Write-On-Q and Pipeline
Playwriting contest and dramatic readings present fresh new plays
By Byron Toben
Infinitheatre, named and re-activated in 1997, was built upon the foundation of playwright and novelist Marianne Ackerman’s Theatre 1774, established in 1988. Since then, in addition to producing new English-language plays and introducing a few Japanese groups from Tokyo here, it has carved out a niche by also sponsoring an annual playwriting contest, Write-On-Q. (Q for both cue and Quebec, get it?)
Winners are also a source of some of its annual Pipeline dramatic readings of new plays by Quebec authors that may be produced by it or other companies in the future.
This year, the event was held at Infini’s new NDG Espace Knox, a former church, which not only brings a new cultural venue hitherto lacking in the area, but ends Infini’s nomadic existence at the Plateau/Mile End city-owned Bain St-Michel, still undergoing endless repairs, and the third floor room kindly made available by the Rialto theatre, now slated to be renovated also.
This year, the event was held at Infini’s new NDG Espace Knox… which not only brings a new cultural venue hitherto lacking in the area, but ends Infini’s nomadic existence…
This year, the top two Write-On-Q winners were among the four readings presented.
First prize ($3000) went to Michaela Cesare for her play Extra/Beautiful/U. Her Fringe hit, In Search of Mrs. Pirandello, went on to the 2016 Centaur Wildside fest.
Second place ($1500) was Louise Arsenault for Strange Fire. She had also won third place in 2015 for her Burning Tongues.
Third place ($500) was Michael Milech for The Ugly Seahorse. He had also an entrant in 2015 that resulted in a 2016 Fringe hit Honesty Rents by the Hour.
All four plays read had terrific actors involved, especially considering they had only about four hours the afternoon of each show to rehearse.
Four of our favourite theatre folk did double duty. Leni Parker performed in two of the readings, Alain Goulem wrote one and acted in another, Ellen David directed one and acted in another. Shawn Campbell also directed one and acted in another.
Special kudos to Eda Holmes and Nicholas Pynes, artistic directors of respectively, the Centaur theatre and Theatre Lac Brome, who took time out of their busy schedules to direct two of the plays.
Ms. Holmes directed Ms. Cesare’s Extra/Beautiful/U. Here a beauty queen’s face is ripped off in an auto accident. The fear of losing her beauty while waiting for surgery is complicated by relations with her stage mother and Down syndrome sister. (I empathized with the beauty queen, being incredibly handsome myself – or so I fantasize.)
‘All four plays read had terrific actors involved, especially considering they had only about four hours the afternoon of each show to rehearse.’
Mr. Pynes directed Mr. Goulem’s The Ex-Mas Party. Here a divorced couple are forced to spend a night in a rural cottage during a severe snowstorm with each other’s new lover. Adapted from his own unproduced film script, this was the funniest of the four scripts by far. Funny fills seats so I am sure this will be publically mounted.
Mr. Campbell directed Arthur Holden’s The Past. Mr. Holden is a regular writer and performer with Infini. His Book of Bob at an earlier Pipeline resulted in a fine Centaur show. This play features two “aging bookish alcoholics” who meet at an AA session. It recently won a national playwriting prize in BC.
Ms. David directed Ms. Arsenault’s Strange Fire. Here, a Montreal filmmaker is making a film about young women who self immolate as a form of protest. Meeting one whose attempt failed is the key conceit of the story, which also involves addictions to food and to alcohol.
The three-day event was capped by a holiday reception with various health food snacks such as popcorn and cookies, quenched by mini cups of seasonal eggnog.
Coming up in February…
Directed by Infini’s Artistic Director Guy Sprung, another Pipeline feature from 2015 now converted into a full production called, well, Conversion by Dawson Cegep’s English prof, Alyson Grant, who has had two other scripts so produced.
The Dawson English department seems to be a breeding ground for female professor playwrights. Besides Ms. Grant and Ms. Arsenault, there is Ann Lambert and now, her playwright daughter, Alice Abracen, as well as the wonderful actor, Laura Mitchell, who I suspect, is birthing a play of her own.
With this talented coven continuously scribbling away, do their students get proper attention? Jus’ askin’.
The Pipeline ended at Espace Knox on December 10.
Images: Simon A. Abou-Fadel
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.