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I didn’t get in.

I didn’t get home in time to catch the start of the Edmonton Fringe livestream of the 2014 lottery draw, and things were happening too fast for Twitter to handle, so I completely missed the TYA draw. However, a friend who was there immediately texted me: “Hey, 3 on the waiting list has potenital 🙂 ” That’s for The Ugly Princess. Then came the final draw…and The Book of Anne didn’t even make the waiting list.

I’m so sorry everybody…I feel a bit stuck. I don’t know if the show everyone went to bat for during the Writeathon this past weekend will happen or not. I certainly can’t pull off the TYA waiting list – 3 is too close not to hang on. But it means hoping that three shows ahead of me pull out instead. How likely is that? And how do I promote and fundraise for a show that MAY be in the Fringe? Probably? The question of a Bring-Your-Own-Venue will, I know, come up. I genuinely believe you should try (almost) everything once; I tried a BYOV once. It wasn’t for me.

So…limbo. Well, there’s a long time between now and next August, isn’t there?

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Who’d like to pick a name that will live FOREVER??

Mwa ha ha.

The Writeathon is in T minus 2 hours. I’ve been tasked with keeping YOU glued to the internet for the duration, so here’s my carrot:

I will be auctioning off the FOLLOWING NAMES of characters and places IN MY PLAY, The Ugly Princess, as I write it. Click HERE to donate.

For $50, you could pick the name of —

The mad king
The handsome prince
The smarmy manservant
The pretty – but mean villianess.

For $100, you could pick the name of —

The country the ugly princess rules, or
The country the handsome prince is from.

I’ll announce the names, and the donors who’ve picked them, as they come up. The ugly princess herself has already been named, thanks to a donation from Dale Lee Kwong! But I’m keeping that under wraps until just before the Writeathon ends, tomorrow at 7pm!

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T minus 48 Hours to Writeathon madness.

As I write it is exactly two days until Alberta Playwrights Network’s first ever Writeathon begins. You’ll note we’ve long surpassed our original goal of $10,000, so we’re very stoked.

In their infinte wisdom, by fellow APN members have made me one of the managers of our Facebook page for the Writeathon’s duration. Feel free to follow along as the caffeine and sleep deprivation take hold.

Oh, and I have entered both The Ugly Princess yet-to-be AND The Book of Anne into the Edmonton Fringe lottery. (Just to clarify I’m not using the word “madness” lightly.)

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$10,000 to see a bunch of monkeys write?


The idea was to get a bunch of playwrights to lock themselves up and write for 24 hours, in the hope that others would show a little mercy and sponsor us to do so. All to support Alberta Playwrights Network, who would, in turn support those playwrights. The goal was a rather whopping $10,000,

We’re at $9,575. So the goal has been pushed UP. To $15,000.

Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor (hey, I had to, and I’m one of the writers!), feel free to tell us monkeys to write even more and donate too. The 24-hour-clock begins at 7pm, on 22 November 2013!

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How to create an Ugly Princess in 24 hours (or less)

I will be writing a new play, The Ugly Princess, almost from scratch, in 24 hours for APN’s Writeathon on 23 November. I say “almost”, because I have two scenes. This post…is about making you want to see the whole thing.

The story is linked – in my head, somehow – to this painting, now at the National Gallery in London, a painting which, the story goes, gave Sir John Tenniel the idea for how the Duchess should look in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

by Sir John Tenniel, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865. Courtesy of eBooks@Adelaide
by Sir John Tenniel, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865. Courtesy of eBooks@Adelaide

When I was asked to provide one scene, no more than ten minutes long, with two characters, for my workshop at Playworks Ink, and I realized I didn’t have anything fitting the bill, that’s when the “squidgies” set in, and I had to write a scene from this play still sitting entirely in my head. And here, exactly, is what happened:

There were twenty of us playwrights in the workshop room the first day. Robert randomly picked one person. Her scene was read out loud by two actors in the middle of the room. Robert asked the playwright what she’d intended, and she explained. Then he said: “Your assignment…is to remove all the dialogue of this character, and give ALL the dialogue in the scene to the other character. Make it a monologue.”

And I could feel everyone else in the room thinking the same thing as me: Holy. Crap.

One playwright brought part of her stage adaptation of Things Fall Apart. He told her to set in the year 3000 and make it Sci-Fi. My fellow tweeter James was told to take his very idyllic scene of a brother and sister between the two World Wars, and transform it into the first level of a violent, gory video game.

I remembered the one brilliant moment in the Muppets Tonight series, when Cindy Crawford (yeah) was on. There were some besotted pigs asking what made her a supermodel, and then laserbeams came out of her eyes and vapourized one pig. The remaining pig ran after her shouting “Cindy! Do me! DO ME!”

I was that pig. Sitting there, in trepidation and glee, thinking “Me! Me next! What do I get to do?!”

So. The two actors got my script, and after glancing at it, they asked if I wanted British accents. Hell yeah. So they read it. Everyone laughed. Robert laughed. When the scene was done, he said, “This is very interesting.” I remained calm. He did not ask me to rewrite what I had, no. My assignment was to write a NEW scene, bring in the prince, and have him meet the two ladies at once, but when he spoke to one, the other answered, so he’d be flipping back and forth between them…for five pages. He said “It’s a bit complicated, but judging by your writing I think you can do it.”

We took a break, and I was vibrating in the hallway. I went off to write, and I had those five pages in 30 minutes.

My intention is to let the rest simmer, and then pound it out in support of the marvelous group that let me go to Playworks and got this to happen. And then enter it into the KidsFringe draw for next year. Want to see it?

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Oh my God…that WAS amazing.

Twitter has its uses. Oh yes. “Retweet this for your chance to win tickets to War Horse !” said VUE. The touring production at the Jubilee Auditorium. I re-tweeted it without a thought. And that evening after work (because I’m one of those people who puts her phone away during work hours), I got a reply that I had WON. Two tickets, to Opening Night. Of War Horse.

So I invited my Take a Bite director Amy (who’d already seen it in New York!), and I got VERY dressed up — and was shocked at how overdressed I felt on seeing everyone there. Let’s leave that for another post, hmm?

I was slightly afraid that having heard so much about this show already, having seen photos of the puppets, I wouldn’t be as moved by it…or alternatively I’d be washing my own makeup down my face.

But…as I posted earlier, it turned out to be true…this is one of those shows that is perfect.

I actually didn’t cry that much because, I think, I was just in awe.

No in-depth analysis–I believe War Horse is beyond that. But I really recall three things:

1) I normally detest title cards — it’s like I’m being told instead of shown, or, in a historical show, like this, the dates projected onscreen tell me how I should be feeling. But not so in this show. When the words “October 1918” appeared, I sighed in relief…”Thank God, the war is almost over…
2) You’d think the horses — the puppets, that is — would overtake everything. But even in the scenes where the horses weren’t onstage, I never thought: “People. Boring. Where are the horsies?” EVERYTHING about this show — the script, the acting, the costumes, the staging of this massive touring show — were all bang on.
3) No denying, this show is what it is because of the puppets. There is nothing else like them. At the curtain call, when all the human actors came out, I was applauding, but also regretting that we wouldn’t see the horses take a bow because all their operators must be onstage. Except I was wrong — Joey and Topthorn came out, and took their bows too, and the audience went nuts, because the horses were so REAL to us. Everyone who built, moved, and did the choreography of those horses…they are geniuses, every one.

I need to read the book and movie, I do. But for the love of heaven, everybody on earth, SEE THIS ONSTAGE.

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Why I dislike being a “woman writer”.

Besides the fact that “woman” in this case is used as an adjective when it’s a NOUN. I HATE THAT.

This post may seem like I’m looking the gift horse in the mouth, and I genuinely don’t know why this occurred to me today, but it has, so here we go:

This morning, I received an e-mail saying “I’m pleased to inform you that Crushed has made a sale.” I get that same e-mail about every six weeks or so.

I wrote Crushed in 1997. It had its premiere at the Walterdale Playhouse, during their Evening of One-Acts program — it’s now called Cradle to Stage (now accepting submissions…do it!). This program did — and does — get some heavyweight dramaturges to assist the playwrights. Mine was Vern Thiessen. And here it is, my little two-hander one-act, doing quite well in the fledgling world of online publishing. And a sliver of me wonders why.

It’s very short, 18 pages, though its playing time has always been not less than 30 minutes. It’s about two sisters…the younger is an abusive relationship, and she in turn is rather abusive to her older sister. It’s a very, VERY cheerful story.

Does it still have legs because there are still too few really good scripts out there for actresses? Is it because I happened to get it right — how an abused woman thinks, and how she might in turn end up hurting the people around her? Because — very unfortunately — domestic abuse is happening?

I’ve been very lucky. I have never been physically abused by a man — I wouldn’t stand for it. I have never been turned down for a job because I’m female. But maybe it’s because I’m older, and still on my own, or because there does appear to be a true movement to belittle women lately, that I’m pondering how little progress we’re actually making. I’d like to believe there are more men like these in my own sphere, who not only don’t believe I’m lesser, but would step up when another man says I am. I wish Suzanne Moore of The Guardian wasn’t right…but she is.

I hate being a “woman writer” because that implies what I’ve written about couldn’t possibly matter to anyone but other women. So I put it out there, brothers: if your sister is being beaten up by her boyfriend, isn’t that your problem? What about your daughter, or niece, or your best friend’s daughter? If that boyfriend said “She was asking for it,” would you really say “Yeah man. Women“?

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More non-news on the thing I can’t talk about yet.

If I have any regular readers at all, this must look just weird. And anyone running across this will think, if I’m unlucky, “Oh look! A non-post. How deconstructionist!”

What I’m referring to is THIS, and the news I can’t talk about yet IS: I have a date and a venue for a show, if I can come up with the show. Which I will, because the biggest element I’m missing to do the show, I will get because of the other theatre people I’ve got in my corner.

I so want to shout out loud about this. Soon…very soon…

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Two performances, and no more…

This past week, a very young Edmonton actor, Adam Cope, died. A memorial is being held for him on Tuesday.

I first saw him play King Mark, the husband of Isolde, in a brand new production of Tristan and Isolde in March this year, at the Serca Festival of Irish Theatre. He was a fairly big, imposing guy, with ginger hair, and when he discovered Isolde was cheating on him–he got mad. Towards the end, when Isolde told Mark she had to leave to find Tristan, he had a great line: “Tristan? Tristan-who-almost-ruined-our-marriage-THAT Tristan?” The whole show was very good. And I remember thinking then “Wow. He’s really good.”

Just last month, I saw him again in Punctuate! Theatre’s clown show, Vice Re-Versa.

And that’s it. I can’t presume to say I knew him. I only saw him onstage twice, he was terrific, and I’ll never get to see him be terrific again. So, so sad.

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The day a dozen firemen rescued me!

Sort of.

Once again, we can thank Twitter:

Here’s what happened:

Back in the late fall of 2001, after the attacks on New York City and Washington DC, came the anthrax. I worked at The Edmonton Journal at the time. One day, I came home to find my electric bill in my mailbox, and this written on the back in thick, black, greasepen:


Now. I’m working at a newspaper. Canadian soldiers were walking around in fatigues and driving around in tanks. In Edmonton. I decided to be cautious and brought the (unopened) bill to the electric company’s main office downtown and asked a customer service representative about it. His advice: it was probably nothing, but don’t open it anyway. Thanks.

This was just down the block from work. So, I brought the envelope to show my boss. This is where the teasing began.

“OH, so you decided to bring it to work and share it with us?”

No. Not serious at all. Which is why one of the paper’s photographers later took a photo of the (still unopened) envelope lying on my desk while the firemen walked in.

Because: after my boss had a look at the envelope, another co-worker suggested I call 311 (the city’s helpline), and just ask about it. So I did. And got transferred to 911. And was told there would be a big bunch of people there in just a moment.

FREEZE ON: Me realizing I’ve just accidentally called the fire department.

So a dozen (or so) firemen come in, approach my desk, have a look at the envelope, and bring it into an empty boardroom to open. EVERYONE in the newsroom has gathered round, staring into the glassed-off room, partly because they’re newshounds, partly because they want to know what the HELL is happening?!

Finally, the firemen came out…envelope safely opened, nothing but my innocuous statement inside. And then the jokes started:

“You’re turning as red as your hair!”

“The good news is they owe YOU money!”

Telling my friends about this afterward:

“Your life is so much more interesting than ours.”

“So? Were any of them single?”

My friend Jessie gave a copy of the book The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want to each of her bridesmaids. It contains advice on how to meet firemen. It’s funny how closely I unintentionally followed it.