Collaboration, Intentionality, and Cultural Dramaturgy

Graphic image of the header for Scout Rexe's blog post. The image has three blue circles with blue and black lines framing a white box with text which reads: “Collaboration, Intentionality and Cultural Dramaturgy" with a small black box underneath which reads: "By Scout Rexe”.

by Scout Rexe


I had the honour of spending last week with dramaturg Fatma Sarah Elkashef (she/her) and cultural dramaturg and performer Liam Zarrillo (they/them) at an invited residency at Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal (PWM) to work on my play with music, O Death.

O Death is a nuanced exploration of trans and queer identities, accountability culture, and the impact of our cultural icons. After being called out by a fan, trans musician James and his queer sister Caddy must reckon with pressure from their family, the media, and the public whilst launching their musical career in the shadow of their rock legend grandfather. Generations collide as James and Caddy discover their grandfather’s corrupted legacy. 

The play is dark and funny. Intimate family conversations are punctuated with a series of surreal mindscapes that offer playful, non-linear access to James’s inner life. I worked on the songs in the show with musicians Susil Sharma (he/him) and Hayden Siemens (they/them) who composed the music, bringing an authenticity that feels essential to the play’s characters.

This project has gone through a rich and deeply collaborative development process. I first met Sarah in 2018 after moving back to Montreal with two small grants from Buddies in Bad Times and Nightwood Theatre to write O Death. I instantly connected with Sarah. We have both been committed to a deep investigation of both the play and our process, and our shared commitment to this has meant we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how best to create it. 

Early on in the project, I identified the need to work closely with an actor with lived experience to play the role of James–someone who could work with me as a cultural dramaturg, and be properly compensated for that labour, in addition to working as a performer in the development process. When we couldn’t find the right collaborator in Montreal, Sarah and PWM secured additional travel funds for someone who could be brought in from another city in Canada. We couldn’t find the right person, and ended up canceling our workshop at PWM in 2019. 

In 2020, I moved to Manitoba, and Sarah introduced me to Brian Drader (he/him) who is a playwright as well as the Executive Director of the Manitoba Association of Playwrights. He read a draft of O Death and connected me with Liam, who is fiercely intelligent, and considerate, and a gifted actor and dramaturg. 

Liam and I started working together right away, with PWM hiring them on as a cultural dramaturg on the project. We worked intentionally to develop a safer space within each other and our work process, and in so doing, started to form a really meaningful friendship. 

Our dramaturgical conversations lead up to a 16 hour workshop with PWM in 2021 with a full cast. Because of the pandemic, we ran the workshop on Zoom, allowing Liam to join from Winnipeg, me to join from Brandon, Kate Hammer (she/they) from Scotland to play queer femme musician Caddy, and Chip Chuipka (he/him), Jane Wheeler (she/her), Julie Tamiko Manning (she/her), and Sarah Elkashef (she/her) from Montreal. That workshop was incredibly generative, and I continue to feel closely connected to this particular group of performers. 

I spent a few months re-writing the script based on the feedback from the workshop before joining Liam, Kate, and Sarah again as a Collective in Residence at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre for 40 hour residency in which we brought in musician Hayden Siemens and focused on the music in the show: the dramaturgy of the music, the creation of new songs, and the creative relationship between the queer sibling characters. As seems to be the case any time I join a group to work on this play, our time was enormously productive; we seemed to do months’ worth of work in just a few days. 

Since that residency, Liam and I have continued to work together dramaturgically with support from the Manitoba Arts Council. We decided to take the week at PWM to focus on James’s trajectory and the ways in which the play can be a healing journey for him: a story of resilience and of coming into oneself.

As a queer artist, I seek to make work that is as complex as the communities with whom it is in dialogue with. Throughout our process, we’ve worked continuously to create more trauma-informed spaces. We structured this residency with check-ins, scene-by-scene read throughs, robust dramaturgical conversations (which inevitably involved cue cards taped to the wall), and check outs. We took long lunches. We allowed ourselves shorter days, and time to stretch. All of this might sound trite, but as an artist with a full-time job in education, the days I have to make theatre feel precious and urgent. It’s my tendency to push. And so too it must be my practice to build out space for myself and my collaborators to be well–to be as safe and self-determining as possible throughout the entire creation process.

PWM offers a space for artists to create outside of the pressures of imminent production. This is vital, as is their practice to support artists holistically over time. My ongoing relationship with the artists I’ve met through creating O Death has been hugely impactful. I will continue to work with Sarah dramaturgically for as long as she’ll have me; in addition to O Death, I’m working with her on my new project Cult Play. Since meeting Kate, we have become writing partners, working long-distance from Canada to Scotland on our TV series called Make It. And I can’t imagine working on another play without Liam–someone whose collaboration and friendship has completely opened up the possibilities for me as a theatre artist and human being; I’ve often walked away from our dramaturgical meetings feeling that not only the work, but I, have been transformed in a meaningful way. 

I can’t wait to be in the room with these brilliant artists again. In the meantime, the next step for me is a writing residency in Riding Mountain National Park for two weeks in the summer. Since O Death is set in a house in the woods, I can’t think of a better place to hide out and finish the next draft.

Job offer: Communications Coordinator

Job Offer - Communications Coordinator
ORGANIZATION DESCRIPTION:

Established in Montreal in 1963, Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal (PWM) is a nationally-mandated theatre development centre led by a team of renowned dramaturgs and arts administrators. We are a bilingual non profit organization dedicated to collaborating with artists in the development of new works of theatre and performance. Read more about PWM’s mission and mandate at: www.playwrights.ca/about-us

JOB OVERVIEW:

PWM is currently seeking a part-time (20hrs/week) Communications Coordinator for an indeterminate term contract, beginning immediately.

Reporting to the General Manager, the Communications Coordinator is responsible for the coordination and execution of PWM’s marketing and communications strategies. The Communications Coordinator will create, produce and distribute materials using PWM’s communications channels and will monitor and maintain PWM’s website and social media platforms.

At this time, PWM is reviewing its communications platforms and marketing strategies (website, newsletter, social media, etc) with the assistance of three consultants who specialize in three distinct areas: 1)  SEO and communications analytics, 2) terminology of communications, the expression of programming and terms of engagement, and transparency of organizational operations through an equity lens and 3) the creation of artistic content for online engagement. The Communications Coordinator will contribute to the strategic thinking and planning during this process, and also assist with the implementation of findings.

SALARY, HOURS and BENEFITS:

The position pays $19/hour, payable in correspondence with net amounts after all standard employment deductions. The position includes 10 days (40 hours) of paid vacation during the period of December 23 to January 3 and 5 days (20 hours) of paid vacation during the month of July.

Working hours are 20 hours a week, on a schedule determined with the General Manager. When additional projects arise, the Communications Coordinator may be asked to work up to an additional 5 hours a week.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
  • Write a variety of different content to support communications and marketing efforts, including newsletters, website, social media, brochures and press releases
  • Design promotional materials for PWM’s communication and marketing efforts that include images and or/video suitable for social media sharing, mailchimp, email and website
  • Design other communications materials such as posters, postcards, signage, letterhead, brochures, business cards, etc
  • Assist the PWM team in developing and implementing a communications strategy designed to further the organization’s objectives
  • Plan and execute social media campaigns
  • Manage, maintain and update PWM’s website
  • Manage and adhere to a Communications budget as given by General Manager
  • Manage and compile calls from the community that would benefit artists that PWM closely works with (i.e. Playwrights, Translators, Dramaturgs)
  • Track and promote PWM-developed plays once they go into production
  • Assist the General Manager in the creation and follow through of recognition and crediting contracts with PWM collaborators
  • Monitor analytics and create reports detailing the successes and failures of communications campaigns and strategies
  • Stay up to date on industry trends and make recommendations for adjustments to communications strategies and practices
  • Respond to media inquiries and maintain relationships with journalists and other members of the press
QUALIFICATIONS:
  • 3+ years experience in a communications or marketing role
  • Superior time management and organizational skills and ability to meet deadlines
  • An analytical mind and ability to think critically
  • Exceptional writing and interpersonal communication skills in both English and French
  • Experience in the design, execution and distribution of digital and print materials (posters, postcards, ads, etc)
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Knowledge of WordPress, SEO and Google Analytics
  • Knowledge of G Suite, MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint, Photoshop, and social media platforms
  • Knowledge of CiviCRM, HTML coding, photography, and video editing is an asset
  • Knowledge of email marketing software such as Mailchimp
  • Proven knowledge of communications and marketing ethics and best practices
  • Comfort with managing multiple projects at the same time and ability to adapt
EDUCATION:

Graduate of communications, marketing, and/or public relations program or equivalent.

APPLICATION:

Please email your Cover Letter and CV to Lesley Bramhill, gm@playwrights.ca, with the subject line “Application Communications Coordinator”. Please include one writing example (your choice of a press release, a brochure, a social media post, etc) and one digital or print design example (a poster, postcard, image that was shared online, etc). Applications should also include a minimum of 3 references.

Candidates must submit applications by 12 noon on  August 23, 2019. However, applications will be considered as they come in and interviews may be held prior to this date. Ideally, the selected candidate will begin training sometime the week of August 26, 2019 and take over the position as of the week of September 3, 2019.

Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal  is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity in its workforce, encouraging applications from all qualified individuals. We strongly encourage applications from members of equity seeking groups, including but not limited to:  those whose lives have been impacted by illness or disability*, BIPOC communities, LGBTQIIA+ communities, newcomers to Canada and from all groups who experience marginalization. We encourage applicants to self-identify in their cover letter if they are comfortable doing so.

We thank all applicants for their interest but only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

*please visit our website for accessibility information at PWM: www.playwrights.ca/accessibility

EstérELLE Writers-in-Residence

EstérELLE Writers-in-Residence

(Pilot Project)

When: October 12 to 19, 2019
Where: Estérel, Québec

PWM is proud to announce a new initiative in partnership with Anna Dupuis Zuckerman focused on the development of new plays by English Language Québec female and female-identifying playwrights. This seven-day residency is specifically tailored to support the development of work by mid-career playwrights, offering the time and space to think, write and exchange ideas in a quiet environment. The only scheduled events are meals and a daily late afternoon discussion session. Dramaturg Fatma Sarah Elkashef will be present for dramaturgical consultation.

Location: Peaceful, welcoming, spacious family home on Lac Dupuis in Esterel, part of the Laurentian mountains. As we approach one of the oldest stones on earth, the breath grows stronger, a wholeness, a peace settles. Memories and futures entwine, and stories reveal themselves.

Details:

– The residency will take place over seven days
– PWM Dramaturg Fatma Sarah Elkashef will be the residency dramaturg
– Focus on female and female-identifying mid-career English Language Québec playwrights
– Transportation, accommodations and food will be covered by the residency
– An honorarium will be given to each selected participant
– The menu is vegetarian, but can accommodate fish
– The residency is designated sober-living and scent-free
– No pets are allowed
– Accessibility: Uneven cobblestone driveway (not wheelchair accessible).

Accommodation details: Each participant will have a private room and quiet workspace. There are 2 shared bathrooms for 5 artists.

 

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Submission deadline: August 1, 2019
Notification of selected projects: August 16, 2019

In a single PDF file please send us the following:

– A short description of your project.
– A short explanation of how a 7-day writers residency would benefit the project and your work as a writer.
– A ten page sample of the play (maximum).
– A bio and CV.

Subject line of the email: EstérELLE Writers-in-Residence
Email: residency@playwrights.ca
For accessibility inquiries please contact Heather Eaton: heather@playwrights.ca, 514-843-3685

History of English-Language Drama and Theatre in Quebec, 1930-2015

English Language Theatre in Quebec

In collaboration with PWM, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and McGill University Department of English

Professor Erin Hurley of the Department of English at McGill University is researching the history of English-language drama and theatre in Quebec from 1930-2015. Her research results will be shared with the theatre community in public lectures, staged readings, and a report, and will be communicated to academic audiences in scholarly articles and as a book documenting English-language theatre in Quebec. One aspect of this project is the literary and historical analysis of the plays written in English by Quebec authors since 1930. As much of this dramatic literature is unpublished, Prof Hurley asks for your assistance in identifying and gathering such plays so that she has access to a more complete picture of the field, its authors, thematics, aesthetics, and engagements.

If you are the author of a play (or plays) and are willing to have them included in Professor Hurley’s research corpus, please contact her at erin.hurley@mcgill.ca. Professor Hurley and her research team can arrange to have your play scanned or, if you already have it in digital format, they can arrange for its transfer. Your work will not be shared outside of the research team and will be used exclusively for research purposes.

Submission deadline: September 30, 2019

Choir! Choir! Choir! at Centaur Theatre

Choir! Choir! Choir!

Four cities will livestream a national singalong as part of foldA (Festival of live digital art)!

JOIN THE SIGNALONG IN MONTREAL AT CENTAUR THEATRE ON JUNE 12 AT 7PM.

FREE. Confirm your participation by contacting Centaur Theare’s  Box Office by phone 514-288-3161 or email boxoffice@centaurtheatre.com.

You get a lyric sheet at the door, and Choir! Choir! Choir! leader Nobu Adilman (DaBu) teaches you the vocal arrangement for Hallelujah: The Great Canadian Songbook via live feed video from Kingston. Hubs in 4 Canadian cities will learn and sing the song at the same time. The event will end with a National singing of song!

 

Choir! Choir! Choir! is produced by SpiderWebShow Performance
Satellite events with Centaur Theatre in association with Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal and PLANK (Montréal), Crow’s Theatre (Toronto) and Neworld Theatre (Vancouver at Progress Lab 1422)