Hey, what’s the Emerging Creators Unit?
I was absolutely delighted to discover this program where, in order to nurture new writers and create fresh theatre, six artists would be chosen to work with dramaturg Catherine Ballachey and assistant dramaturg, Matt Hertendy.
A dramaturg reads and analyses your script to help you present it most effectively as a play, which is a tremendous help, especially to someone like me who is used to the page. Some people describe dramaturgs as a literary editor for plays.
The six artists would meet six times and then perform a reading open to the public.
There would be no charge for this workshop. It would be absolutely free for the six chosen ones. In fact, the artists would get paid for the reading. This is mindbending in the cash-strapped world of theatre.
All funded by the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Acting Company.
Holy cow. I could not get my application in fast enough.
And then I won a spot!
We get together at the Acting Company on Bank Street every other Sunday. We review each others’ work and make gentle suggestions if the writer is ready for them.
It’s the opposite of medical school, which is still very sink or swim. It’s even different from my other writing workshops, where I’m often surrounded by extremely competitive, award-winning writers from around the globe.
Sidebar on those competitive writers: most are cool and generous, but one woman reported that she would elbow her own grandmother out of the way if it meant she’d have a better chance at authorship; another one’s husband described her as a Formula One driver of writing. Writing is taken Very Seriously.
So it felt different to take part in a local, thoughtful group where people are encouraged to turn in material every two weeks, but there’s no punishment and no harsh words if you’re late. Then, when you do write, everyone tends to be super encouraging and talk about shows their work reminded you of, or visual things or smells they imagined while reading your work.
You’re supposed to give the group questions to answer as they analyze your work. They asked, am I allowed to write about this ethnic or social group? Was it funny enough? Did you need a visual aid?
A lot of the time, they boiled down to, “Is this okay?”
Maybe that’s what we always want to know, as writers. Is this all right?
But I do find that most of the people who are most worried about offending, or about appropriating voice, about getting permission, about being exact—those are the people who are the most respectful and should not be silenced.
They should be writing, and singing, and dancing.
Do you see Donald Trump asking if it’s okay?
Author Natalie Goldberg says that every writer seeks permission to write. It’s not necessarily a conscious thing, but we want someone to put a hand on our shoulder and say, Yes. Keep going.
Catherine Ballachey built a safe place for us to create. Isn’t that wonderful? In an age of cutbacks, when the only headlines about art tend to be “cut again” or “can’t believe they wasted money on that monstrosity,” she and Matt and directing consultant Ludmylla Reis quietly constructed a haven for new writers and performers, using funding from the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Acting Company.
Thank you all so much.
– Montana Adams with “My Good Friend Jay”
– Kieran Dunn with “Sneakerheadz”
– Sarah Haley with “Olive: a Culinary Landscape”
– Amanda Logan with “Plain Jane”
– Izzie Solis with “Valeriana”
– Melissa Yuan-Innes with “I Am the Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World (and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room)“
Lead Dramaturg: Catherine Ballachey
Assistant Dramaturg: Matt Hertendy
Directing Consultant: Ludmylla Reis
Snacks and discussion to follow the reading! Admission is free.