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demon voice: how did i get here

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I just sent off the rehearsal draft of Demon Voice to the Touchstone office for printing. We start rehearsal on Monday. Today is Thursday. I’m really excited, the kind of excited that you feel when you first get on the wooden rollercoaster at the PNE. You had fun last time, but is this really a good idea?

Writing a play is a wild ride. I know it isn’t always like this, and every playwright is different, but when I think back to how this play started, it completely baffles me that I ended up with the draft that just sent off.

After the production of my first play Prodigal Son in 2006, I thought I’d sit down and write a comedy. Something wacky with heart, a giggle-fest that makes you think a little. How about a nice, easy-to-produce, two-hander? Something that zips along, that producers warm to immediately, like Mary’s Wedding only funnier, picked up by regional theatres nation-wide! I thought I’d explore the relationship between two people (friends maybe?) with completely different outlooks on life. Yeah, that’ll be funny. How about one that believes that the way to survive in the world and to improve it is to think only positive thoughts, and the other believes that you have to face all the garbage and get in there and fight like hell to make it better, no matter how lousy it feels. Enormous comic potential.

Before long, it became clear that this play was not going to be funny. I ended up with two people who meet online for sex: one in an open relationship with his wife, and another running away from her dark, tortured past. Hilarious, right? I got tired of hearing them speak, so I introduced a third character, a homeless ex-con with a broken heart. Stop it, my sides! As I explored their back stories, I discovered they each had fascinating relationships with people who didn’t appear in the play. Before I knew it, I had a six character drama, about violence, guilt and personal responsibility, a ‘meditation on intimacy and its inescapable consequences.’ A real laugh riot.

I guess what I learned is that when you’re creating something, you have to allow what wants to emerge the opportunity to do so. You have to get out of the way. I know I still got some funny in me, but that play just has to wait its turn. This is just where I’m at now.

After all of this strange mutation of intent and story, and after experiencing the mystery of the creative process, I have to say that what I love the most about this journey are the characters that people this play. I was going to say ‘that I created,’ but it truly feels as though they introduced themselves to me, and defined themselves for me and revealed their stories to me.

So here we go! Hopping onto the rickety old wooden track of live theatre, in the New Canadian Play car, down the twisting thrill ride. Yikes!

Can’t wait. More soon.

Shawn Macdonald

East of Berlin and Palace of the End recognized with honours

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Two of last season’s featured playwrights have recently been honoured for the plays we produced. Young Torontonian Hanna Moscovitch has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award (English-language Drama) for her Play East of Berlin. Touchstone co-presented The Tarragon Theatre’s beautiful production of this work, with the Firehall Arts Centre and The Chutzpah! Festival. This evocative mystery of a script follows young Rudi as he tries to find out the truth about his father’s wartime past. Vancouver playwright Kevin Loring is also nominated in the same category for his play Where the Blood Mixes. In late August Judith Thompson was awarded the 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for Palace of the End. This award recognizes productions of excellent artistic merit that build understanding and engagement of human rights. Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, John Watson – Amnesty International Scotland’s director said, “It’s a truly formidable piece of work – three absolutely stunning pieces that together encompass the range of consequences of political decisions.” Palace also won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was nominated for a 2008 Governor General’s Award and a Dora Award.

Touchstone co-presents some of our favorite artists with The Cultch

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Beginning Week of Any Night
What she said (Medina Hahn)

Showcasing new work is always scary. It’s like a birth. And you never really know how that birth is going to go… Now remounting a new piece without all the original players is really scary! Trying to get this show up after a year without our original sound designer, set designer, lighting designer or stage manager was a set up for possible disaster! Part of the set broke in the shipping, our sound design went on the fritz, our hazer set off all the fire alarms! and we got our only run-through-with-tech in the afternoon before opening night! Luckily we were blessed with an amazing team here in Vancouver. Adrian Muir stepped in to help implement and recreate the original lighting design and did an absolutely amazing job. Joanne PB Smith is a stage managing God who can apparently call a technically elaborate show for the first time to near perfection. And our technician David is nothing but a gift! I don’t know why it always feels like it’s never going to happen, because it always does… I am constantly amazed how everyone involved (near and far) band together and do all they can to make it all come alive – hell or high water. I love that about artists. The community. The comraderie. What an honour to be part of the family.

Final week of Any Night
What he said (Daniel Arnold):

Well, into the final week of Any Night here in Vancouver and another sold out crowd last night! Feels cool. Getting great response, and everyone seems to take something slightly different from the show, which is great. Because it’s about trust, which is elusive; we never really know anything, we simply trust. In this way, the experience of the show I hope confronts us with that, lets us ponder our own feelings towards that. Anyway, it’s been feeling great to be housed by Touchstone and The Cultch, doing our show under their wings. It lets us concentrate on the art and the acting instead of the admin and producing. That said, I have been reading the reviews (they always help or hinder when wanting to tour a show, which we do) and I’m honored and humbled about how much praise has come … it’ll bode well for our tour to New York! So I really want to thank everyone involved in the creation and production of Any Night … every bit of what you do counts. Couldn’t do this without you. Thank you.

photo of Medina Hahn and Daniel Arnold by Stephanie Hull

photo of Medina Hahn and Daniel Arnold by Stephanie Hull

Sell Fish Staged Reading

Monday, October 5th, 2009


Sell Fish Team

I have to tell you all about something pretty amazing that Touchstone was involved in this summer. Since January 2009 we have been working with the English Theatre section of the National Arts Centre, helping to develop a play by one of their Playwrights in Residence, Joseph A. Dandurand. Joseph is out here on the Kwantlen First Nation, near Fort Langley. Working with the NAC’s dramaturg Paula Danckert his play Sell Fish went through several drafts, and the whole process culminated in a Staged Reading on August 28th 2009. The location was the fabulous Chapel Arts buidling in the heart of the downtown Eastside. Over 50 people came out to see a reading that featured eight amazing First Nations actors – a cross section which included some well established luminaries and some new up and comers. Marie Clements directed a beautifully nuanced evening and fine performances were delivered by all – Sam Bob, Lorne Cardinal, Kimberly Harvey, Maija Jakobs, Kevin Loring, Byron Chief-Moon, Stuart Pierre and Quelemia Sparrow. The play weaves a naturalistic storyline in with some of the traditional stories of the Kwantlen First Nation, as the sprit world and the human world work and play on each other. Thanks to everyone who was involved in or came out to see this pretty special event.

Katrina Dunn
Artistic Director

Touchstone launches 2009/10 MADE IN BC Season

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

It’s all happening at Touchstone! We have just moved our office from Yaletown to Granville Island, sharing with our good buddies Carousel Theatre. AND we have just launched our shiny new website (thanks Adam Jones at adjo!!). Surf around and find all the new features, including our Culture Matters page, highlighting the threats to the Arts and what you can do. And next week the first show of our MADE IN BC season opens at the Cultch. Don’t miss Any Night by Daniel Arnold, Medina Hahn and Ron Jenkins, co-presented with the Cultch. And if you’re a lawyer, we’ve just announced the dates for the auditions for the 2010 Lawyer Show. Go to our Lawyer Show page for all the details. OK I have to get back to work, but I’m looking forward to sharing more about Touchstone with you.

All the best
Katrina Dunn
Artistic Director
Touchstone Theatre

Hello world!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

We will have some news very soon!