Last night, The Quilliad Press dropped by On Cue Billiards in West End Toronto to check out the second installation of the Write On Playwright’s Showcase (Instagram @writeonreadings). The showcase is “a quarterly initiative where ten playwrights each bring approximately ten minutes of work-in-progress to read or perform in front of an audience”. Last night’s showcase focussed on female playwrights.
Despite the usual last-minute hitches and delays that plague live performance, the night got going around 8:30 with Katie Sly’s funny, bold, and touching tale of a first BDSM experience. Katie’s excerpt from In The Dark, a multi-media show exploring sexual taboos which debuted at Buddies in Bad Times’s 2015 Queer Pride festival, was one of my favourite pieces of the night.
Other highlights included Suzanna Derewicz, Thea Fitz-James, and Jess Pfundt’s work. Suzanna presented part of Getting There, a play about the final moments in the life of Maggie, whose mind remains for her final moments past her body’s death. The play is inspired by Sylvia Plath’s last book, Ariel, which just happens to be one of my favourite poetry collections, and I’m excited to see what Suzanna does with the proposed chapbook version of her frantic, wistful performance. Thea performed part of Drunk Girls, a piece that mixes stats, historical facts, and anecdotes to present a portrait of female alcohol abuse, all while Thea gets drunk on stage. Her performance was brave, confrontational, and expressive. For her part, Jess launched straight into a monologue from the perspective of an unknowing witness to a grisly crime giving her testimony to a police officer. Her complete immersion into the character made the scenario seem real.
While not every piece was to my personal taste, all the performers were professionals, and there was something to gain from each performance, made more impressive by the knowledge that these were works-in-progress. The performances ranged from the surreal (Jennie Egerdie’s tale of a young girl’s visions of sainthood via Disney comes to mind) to the deliberately mundane (Gina J. Britnell’s monologue on the world of telemarketing and top seller Jan). The topics of discussion varied widely as well, from Deborah Kimmett’s excerpt from No Fixed Address, a piece inspired by the Preacher Man near Wychwood, which features a homeless woman’s reflections on life, to Laurel Brady’s account of her character’s intense high school angst. Susannah Mackay even offered up a matter-of-fact account of the collapse of civilization through the eyes of a teenager, told in momentary details that brought the large-scale chaos down to an individual level. Mirian Kay’s strong voice and accompanying guitar provided a musical interlude.
The evening ended rather appropriately with a monologue by Meara Tubman-Broeren. She began by asking, “Should I become a doctor?” and used the question to explore the nature of art and her place in it. While her piece expressed many doubts, Meara’s performance was ultimately in defence of theatre—and, more broadly, art.
As are we.
Thanks to Suzanna, Gina, and Laurel for putting last night’s showcase together, and to their sponsors for making it possible for them to pay their artists: Shoxs Billiards Lounge, 3030, Theatre 20, Christine Noonan Yoga, Centauri Arts Academy, Wallace & Co., and of course On Cue Billiards. Paid work is hard to come by for most of us, and the arts needs its patrons.
P.S. Speaking of patrons of the arts, if you’d like to see more content from The Quilliad Press, please consider backing our Kickstarter (we’re a staff pick!). In addition to coverage of local arts and literary events, we post small press book reviews, project spotlights, artist profiles, and parrot poetry. We also publish a literary and arts journal, The Quilliad, and are planning a line of chapbooks.