group [NPD] to all of the company’s writers. This year the event was organized by Cate Frid (whose own full-length play GuineaPigging premiered in Alumnae’s 2010/11 season) and frequent Alumnae director Jane Carnwath.
Last year, writers had to create a play based on a passage from a Jane Austen novel. This year, the challenge – issued on Friday Oct 12 – was to go to a place with running water for an hour, then write a 10-minute play with no more than 3 characters. Scripts had to be turned in by noon on Sunday Oct 14.
The result was 10 very different short plays, which were presented (after directors assigned, actors cast and one rehearsal) to the public as staged readings on Sunday Oct 21. Phew – whirlwind, or what!
The readings were held in Alumnae’s Studio space, which currently houses the partially-built set for the November production of The Drowning Girls. It was uncannily appropriate that the set features three old-fashioned bathtubs with overhead showers, given the “running water” theme of Write Now!
The 10 scripts (in order of presentation) were:
Drowning My Sorrow by Ramona Baillie. Directed by Valary Cook.
A contemporary comedy. Margot (Tina McCulloch) drinks in a bar after discovering that her husband, who’s no good at stock trading, has drained all their bank accounts to cover a huge loss. Her good friend Jane (Stacy Gardner) and Jane’s dotty mother Lucy (Susan Kerr) have ideas about how to get back at him.
Stream by Norma Crawford. Directed by Jane Carnwath.
A play on words. The audience was instructed to imagine the soundtrack of a dripping tap while a couple (Ilene Cummings, David Perlman) used descriptive words in short, staccato bursts as they argued!
The Air Show by Donna Langevin. Directed by Annie MacMillan.
On a summer day in 1995, a young couple (Nathanial Jai and Alyssa Owsiany) standing on her apartment balcony are horrified to witness the crash of a plane in the CNE Air Show. The shock has unforeseen ripple effects on their relationship.
Dust on White Water by Maaja Wentz. Directed by Joan Burrows.
Set in the Rouge Valley in the year 2060 – a time when most people live underground, in fear of robotic drones that patrol the “overground”. A young woman (Sangeeta Wylie) sneaks out to meet a boy from a neighbouring valley, and her worried grandmother (Brenda Somers) comes to find her. The evocative title refers to disposal of cremated remains: “…we keep the winter dead in urns, and in the spring…”
The Change Room by Melissa Chetty. Directed by Molly Thom.
Contemporary comedy/drama. Two women – a wealthy decorator (Chantal Groulx) and a feisty single mother (Lara Mrkoci) – trapped in the change room of a condo swimming pool, meet the building’s cleaning lady (Pat Hawk) who has been sleeping there, while she’s temporarily homeless.
Running Water by Rae Kolbin. Directed by Pat McCarthy.
Bookended by a lovely keening chant, a woman (Anne Shepherd) talks to her unseen therapist about the gradual dissolution of her marriage, and eventually, the scattering of her husband’s ashes brings closure. Best line (and a delightfully suggestive performance!): “I was thirsty, and he was…drinkable.”
Provenance by Linda McCready. Directed by Barbara Larose.
A small-town waitress (Tina McCulloch) tries several tactics to persuade a dead artist’s unwilling son (Rick Jones) to formally authenticate a painting by his father that she believes is worth a lot of money. I should note that Rick did a fantastic job, filling in at literally the last minute for an unexpectedly absent actor. He absorbed script changes and blocking notes from the director while sitting in the noisy theatre lobby during intermission!
Thinking Out Loud by Annie MacMillan. Directed by Pat McCarthy.
Self (Brenda Somers) finds her interactions ignored by the people (and even birds) that she meets in her day, including the Starbucks barista (Sangeeta Wylie). What do you mean: they can’t hear her??
Fast Forward by Francine Dick. Directed by Brenda Darling.
Very topical drama, as a sleek and slick young developer(Tajana Penney) attempts to convince a Jane Jacobs-like Toronto councilor (Razie Brownstone) that the Toronto Islands are ripe for developing – condos, hotels, amusement parks… Includes a cute scene of the councilor casually going for a dip at “clothing-optional” Hanlan’s Point Beach while the developer stands appalled!
Still Waters by Suzanne Gauthier. Directed by PJ Hammond.
Delightful contemporary comedy. The female half (Jane Reynolds) of a retired couple who have recently downsized from a house in Leaside to a downtown condo, has trouble sleeping. Her loving husband (John Illingworth), who claims “I didn’t snore in Leaside!”, has a creative solution. “You went to Canadian Tire, didn’t you?” his spouse accuses him darkly.