Pipeline 2019 celebrates
homegrown plays

Infinitheatre’s Write-On-Q playwriting competition ceremony featured four new scripts

By Byron Toben

One of the “musts” of early December every year is the presentation of Infinitheatre’s awards to winners of its annual Write-On-Q playwriting competition of new Quebec-related plays. The winners have had staged public readings at this Pipeline ceremony. Over the years, there have been over 100 new plays so presented, of which 25 have been further developed and produced.

Oren Safdie -

Oren Safdie

New this year was the naming of the first prize as the “Kevin”, in tribute to its board member, the late Kevin Tierney, filmmaker and humorist.

The Kevin went to Oren Safdie for his Colour Blind, a fictionalized account of the jury selecting an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History.

Mr. Safdie is well known to Pipeline audiences, having had two of his earlier plays fully produced here after a first reading (Unseamly, Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv).

In this play, directed by Philip Akin, six jurors of varied backgrounds debate whether the architect must be him or herself of African-American origin. Guy Sprung, artistic director of Infinitheatre makes a rare appearance as an actor as one of the judges. The Award ($ 3000) was presented by a panel including Mr. Tierney’s widow, Terry.

Second prize ($1500) was awarded to Vishesh Abeyratne for his script, Divide and Rule. In this reading, directed by Tamara Brown, a thrift shop owner hires two Sri Lanken immigrant employees. However, local prejudices between the two carry over to the new world.

Not entered in the Write-On-Q competition but also read was Our Lady of the Ice by Alyson Grant. Ms. Grant has had three of her earlier plays produced by Infinitheatre. In this one, directed by Cristina Cugliandro, the setting is Antarctica where a church carved out of ice hosts an excommunicated female Catholic priest.

Vishesh Abeyratne -

Vishesh Abeyratne

Readers included Infini stalwarts Howard Rosenstein and Arthur Holden (a pleasure to see Mr. Holden paired again with Lucinda Davis with whom he was featured in his Book of Bob at the Centaur a few years ago).

A real treat was Mazel Tov, written in French by Marc-Andre Thibault and now translated by him into English (thus joining Samuel Beckett as the only playwright I know of who has translated his own works). Directed by Ellen David, the tale tells of a marriage between a Jewish bride and a non-Jewish husband. The husband’s best friend makes a gesture interpreted as being anti-Semitic. The marriage is endangered and serious injury erupts. I was impressed by Ms. David’s attention to detail by managing to get a wheel chair key to the story up the steep stairs of the venue even though this was just a reading.

Each reading included a useful talk back from the audience. The final day was capped by a reception featuring snacks provided by Melinda’s cafe and Mr. Spung’s own homemade eggnog.

The Pipeline 2019 was presented at the Rialto upstairs on December 5, 6 and 7, and at the Kin Gallery on December 8.

Watch for Infinitheatre’s Fight On ! from March 16 to 29, 2020 at the Centre St. Jax.

Feature image: cast of Mazel Tov
All images courtesy of Infinitheatre

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Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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