Heather has been writing for theatre since 1995. Her plays have been seen at the Walterdale Theatre and Fringe in Edmonton, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. She is now in pre-production on a new short film, which Nowhere Normal‘s intimacy coordinator, Janine Waddell, will direct! Heather’s also adapting her full-length play Alex and Michael and Hannah into a full-length screenplay.
meet Emily Shepherd – publicity
Born in Hollywood, raised in Michigan, Emily is now starting a film career in Edmonton. Emily discovered her passion for filmmaking while attending classes at the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA), and has written, directed, edited and produced two short films with guidance from her instructors: Honey Money (2017) and Girl and a Polar Bear (2019). She is currently developing a short horror comedy script about class, cannibalism, and Mozart.
Today, I’m out of love with #playwriting. It’s like a bad day in a long term #relationship.
I realised something this morning, on a sunny day in the south of France. It’s a bit of a whinge. But it’s also a bit scary for me, and makes me sad.
I just sent off an application for a playwriting venture. One should keep track of how many competitions, initiatives, etc, one enters…but I’ve given up. Yes, everyone gets rejected, and I admit, tracking the number of things I entered and got rejected for became too much.
My FB and Twitter feeds have recently been filled with invitations to the Fringe shows of friends, as well as previews and reviews. I posted that I was a bit sad I didn’t have a show this year. That’s true…but not quite accurate. I’m also relieved I’m not doing a stage production, and THAT feeling makes me sad. I used to live for the insanity of putting on a show. Even when things went wrong, the result was a show I was proud of. I got the festival’s Artist Badge. I got reviews — good ones — and I could say “Yep, that’s me.” Audiences have told me how much they liked what I did.
Last year, I got my first ever 5-star review for It Started with an Allergy. I leveraged that, I promoted that show every hour of every day, and my houses still never got very big. The spectators who came loved it — there just weren’t very many of them. There’s a prestigious award given to theatre productions every year in Edmonton, and I really, REALLY hoped I might get nominated for Allergy. I didn’t. It’s occurred to me since that I don’t remember if I, or my director, invited the jury to the show! How can I not remember that? But I was also writing, producing, acting, flyering, doing the show. And I just…don’t… recall. That’s bad.
I submitted this play to yet another contest, out of resignation. I couldn’t muster anything to say in my cover letter: “yes, my play’s really good, these other industry people have said so, here’s my amazing CV of other amazing plays which nonetheless didn’t take off, PLEASE GIVE THIS TO ME.”
I wonder if that’s why I’m doing pre-production on a short film. Because it feels like I’ve done everything I possibly can in theatre, and I’m tapped. I’m on the French Riviera, on a writer’s retreat (which I paid for, didn’t get paid for, again). And still, today, I’m discouraged.
Why I love theatre technicians.
Having sent out what I believe to be a pretty kick-butt play, I’m now at the hard part: waiting. Waiting to see if anyone else with any pull to put the play onstage thinks it’s remotely as good as I think it is.
I used to wonder if writing is what I should be doing, if maybe I just really was not that good. For a while now, I’ve had a different problem: knowing that my writing is good, and still not having got one professional-level — PACT, Equity, etc — production, nor enough of a hit from one of my self-produced shows to keep working on theatre regularly.
Here is where technicians have been my saving grace.
Theatre techs — lighting, sound, set-building, the ones who do everything — are all utterly professional. They are there to make your show the absolute best it can be in the time given, and will bend over backwards, given the equipment and time they have, to give your show what it needs. And given that they work in theatre…they put up with a lot of crap.
Here’s the wonderful Henry Rollins on backstage crews. Maybe this is the reason technicians tend to be detached — I’ve never worked with one who didn’t love their work, but also maintained a very professional yet clear distance from whatever show they were working on.
And here’s the thing of which I am envious: technicians have skills. I was acquainted with a guy in Edinburgh, who produced a show at his own site-specific venue the same year we did Take a Bite. We made a bit of money. This fellow ended the Fringe £6,000 in debt. The understanding among everyone involved in the show was that they were working on spec: if they show made money, they would get paid. But the producer made a terrible mistake: he assumed this included their technician. In the middle of their tech rehearsal, the tech walked out for another venue, because that’s when the producer made it clear he had no intention of paying the tech anything until and unless the show recouped its costs. He had to find and hire a new tech with one day’s notice before the start of the Edinburgh Fringe.
The technicians don’t have to like your show. They will get paid, whether your show is good or not. They will work their butts off for your show because that’s their job and they take pride in their job, but they don’t need to be invested in any show.
How do I know I’m good? Because the techs have not been able to stop themselves from saying my show is good. When I doubt, I remember that, and grin.
Buy my plays and I go to FRINGE!
So today I entered my BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) form, for my solo show It Started with an Allergy, into the Edmonton Fringe.
SO: from here on, all the proceeds from the online sales of my plays will go directly to putting on Allergy.
HERE is Crushed, which has now been produced in Edmonton and Fredericton in Canada, as well as in Florida, and soon Kingston-upon-Thames, UK. It has sold 40 copies to date (I’m told that’s unheard of for a less-known play in the great sea of the internet!) My goal is at least 50. Reviews here.
And HERE is Take a Bite, veteran of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, nominated for Best New Play of 2012 by the Calgary Critics Association. Chew on the reviews here.
I’ve also got a fancy-pants DONATE button on my new FRINGE 2015 page, just because.
Yes, despite the winter, August is COMING…
I can never go back to Scotland?
Faithful readers will notice I’ve been quiet for a while – I’ll explain why tomorrow: this must come first. It won’t change anyone’s mind, but I’ll say it:
I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, from 2004 to 2008. Because my paternal grandfather was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, in 1900 (yeah), I was able to get a UK Ancestry visa. The rules have now changed: at the time, I was allowed to live, and work, anywhere within the UK, for up to four years – and after staying for four years straight, I could have applied for “indefinite leave to remain”…one step short of citizenship in the European Union.
I fully intended to take that route. Obviously, it didn’t happen that way. I could’ve settled anywhere in the UK, but the second I arrived in Edinburgh, I thought “Why wasn’t I born here?” I utterly loved it there, and I have harboured a hope that one day, I could move back. So I’m being utterly selfish when I say I hope Scotland votes NO to independence from the United Kingdom tomorrow. I’ll know by the time I wake up in the morning.
I could say – I did on Facebook earlier today – that independence won’t solve Scotland’s issues as many think it will. Scotland can’t deal now with the highest heroin abuse, teenage pregnancy, and knife crime in Europe. I know for a fact that Scotland has a separate legal system – I worked at The Law Society of Scotland, as opposed to that of England and Wales. However, not ALL the laws are different: immigration, for example, which I also know about, because I had an Ancestry Visa! And I can just imagine everyone in the Eurozone looking at Scotland, using the British pound, and thinking “Are you NUTS?” What’s it going to be like for artists to go to the Edinburgh Fringe next year? If they’re coming from the US or Canada, will they need a visa for the first time ever?
The government of the UK are twats – Canada has a conservative government too, we sympathize – but that government will end. And as for the animosity some in England have for Scotland? Too many Scots feel the same way about England. I lived there. I know.
Finally: Many people in Scotland are convinced that being a one industry economy will be fine, as long as that one industry is oil. Please, please, if you vote yes tomorrow, LOOK TO NORWAY. Everything Norway has done, do that. DON’T look at Canada for oil advice. We’ve cocked it up.
A kick in the butt, and I’m rethinking my life. Yes, again.
I’m going to try – and fail – to describe the Dramaworks workshop I was at for the last five days. Investigative Theatre, 35 hours in total, with Vladimir Shcherban, Associate Director of Belarus Free Theatre.
I knew very little about BFT before this. I had heard they’d done shows the government of Belarus didn’t like them doing, that some of their members had been arrested, and that they’d won several awards, including a Fringe First.
During those five days, I saw videos of two of BFT’s shows. (OH MY GOD, there aren’t words to describe how fantastic they are!). I acted out the days of the week, and got told “Good try” (after which I wrote in my notebook Don’t be hurt!). I sculpted my most horrible secret in plasticine (and everyone else got the feeling behind it), I took photos to show “Edmonton’s pain”, I filled my notebook with what Vlad said, and my own ideas for my solo show. He kept saying Бетон сітуацыя! – Concrete Situation! – that we each needed to get into what we wanted to show the audience, or else it would be dishonest. He talked about how it’s best and strongest to NOT talk, to find the object, the smell, the sound that would involve the audience – you’re not telling the audience anything, you are drawing them in. He said British theatre is wonderful…but they talk too much (!). The words are wonderful, but why do you have a body?
I came home every night to do my homework (lots), with my brain feeling like scrambled squid. And one thought in my scrambled brain…MORE, good enough isn’t good enough, MORE!
Rather than feeling inadequate and hopeless, I felt SMART, I felt yes, I’m right, I am still doing this!!
I also thought – and this is going to take a LOT of work – that I have to stop being afraid.
So yeah. It was farking amazing.
The Ugly Princess….revealed! In August.
At last, I have a smidgen of theatre news to share: my play The Ugly Princess will have a public reading as part of Script Salon, a new reading series starting in April!
The Salon is the brainchild of David Belke, and will take place the first Sunday of every month, 7:30 pm, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
The Ugly Princess will have her day on 3 August 2014…so it will be ever-so-slightly in the Fringe after all.
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?
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!