The Pipeline That Gushes New Plays

Winners of Infinitheatre’s annual new play reading series

By Byron Toben

There is controversy over oil pipelines. However, no argument over the benefits of a word pipeline, specifically Infinitheatre’s annual new play reading series, now in its 11th year.

Each year, this group seeks to discover and eventually produce or broker innovative English language new plays. About 40 to 50 scripts are submitted to an annual and amusingly named ‘Write-On-Q’ competition which is narrowed down to six entries, finally narrowed by an independent jury to a short list of three.

Pipeline Infinitheatre

The reading of Conversion

This trio of winners is then presented over three days to the general public as dramatic readings so the playwrights can hear their work interpreted by top local actors and take the audience talk back comments into consideration for future revisions.

Although many of the scripts over the years have been of worthy quality, their audience appreciation has been heightened even more by the fantastic quality of the amazing local actors who have donated their talent and time to participate. They deliver such fine readings with the benefit of only one run-through the same day!

Pipeline Infinitheatre

Alyson Grant and reading cast with award for Conversion

I was only able to catch two of this year’s trio:

Conversion by Alyson Grant took third place ($500 prize). Serious subjects of religious choices, hidden backgrounds and parental secrets are here blended with Ms. Grant’s flashes of wit.

Her first two plays, Trench Patterns and Progress!, went on from Pipeline to full production.

Mike Payette played the Afro-Canadian husband of Brittany Drisdelle. Her parents, Steven Orlov and Diana Fajrajsl, visit for a Christmas dinner. Old and new religious conversions include Irish Catholic, Jewish, Protestant (which of the 2500 sects never revealed) and Islam.

One wag in the audience ventured that he entered the room as an agnostic, but after witnessing the onstage divisions, had converted to Atheism.

Pipeline Infinitheatre

Alice And The World We Live In by Alexandra Haber took second place ($1500 prize). Seven of her plays have been produced across Canada. Here, in a non-linear fashion, we follow the life of Alice (Jane Wheeler) and her husband (Alain Goulem) in a non-linear framework that involves the random bombing of a neighbourhood grocery. Some of their dialogue reminded me of observations in the 1992 best seller, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

Brett Watson read a small but powerful role. Quincy Armourer as a hug therapist, was joined by Alison Darcy (what a pleasure to see her acting again after much busy work as director/producer), Lucinda Davis as the store owner and Stephanie Costa as a shy observer. Dean Patrick Fleming directed.

The Nutritional Value Of Anger by Michael Milech garnered first place ($3000). I didn’t get to see this one. His finalist in last year’s Write-on-Q , Honesty Rents By the Hour was a Fringe success and will be remounted in March, featuring Infini stalwart Howard Rosenstein (Kafka’s Ape) who also directed this reading.

Deena Aziz and Julia Bosellino are joined by Patrick Keeler in this three hander that places a young homeless woman squatting outside a grocery store on a cold January night. Her harangues of passersby for money disturb the owner, an Iranian Immigrant.

Infini Artistic Director Guy Sprung not only directed Conversion but served his delicious eggnog at the closing Christmas reception, which featured delicious Greek tidbits from neighbouring Melinda’s snackerie.

The Pipeline 2016 ran from December 2 to 4.
More information at

Images: courtesy of Infinitheatre

Feature image: Michael Milech accepting award for The Nutritional Value Of Anger.

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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