My Work to Appear in The Westchester Review!

I’m thrilled to announce that one of my previously produced Driftwood Theatre Trafalgar24 plays will be appearing in a future issue of The Westchester Review!

 

The History of Us is a 10-minute play that was written in the eight hours I was locked inside the library at Trafalgar Castle School in March of 2014. I should say it was written in the first of those eight hours, and tinkered with for the remaining seven hours. That was usually how my Trafalgar24 plays fell into place. A quick first draft as soon as we were locked in, and then tinkering for the rest of the night. I would read it aloud over and over and over again. Being alone in the room made it easier to not feel like a complete idiot as I walked about reciting the lines ad nauseum until each syllable felt right, or mostly right.

After its introduction at the Trafalgar24 play festival the night after it was written, it also had a live reading in Port Perry, Ontario, by the Theatre 3×60 theatre company (now Theatre on the Ridge).

Now, it gets to see the light again, in The Westchester Review! For the first time in print!

A little more background…

When playwrights enter the castle for the play creation festival, they are each locked into a different room in the castle. They must write a play that literally takes place inside that room. They cannot bring any props into the room, but can write anything in the room into the play. They are also given photos of their actors. And a line that must be in the play. So there are 6 completed plays that get performed throughout the castle the following night. Each will have one line in common. This aspect of the night is to give the 6 rotating audiences a clue…and they are encouraged from that clue to guess which Shakespeare play Driftwood Theatre will be performing in their Shakespeare in the Park series the following summer.

I wrote THE HISTORY OF US for these actors:

Adriano Sobretodo Jr.
Christopher Kelk

It was such an honor to be given these actors. I was so nervous putting words into Christopher Kelk’s mouth. If you have ever seen him performing, you would understand my fears. He’s a flawless actor! Adriano Sobretodo Jr. was just as brilliant. It was a thrill seeing these two actors bringing a play to life that I had just created hours before!

I’ll announce when this play hits The Westchester Review. I believe it will be sometime in the Spring of 2023.

 

 

Reasons Why I Should Have Aced the NYC Midnight Challenge – AND Why I Don’t Think I Did

It’s all in the title. I thought I had trained well for this particular contest. I haven’t done a list in a while. This one is short, but makes for a great jumping off point.

Background: This past weekend, I was busy writing a short story for the 2nd round of the 2019 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Each writer in the challenge is given three things to incorporate into their stories; a genre, a character, a subject. We were then given 72 hours turnaround time to submit a 2,000 word maximum short story to the contest. Round 1 of the contest whittled the pool of writers down from about 4,900 to the 750 writers who took part in this past weekend’s 2nd round.

Reasons Why I Should Have Aced the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

  • I took part in the Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival in Whitby, Ontario SIX TIMES. In this festival, the playwrights are locked inside a castle for 8 hours. In that time, they each have to create a 10-minute play that will be performed in front of six rotating audiences the very next evening
  • I took part in the Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario TEN TIMES. In this marathon, the writers are locked inside a room for 72 hours. In that time, they each have to create a full novel that will be judged by industry professionals in the months immediately following the marathon.
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This is the inside of the cathedral that is literally inside Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. I spent 8 hours inside this cathedral all by myself a few years back, tasked with writing a 10-minute play that was produced the very next evening in the cathedral. Each playwright gets locked up in the room in which their play is to be set. When the 8 hours are over, you are to submit your play to the director and actors. They are, in turn, given 8 hours to rehearse. Then come the audiences! Hundreds of people converge on the castle to see all the plays in rotating fashion.

That’s it. That’s my list. I was so certain that those two things were enough to get me into the shape I needed to be in to pown this NYC Midnight thing. Or is it pwn? Either way, I thought I was going to ace this.

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Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

I have always said that of all the writing assignments a creative writer could have, the short story is the hardest. I have pounded out novels in one sitting TEN TIMES now. I’ve written plays while beating the clock multiple times, for various festivals. And the thing that finally got to me, the thing that defeated me, was this short story challenge.

I submitted with one hour and fifteen minutes to spare. It was a 72hr time frame for 2,000 words. I’m not a mathematical genius or anything, but that’s a far cry from writing 50,000 words in the same number of hours at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. Let’s see…carry the one, add the 3, subtract the 7 and multiply by 11 and what do you get? 694.44 words and hour for the MNM and 27.77 words an hour for the NYC Midnight challenge. The pressure should be stronger at the MNM, shouldn’t it?

 

Above are pictures from one of the many Muskoka Novel Marathons that I have participated in over the years. 40 writers + 72hrs = 40 novels! AND, we typically raise $30,000+ for area literacy programs each and every year.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. The real secret about the comparison between the short story and the novel is that you have to fit the exact same amount of story into each receptacle. And that’s only one of the factors going into my perceived failure this past weekend. You well and truly need to get the whole story into a short story…squeeze 50,000 words into its itty bitty living space and condense them down to 2,000 (or 2,500 , or 3,000 or whatever your limit is). This is not an easy task, and to go into it thinking it is an easy task is folly. The takeaway lesson should be—never be cocky about your ability as a writer. Every challenge is another series of wrenches thrown at you. You’re never ready for hurled wrenches…don’t make the mistake of thinking you are.

So, to review, NOTHING can prepare a writer for an on-the-spot writing challenge. I guess that’s why these contests work so well. It’s an amazing feeling when you push yourself to take a leap into the unknown. And I guess the thought behind the NYC Midnight challenge is… a writer is a writer is a writer. Any good one should be able to take what they’re given and pump out a result that is both entertaining and worthy of a read.

Boy, did I struggle with this one. It doesn’t matter whether you read regularly in every genre or not. If you’re not comfortable writing in each of them and you’re tasked to take one of them on…it’s bound to be difficult. That’s the thing that got me this weekend. By the luck of the draw I received a genre to write in that I have read voraciously over the years, but never once wrote it. I was afloat on a sea of confused desperation for the past 72 hours.

We shall see how this round of the challenge goes. If anything, I’m thrilled to have made the first cut. I can’t imagine that it’s an easy task to move forward in this challenge. I did it, and I should be happy about that. It’s all I can ask for.

To all those who pushed themselves to enter the challenge, congratulations! You took a leap and I guarantee you it made you a better writer. To those of you who moved forward into round two with me, even more congratulations! You did it. That’s an amazing achievement in itself. I wish all 749 of you the best of luck in this next round of judging! If a miracle should occur, I might see some of you in the 3rd and final round. But if not, do your best. You got this!

 

A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood Theatre

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS ONE I WROTE FOR THE WCDR WORDWEAVER NEWSLETTER, FOR THEIR MAY/JUNE 2009 ISSUE. It describes my very first foray into play-writing. It’s a little aged today, as I have now had 10 short plays produced…6 of them for Trafalgar24. I just wanted to give a little flavour into the experience from a playwright’s POV. It’s an amazing experience.
Following the article, I have posted some info on this year’s (2017) Trafalgar24 event. GET TICKETS! I promise you, it will be an experience you’ll never forget. One of the best nights out of the year, for sure.
Here’s the article:
A Playwright’s Dream – Trafalgar 24 by Driftwood Theatre
 
 
 
It’s Friday the 13th and we are in a dark basement corridor of a haunted 19th century castle. Out of the eerie silence come the first ear-shattering shrieks.
 
 
          “Margo! Margo!” A girl runs towards us. She is lost, panicked and terrified.
 
 
          So begins the unfolding of one of my lifelong dreams. The girl’s shouts are words I penned twenty-four hours earlier when I was locked into that basement and forced to write a 10-minute play.
 
 
          Forced is an exaggeration. The fulfillment of my dream actually began a month earlier when I wrote a hesitant e-mail to Ruth Walker. I had received a WCDR e-mail calling for playwrights for Driftwood Theatre’s 6th annual Trafalgar24 event and I ruminated over whether or not I should apply. Actually, I painfully agonized. I asked Ruth if I was completely crazy to even consider contacting Jeremy Smith, Driftwood’s artistic director.
 
 
          When I received Ruth’s encouragement (instead of the expected laughter), I sent Jeremy an e-mail. I began with the truth: I am not now, nor have I ever been a playwright. I followed my confession with much pleading and begging. You see, I had always imagined myself as a playwright. Imagination is a wasted gift when not forced into action.
 
 
          Much to my surprise—and horror—I received the following reply from Jeremy: I am delighted to inform you that if you still have an interest in staying up all night in a haunted castle between Thursday, March 12, and Friday, March 13, we would love to have you.
 
 
          Fast forward a month and here I am in the dark basement corridor, in the back row of a standing-room-only, sardine-packed audience. The young woman is lunging toward us, shrieking out her lost friend’s name. I’d like to say I wrote a dramatic play that would move my audience to tears—I went in there with visions of Blanche Dubois meets Phantom of the Opera—but that would be a lie.
 
 
          When we arrived at the castle twenty-four hours earlier, we playwrights were each given a sheet of paper. Mine included three things: headshots of my actors, the room I was assigned to and the play’s theme—Friday the 13th in a haunted castle. I took one look at my actresses and I knew what to write. I sat on the floor of the basement corridor and attempted to bring my newly acquired vision to life.
 
 
          Within an hour and a half, I victoriously announced: Done. Comedy. Now I can relax about deadline & edit.
 
 
          Throughout the hours of edits that followed, I was comforted by one fact: Lucy Brennan was upstairs. I interrupted her and commiserated with her a few times throughout the night. We even went on a Tim Hortons’ run with some of the other playwrights. She was my unwitting rock. She had no idea how much comfort I took in knowing she was a mere staircase away.
 
 
          Come morning, the playwrights were allowed to go home. As we drove to our beds, the actors and directors swarmed the castle. They only had a few hours to read and rehearse the ten plays we had left behind. It was all very The Elves and the Shoemakers if you ask me.
 
 
          Opening night! The Trafalgar24 play-creation festival is a fundraising event for Driftwood Theatre. What’s special about Driftwood is that they bring professional theatre to Ontario communities for pay-what-you-can admission. Trafalgar24 helps to make this possible. The event had a wonderful silent auction and a dessert table to rival every dessert table ever assembled on this or any other planet. It also had a dizzying array of talented actors and actresses who poured their hearts into roles that did not even exist less than 24 hours earlier.
 
 
          I was now an audience member. Each person in attendance viewed six of the 10 plays. I saw some incredibly heart-wrenching performances. I travelled from the library to the cathedral to the piano room and beyond—Lucy Brennan’s was my favourite! I was mesmerized by the beauty of the night—flawlessly orchestrated by all—including the stage director, WCDR’s own Nancy Melcher.
 
 
          I made my way to the basement. In the hushed moments prior to my character’s screams, I noticed the evening’s emcee standing to my left. Neil Crone, the man who has given me years of poignant laughter, was about to watch my words brought to life. I was suddenly more terrified than I had been when faced with the impossible demand of writing a play in eight hours. But I had forced my imagination into action. I was now a playwright.
 
 
          ‘Lucy‘ made her way onto the set and was startled, poked and prodded by the wickedly playful ‘Margo.’ Neil Crone laughed! I will beg Mr. Smith to allow me to be a part of the next Trafalgar24. If he doesn’t grant me the incredible honour of being playwright, I will be there in the audience watching another year of magic unfold. Only a fool would miss it!
 
END OF ARTICLE
Want to learn more about the 2017 Driftwood Theatre Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival? FOLLOW THIS LINK TO READ ABOUT THIS YEAR’S PLAYWRIGHTS, JUST ANNOUNCED!
 
 
HERE’S A LINK TO THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE WEBSITE. Don’t miss Trafalgar 24 2017. You’ll love it!

Panic is Behind Me – It’s Out of My Hands!

There is nothing I can do now. I have performed my duties as Elf Playwright. Whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera.

traf
Just one of the many rooms in Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Tour the castle while you watch plays take place inside 6 of its many rooms!

Right at this very moment there are 12 actors and 6 directors inside Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario. Along with Driftwood Theatre founder and Artistic Director Jeremy Smith. They are reading 6 freshly inked plays. They might be laughing, they might be crying, they might be pulling out their hair, they might be looking for a corner to hide in. I have no concept of what they do for the 8 hours on the day of the Trafalgar 24 event. I write the play and I walk away. It’s their turn in the castle. All I know is that when I go back tonight those 12 actors and 6 directors will have hammered the 6 plays off the page and onto the stage. I still imagine their roles in all of this to be so much more difficult than mine. The real magic happens when the actors take up the words and when the directors take up the action. That’s why it’s so magically incredible to see my own play performed in front of an audience the day after I write it. The actors bring life to the characters and the directors bring life to the characters, the setting, the space. After my very first year at Trafalgar 24, I never again looked at actors and directors the same way. I used to think they had it easy. Now I know they get a rudimentary piece of archaeological hieroglyphs and they see whatever it is they need to see in it and they breathe life into it. They are magicians.

TRAFALGAR 24 TICKETS CAN BE HAD BY CLICKING ON THIS!

Tonight is when the audience converges on the castle. Tonight is when each of the 6 plays is performed 6 times. Tonight is when the wine and cheese and meats and crackers and desserts are spread out before you. Tonight is when the silent auction of awesome things takes place. Tonight is when Driftwood Theatre gets celebrated by the Durham Region arts community. If you live anywhere near Whitby, Ontario…you should click the link above and secure your tickets. Not only do you get your fill of wine and cheese and dessert, but you get to see 6 fresh plays while touring a beautiful 19th century castle. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Doors open at 6:30pm and the performances begin at 7:30pm.

FROM THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE SITE:

Twenty-four artists receive a scant 24-hours to write, rehearse and perform six site-specific plays in Whitby’s beautiful 19th century castle. TRAFALGAR 24 is a theatrical event unlike any other, where the audience is right on top of the action as each of the 10-minute scripts play out around them in locations throughout the castle. At TRAFALGAR 24 audience members play a vital role of their own, helping to select one winning play to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre.

March 11, 2016 | 6:30pm Silent Auction Starts | 7:30pm Performances Begin | Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby

NEW for 2016 Trafalgar 24 Royalty VIP Ticket | $100 | Explore TRAFALGAR 24 like never before with a special Trafalgar Royalty VIP ticket. In addition to general admission, your TRAFALGAR 24 experience is enhanced by private pre-show reception with TRAFALGAR 24 playwrights, exclusive Auction Concierge service, and membership to a special VIP audience group guided by a famous Driftwood Theatre artist.

General Admission Ticket | $60

Twitter: #trafalgar24

Hope to see you there!

 

Ideas as Opiates – The Panic Begins! #MNM2016 #Trafalgar24

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” Wait! That’s not what I meant to write. Whenever I start a sentence with ‘Last night…’ I become possessed by Daphne du Maurier in the most peculiar way. I need to complete the sentence that is etched in my memory forever before I can continue on with what I was going to say. How’s that for a digression?!

Last night I went through the harrowing ordeal of registering for the Muskoka Novel Marathon again. It’s a treacherous time…believe me. The marathon takes place once a year (IN JULY) in Huntsville, Ontario. It is a 72hr novel writing marathon. Only 40 writers can attend. There are far more writers interested in attending than there are spaces for them to attend. So you have to be at your keyboard and at the ready come the stroke of 7pm on registration night.

I got in! I secured one of the coveted spots for myself. Then I discovered that all the spots were taken in 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES! That’s when I realized how lucky I was to have mad typing skillz. Gah!

Add to that registration pressure the fact that I will be locked inside a castle in Whitby, Ontario tomorrow, and ‘forced’ to write a 10-minute play overnight, and I’m about ready for cardiac arrest.

BUT. In a good way. I would not be happy if I was not in panic mode during these things. Confidence is the killer of creativity, is it not? Well…maybe not. But it sometimes feels like the anxiety and the fear are the driving force behind the engine that creates. FEAR—I’m getting locked into a castle and I have to write a play in 8 hours. A play that will be produced the following night—performed 6 times in front of a rotating audience of approximately 300 people. No biggie, right? It’s a thing. Confidence would surely threaten the process here, no? I need to go in thinking I can never pull this off…in order to pull it off.

ONE OF MY PAST TRAFALGAR 24 PLAYS

The Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is one thing. I need to go in there blind, without an idea–that’s how the process works. You get a room in the castle, and pictures of your actors. But the timing of the Muskoka Novel Marathon registration is so impeccable. Because today it’s not the play I’ll write tomorrow that I’m most hyperventilating about. Nah…that’s tomorrow’s nightmare. TODAY—I sit here registered and committed to the 72 hour novel writing madness heading my way without the first clue as to what I am going to write. Today is the day I need to begin the idea process that will have me jumping off the cliff into a brave new fictional world come July at the onset of the marathon’s starting bell.

From this point forward, I will be using ideas as opiates. I will smoke them, inhale them, inject them. I will run through a myriad of scenarios, settings, characters, synopses, and genres. I will try to fit puzzle pieces together without seeing the picture. I will reject ideas, rehash ideas, kick ideas to the curb, and embrace them. It will be a constant whirlwind of ideas. Which one will stick? Who knows. Will I pick the right one? Reject the wrong one? Who knows. It really is hit and miss. I have 72 hours to write an entire novel. It is mandatory that I find an idea appropriate enough to see me through those hours. One that doesn’t fizzle after a few hours. One that builds upon itself one idea after another, one sentence after another, one paragraph after another, one chapter after another…until it sees itself through. I need an idea pregnant with possibility.

Sure…I got my coveted spot at the Marathon. But as extremely difficult as it is to secure that spot–as barbarically stressful as it is–it’s nothing compared to the realization that you’ve made it. THAT YOU NEED TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO WRITE!!

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Ideas as opiates. When my writing life is so rife with STUFF, I realize how extremely blessed I am to have this passion. I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night…thinking of the prospects of NOT making the registration cut. Because I WANT IT. I want these stressful situations that are do or die and depend on WORDS. Harnessing words is a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This is the time of year when my head sort of kinda explodes. In a good(ish) way.

 

 

Upcoming Events! #Trafalgar24 #AuthorsForIndies #OWC2016

Just a quick shout-out to the 3 upcoming events in my calendar. I am extremely fortunate to get these moments in my life where I get to fully immerse myself in the thing I love–THE WRITING LIFE. My immediate future is bountiful with writerly stuff.

Listed To Do List:

  1. TRAFALGAR 24 BY DRIFTWOOD THEATRE: Right around the corner–coming at me like a freight train–is Trafalgar24. This incredible play creation festival at Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario, is a highlight of the year. I can’t believe I get to participate yet again! My 7th kick at the can. I love the fear, the tension, the excitement, the horror, the panic, the joy of it. Being locked in Trafalgar Castle overnight and needing to write a 10-minute play before the sun comes up? Yes, please. I still haven’t figured out who the Elf is and who the Shoemaker is in this scenario. Sometimes I feel like the Elf, cobbling a play together overnight and leaving it behind for the shoemaker (the actors and the directors) to discover in the morning. And sometimes I feel like the Shoemaker…leaving my unmade shoes in the castle and having the Elves (the actors and the directors) come in and cobble my play into something presentable. Either way, I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it! And I love that I get to go back to the castle on the Friday night and see all 6 Trafalgar plays performed. Not to mention the cheese and cracker spread, the neverending flow of wine, and the beautiful dessert table! And…the amazing silent auction items! This is THE premiere event of the year in Durham Region. GET. YOUR. TICKETS. NOW:  Trafalgar 24 – Driftwood Theatre – Friday March 11, 2016 @ 6:30pm They do NOT make the audience stay overnight in the castle. Do not fear!
  2. AUTHORS FOR INDIES: This is a country-wide event. Authors hang out at bookstores and pimp their favourite books. It’s a way to thank independent bookstores and talk books. It’s a beautiful thing! I was invited to BLUE HERON BOOKS in Uxbridge, Ontario. The date is SATURDAY APRIL 30th, 2016. No matter where you live in Canada, make a trip to your local bookstore that day. Show the independent bookstores that you love and appreciate what they do! Also at Blue Heron Books on this day, will be: Linda Granfield, Ted Barris, Marissa Campbell, Guy Gavriel Kay, Jan Dolby, Rebecca Bender, Kate Hilton, and, Ann Douglas. JOIN US! BLUE HERON BOOKS
  3. ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE – Another year, another OWC! I was a founding member on the Board of Directors for the OWC. I worked on the organizing committee for a number of years. Though no longer affiliated with the conference, I have been facilitating as a Manuscript Mentor for the past two conferences. I get to take on that role again this year! And, naturally, I will also be attending. Who in their right mind would miss it? The conference takes place over 2 days. The FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS gala is on SATURDAY APRIL 30th, 2016 and it is open to the public. You need to attend the Sunday conference to attend the Festival. Tickets are $20 and anyone can attend. But get them fast. This is a much lauded literary event. The conference proper takes place on SUNDAY MAY 1st. Take a look at the day’s SCHEDULE HERE. Here are the WORKSHOP TOPICS. And HERE is the REGISTRATION PAGE. If you are a writer in the GTA (or beyond), GIVE YOURSELF THIS MOMENT…go to the Ontario Writers’ Conference this year. You won’t regret it. And a heads up for all—I went to dinner with Wayson a couple of weeks ago to celebrate Chinese New Year, and he is over-excited for another year at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. The Honorary Patron since its inception, Wayson brings an element of love and light to the conference that no other person could bring. SEE YOU THERE!

Trafalgar24 by Driftwood Theatre! A Return to Trafalgar Castle!

It’s that time of the year again to start thinking about the most magical event of the year! The Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival is approaching. Billed as “24 HOURS. 6 NEW PLAYS. 1 CASTLE.”, Trafalgar 24 is that and so much more! It’s a virtual whirlwind of creativity, dished out in the extravagant setting of a mid 19th century castle in Whitby, Ontario.

A little about the Castle: Nelson Gilbert Reynolds built Trafalgar Castle as a private residence in 1859. After losing his fortune to gambling, Mr. Reynolds was forced to sell the castle. It soon became the Ontario Ladies’ College, and eventually Trafalgar Castle School. To this day, it is a school for girls…complete with dorm rooms to house students from all over the world. Once a year, during spring-break, the castle is handed over to Jeremy Smith and Driftwood Theatre for their fundraising gala, TRAFALGAR 24.

From the Driftwood Theatre Trafalgar24 Webpage:

Twenty-four artists receive a scant 24-hours to write, rehearse and perform six site-specific plays in Whitby’s beautiful 19th century castle. TRAFALGAR 24 is a theatrical event unlike any other, where the audience is right on top of the action as each of the 10-minute scripts play out around them in locations throughout the castle. At TRAFALGAR 24 audience members play a vital role of their own, helping to select one winning play to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre.

March 11, 2016 | 6:30pm Silent Auction Starts | 7:30pm Performances Begin | Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby

Now, here’s a breakdown of what happens from yours truly. I have had the extreme pleasure of being a playwright for this event SIX times! And this March (2016) I may or may not once again be having the honour of being locked into the castle overnight to cobble a 10-minute play for production the following evening. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. THURSDAY EVENING 10:00PM – 6 playwrights converge on the Castle. Jeremy (Driftwood Theatre’s Artistic Director) corals the playwrights and gives them their instructions. Write a 10-minute play in 8 hours. He gives them headshots of the actors who will appear in their plays and he tells them which room in the castle their particular play will take place in. Jeremy then leads the playwrights on a tour of the castle, stopping in each of the 6 chosen rooms to show them where the plays will take place. Typically, this is the room in which the playwright will write their play. They are allowed to use anything in the room chosen for them…but they are not allowed to add props that are not already there. That is that. 10pm arrives and the 6 playwrights retreat into their rooms and the playwriting begins. Jeremy goes home…plays are cobbled.
  2. FRIDAY MORNING 6:00am – 6 very tired disheveled playwrights are allowed to leave the castle. After, of course, they hand in their plays. 6 new plays. 6 worried, electrified, tired, sleepless, chaotic, changed playwrights. Never the twain shall meet— the playwrights escape and only then do the directors and actors converge on the castle. They all arrive at 6am. They are given their plays to read-rehearse-tweak-enrich-bring to life. I can’t tell you what happens in the next eight hours. I can only imagine that it is a more chaotic and boisterous eight hours than the eight hours before it! The creation really happens in this eight hours. I will always and forever be in awe of the product that comes from these eight hours. Actors and directors are wondrous creatures who should be revered.
  3. The tireless volunteers and organizers then prepare for the onslaught of the audience. This includes setting up the cheese and hors d’oeuvres tables, setting up the wine tables, and setting up the tremendous silent auction tables. REMEMBER–this is a fundraiser. The silent auction helps Driftwood Theatre’s fundraising efforts. They are, after all, a traveling theatre that gives Ontario Shakespeare in the Park all summer long. They need to fund this incredible Bard’s Bus summer tour. Trafalgar24 is the cornerstone of their fundraising efforts.
  4. THE AUDIENCE ARRIVES! I believe the audience is typically 300 people. These 300 are split into 6 smaller groups that will stay together the entire evening (apart from the breaks for hors d’oeuvres and wine, silent auctioning, speeches, and dessert). The 6 groups will wander throughout the castle, visiting each of the 6 rooms in which the plays will be performed and seeing each one in turn. So each play will be performed SIX times. Between performances, everything mentioned above takes place. Basically, it’s a magical night filled with theatre, wining, excellent food, shopping the auction items, and schmoozing. It’s a must see event that sadly only happens once a year.

So, that’s Trafalgar24.

Please visit the TRAFALGAR24 EVENT PAGE ON DRIFTWOOD THEATRE’S WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE.

If you are a member of the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION, you will have a special discounted price for tickets. If you are a member of the WCDR, you can book your discounted tickets WCDR tickets by calling 416-605-5132 or 844-601-8057.

I would like to thank Driftwood Theatre, and Jeremy Smith, for giving me my many opportunities to be a small part of this amazing event. Trafalgar24 is the crowning event of my writing year. Creating a play in 8 hours that will be witnessed ‘on stage’ by 6 audiences one short night later is an exhilarating, frenetic, terrifying, appalling, energetic, insane, impossible. All those things and more. I don’t think it matters what your role in the event is–playwright, director, actor, organizer, volunteer, audience, etc–if you attend, you will be amazed! YOU WILL NOT WANT TO MISS IT!

See you at the castle!

Immerse Yourself – Do Writerly Things and You Will Be a Writer!

This past weekend was a major ‘Writerly Weekend‘ for me. Well, technically the weekend actually began Thursday night. That was the night I was locked into Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. As one of six playwrights taking part in Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival, I was given headshots of two actors, a theme and a room in the castle in which to set my play. Oh, and eight hours to write it! (-:

This is the first of my 5 Trafalgar24 playwright gigs where I knew of the actors prior to writing my play. Let me tell you how much more intimidating that is! I had the amazingly talented Christopher Kelk and the equally stunning Adriano Sobretodo JR. I think I spent the first thirty minutes or so just looking at their headshots and thinking, ‘I have to write words that will come out of these two mouths!!!???‘ I have seen Adriano in various TV roles and I have had the good fortune of witnessing Christopher lob one after the other of his Trafalgar24 roles out of the park…not to mention some of his other works. They are both veterans in their field.

After my initial shock, I sat down to write a play. I really was incredibly fortunate to get two such talented actors. To be honest, I have yet to see a Trafalgar24 actor I wasn’t totally impressed with. The event attracts the best of the best to the ever-shifting ‘stages’ of Trafalgar Castle.

This was the first year I tackled a drama for Trafalgar. I just couldn’t put Christopher in a comedy. Talk about taking chances! But I believe the risk paid off. After seeing the play performed on Friday night, I knew I had made the right choice. Both actors performed beautifully, and the director, Carly Chamberlain, made some excellent choices in choosing the business of the play. I loved the direction. It’s the same every year. On Friday morning, I feel as though I am leaving the castle having left behind this meager offering of a few words on paper. And then the elves show up and make my Walmart flip-flops into Jimmy Choos. Every year, the director and actors transform my play into something far more spectacular than it was when I was finished with it. Theatre is such an extremely interactive and collaborative thing, and I am always amazed by the contribution that goes into a play once the words are on paper. It’s sheer magic.

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I did say it was a writerly weekend, right? Well, the WCDR Roundtable Meeting took place on Saturday. This was a special edition Roundtable. I was part of the planning committee for the WCDR U25 Panel Discussion, and it was an absolute pleasure to see it come to fruition. The panel was made up of Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) authors. And my own agent, Stacey Donaghy, moderated the event (quite beautifully, I might add).

When we set out to create this particular Roundtable Meeting, we had the concept of a mini half-day conference in mind. And that is exactly how it panned out. We had 3 agents on hand, taking pitch sessions from hopeful authors. We had the panel discussion, and workshops for both adults and young adults. There is a writing contest for the young adults who attended, we had a tremendous load of giveaways which were collected by various sponsors. The whole thing just had the feel of a conference, tightly compacted into a few hours on a Saturday morning.

To get the whole story of what you missed, click here. (-:

We were thrilled to have the following authors on the panel: Deborah Kerbel, Joanne Levy, K.A. Tucker, Norah McClintock, and Lesley Livingston. And sponsorship! We had sponsorship. (-: Penguin Random House, Writescape, and Ink Slingers were all generous in their sponsorship of the event.

The Panel - A Phono
The Panel – A Phono

I can’t really take all that much credit for U25. The brains behind the event was my writing friend, M-E Girard, someone who, herself, will be sitting on panels in the very near future. Remember her name. She’s a kickass writer who is about to explode onto the horizon. (-: As I recently stepped down from the WCDR Board of Directors, M-E did the lion’s share of the work on U25. And she did it up beautifully. I was happy to be slightly involved.

M-E and I, being silly at the podium. If Ellen can do it at the Oscars, we can do it at the WCDR Roundtable Meeting. (-:
M-E and I, being silly at the podium. If Ellen can do it at the Oscars, we can do it at the WCDR Roundtable Meeting. (-:

For those in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) who missed the WCDR U25 Panel Discussion, don’t forget that the WCDR Roundtable Meetings happen every month but one…throughout the year. Every one is a nugget for writers. You should seriously check them out. They take place in Ajax, Ontario…which, believe it or not, is only about half an hour from downtown Toronto. If you’re in Toronto, don’t be shy…because the Writers’ Community of Durham Region welcomes EVERYONE. And, honestly, there is life EAST OF THE CITY. The WCDR is only a short ride away. And it is a VAST and welcoming community. So over the top worth the drive. CHECK OUT THE MONTHLY MEETINGS HERE.

Whatever you do, and wherever you do it…make sure you’re getting enough WRITERLY things into your life. They validate the journey. Trust me! The more you live the writing life, the easier it gets. And TAKE CHANCES. Stretch your limits. Try things you never thought in a million years you could pull off. When I first petitioned Driftwood Theatre to take part in my first Trafalgar24 event, I had exactly ZERO plays under my belt. I didn’t let that stop me. We grow when we push ourselves. We discover that we’re stronger than we thought we were. Next time you see a writerly opportunity that sounds amazing, whether or not you feel confident enough to tackle it, take it on! You may have to put on your superhero suit…but that’s okay. Whatever works, right. Now go forth, and conquer your writing life. It’s waiting for you…

My Return to the Castle! (Trafalgar24)

Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario
Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

I recently mentioned that I had some super secret news. We’re now allowed to talk about it. (-;

On Thursday March 6th I have the distinct pleasure of being locked inside Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario for the 5th time! FIVE TIMES. FIVE! Count ’em! Five! (-:

With the tagline, 24 ARTISTS. 24 HOURS. 6 NEW PLAYS., you just know it’s the one must-see event of the year in these parts. There is nothing quite as extraordinary as Trafalgar24.

outside the castle

I don’t know how I get so lucky. Sometimes, it’s hard being a writer (shhhh…not really). But at other times, it’s quite the fairytale. Trafalgar is my fairytale.

Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario
Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

I enjoy everything about this play festival. I love the anticipation of waiting to see which room my play will be set in, how many actors I will be given to work with, whether those actors will be male, female or both. I love arriving at the castle at night and knowing I won’t be leaving until daylight. I love knowing that when I do leave the castle the next morning, that I leave behind a complete 10-minute play. For one night a year, I’m the elf…leaving behind a hopefully stunning pair of shoes for the shoemaker to discover.

piano

I love knowing that as I’m driving away from the castle, there are a group of eager (and probably a little scared, anxious and excited) actors and directors arriving to rehearse the plays we playwrights leave behind. I love knowing that within those castle walls, for the entirety of the day, there is creation happening…actors are becoming the characters we leave behind, making them bigger and better and full of life. And directors are envisioning the perfect business to attach to the playwrights’ words. SO MUCH MAGIC!

front entrance inside

And as I arrive back at the castle, a little after nightfall, there is an air of highly electrified excitement. The actors are there, the directors are there, the volunteer soldiers of the Driftwood Theatre Company are there. And the opening ceremonies see the castle fill to the rafters with audience members eager to see what delights are in store for them this year! Delights both culinary and theatrical…as the dessert bar at Trafalgar 24 is renown.

The audience, broken into 6 groups, tours the castle and sees all 6 of the plays in the 6 castle rooms chosen for the event.

Playwrights have no idea going in which room they will get to write their play in. To date, I’ve had the basement, the piano room, the auditorium and the lab. I love getting to my room, taking a walk around and trying to figure out what will happen there. So far, each room has spoken to me. I can’t wait to see where I get put this year!

If you have not yet grabbed your Trafalgar24 ticket, I suggest you do it now. This event sells out yearly:

TRAFALGAR24 TICKETS

DRIFTWOOD THEATRE GROUP’S TRAFALGAR24 WEBPAGE

See you at the castle!

From Driftwood’s Webpage:

Trafalgar 24 is a fundraising event in support of driftwood theatre

Every March, 24 playwrights, directors and actors get locked into a 19th century castle nestled in Whitby, Ontario, for a theatre creation event unlike any other. Using the castle as inspiration, their challenge is to create, rehearse and perform six new plays in only 24 hours.

This extraordinary festival is also Driftwood’s signature fundraising gala. Be among an exclusive audience to witness six new site-specific plays; feast on a fabulous selection of wine, cheese and desserts; find spectacular deals on entertainment, electronics, services, art and more at our silent auction; and help discover Driftwood’s next Beyond The Castle playwright.

March 7, 2014 | Trafalgar Castle | 401 Richmond Street, Whitby.

castle front

To the Castle! Driftwood Strikes Again!

Just a few shots from inside and out of Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. These are shots I took while staying in the castle to write plays for Trafalgar24, the yearly play creation festival put on by Driftwood Theatre. I wrote in the castle for the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 festivals. This year, I will be purely a spectator.

Six playwrights will be locked in the castle on Thursday, March 7th. They will each be sent to a particular room in the castle—in which their plays must take place. They will each be given photos of their actors. Then they must write their plays! When they are released on the morning of Friday, March 8th, there will be 6 freshly written plays left behind. Like the Elf and the Shoemaker!

On the morning of Friday, March 8th the directors and actors will arrive at the castle. They will rehearse the newly penned plays and on the evening of Friday, March 8th the audience (MYSELF INCLUDED!) will arrive to see performances of all six plays. The audience will then vote on our favourites.

Winning playwright gets to develop his or her Trafalgar24 play into a full-length play through Driftwood.

This is a yearly event…and I guarantee you it is the VERY BEST that Durham Region has to offer! If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you better do so before they are sold out. Happens every single year! Here’s a link:

http://www.driftwoodtheatre.com/event/trafalgar-24/

A hearty (and heartfelt) thank you to Jeremy Smith and the Driftwood crew for giving me my first opportunities to write for the stage. I feel like Trafalgar24 was one of my biggest gifts as a writer. Without Driftwood giving me a chance to dip my toes into playwriting, I would not have found this passion I’m so crazy about. I can’t wait to see what this year’s crop of playwrights come up with for Trafalgar24. Guaranteed we’ll be entertained.