New Ideas Festival 2013: The ‘Creative Exchange’ – aka writers meet directors in a Speed Dating event!

On Saturday Nov 17, Pat McCarthy and Carolyn Zapf, Artistic Directors of the New Ideas Festival, held a ‘ Creative Exchange’ for writers whose scripts had been selected and the directors who had applied. During the first part of the event, the playwrights (13 new and two returning – though only 9 of the new writers were present, some being from out of town) introduced themselves to the others; the directors had not yet arrived.  Included in the writers’ circle were Diane Forrest, a member of the NIF reading committee that selected the plays; and Shirley Barrie, also on the reading committee, and one of the “returning” writers.  Her short play Revelation was a hit at the 2001 Festival.  As part of the   salute to NIF’s 25th anniversary, two favourites from past years – Revelation, and Flora Stohr-Danziger’s My Red Feather Boa (2004) – will be reprised at the 2013 Festival, helmed by the original directors: Molly Thom (NIF co-founder!) and Nancy Bradshaw.  Another reading committee member, Neale Kimmel (herself a playwright – the first act of Frances and Marybeth premiered at NIF 2011, and an expanded version played at the Factory Theatre a year later) dropped by later.

Here are the selected plays, which will be seen at the New Ideas Festival, March 6-24, 2013.  Some plays are as short as 10 minutes; some run up to 35.  The readings may be 60 minutes or so.  There’s a different lineup of plays in each week of the Festival.

Revelation by Shirley Barrie (re-mount from 2001)

Dinner Date by Jessica Moss – two couples have dinner.  A comedy.

Say the Words by Tina McCulloch – monologue (for man or woman) about love and loss.

 Stalled by Eugenie Carabatsos – this New York writer’s play In Their Glory was a reading in NIF 2012.

SATURDAY READING (Week 1):  Everything but the Cat by Adrianna Prosser – a “not-so-one-woman show”.

Pieces of Penelope by Gina Femia – a writer from New York.

Over the Edge by Cate Frid – didn’t get a synopsis.

Two Actresses by R.J. Downes – formerly based in Toronto; now in Kingston.  His circus play Tightrope was in NIF 2010.

The Deepest Trench by Chloë Whitehorn – originally written for Fringe’s 24hr playwriting contest!

SATURDAY READING (Week 2):  Falling by Jamie Johnson – this play was stashed in a drawer for 18 yrs…

Dead French Philosophers and What We Mean When We Talk About Love by James Papoutsis – a professor talks to his class about wildly inappropriate stuff.

My Friend’s Best Friend’s Boyfriend by Wesley J. Colford – a “sort-of comedy” about abuse; written 2 yrs ago and put away.

Eglinton by Anthony MacMahon – part of what (hopefully) will be a 3-play cycle.

My Red Feather Boa by Flora Stohr-Danziger  (re-mount from 2004)

SATURDAY READING (Week 3):  Lullaby for the Abandoned by Rain Chan – not present; I know nothing!

DISCLAIMER: The synopses above are my very brief notes extracted from what each writer said about their play, and should not be construed as necessarily accurate or complete!  Will have a better feel for the plays after the cold readings in the week of Dec 3, when playwrights and directors get to hear actors read their words cold.  And I mean ICE cold: recruited actors are literally handed a script when they walk in the door!  But since these cold readings are not the auditions, there’s absolutely no pressure.  The real auditions will happen the first week of January.

Before the directors arrived, I quizzed Artistic Directors Carolyn Zapf and Pat McCarthy about the process of choosing the scripts.  They told me that 114 scripts were received, and were evaluated by a 9-member reading committee.  The submission instructions (writers’ names do not appear on the scripts, only on a cover page that the committee does not see) ensured that each script was read blind.

For the first round, each script was read by a group of three – comprised (if possible) of an actor, a director and a writer to ensure a wide range of viewpoints.  If at least two committee members agreed (the options were YES, NO or ANOTHER READER), a script passed on to the second round.  At this point, around 50% of the submissions had been eliminated.  For the second round, readers were told the gender of the writer, and membership status.  (If two scripts were in contention, preference was given to the one written by an Alumnae Theatre member or by a woman, per the company mandate.)

For the third round (now down to about 20 scripts), readers were given the writers’ names and the short bio which had been sent with their submission.  From those 20, the reading committee found the lucky 13!  All of the script-reading and swapping was done online through Google Docs, which Carolyn said was efficient and interactive.

And then the directors came in!  They had all responded to the Call for Directors posted on Alumnae’s website and other places back in mid-October.   Writers were positioned around the theatre lobby in chairs labeled with their play titles, and potential directors moved from one writer to the other (I believe it was supposed to be clockwise) in a sort of Speed Dating format – 10 minutes each meeting.  Pat set the alarm on her phone to ring when time was up.  The directors had been given the password to the site to read the selected scripts a couple of days before.  They probably had favourites that particularly interested them, but were required to speak to all the writers.

After this event (which was on a Saturday) each writer and director was required to submit their top 3 picks to the Artistic Directors by the following Wednesday evening.  Then the ADs would have the difficult task of matching them up, and announce the teams by Sunday night.  It turned out to be even more difficult than anticipated (“a lot of juggling”, they said), so final matches didn’t happen until Monday night.   I’ll have a list of the matched-up writer/play/director teams to publish tomorrow.

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Filed under 2012/13 Season, New Ideas Festival 2013

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