Nightwood's play development series turns 19 this week. Joining the mainstage offerings of plays by women are the new Playwright Slams of on-the-spot creations. Here are some fest highlights.
GROUNDSWELL a festival of new plays by women writers. Opens Monday (May 20) and runs to May 26 Playwright Slams May 22 and 23 at 10 pm. Presented by Nightwood Theatre at Tallulah’s Cabaret (12 Alexander). Suggested donation $5-$10, slams $5. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNNN
Four Directions by Dawn Dumont, directed by Marion De Vries, with Bossy Ducharme, Jules Koostachin and Michelle Latimer. Tuesday (May 21) at 9 pm.
Dawn Dumont wrote her first play when she should have been completing her master’s thesis in law. “I just didn’t feel the same passion for the law as I did for writing,” says Dumont, who describes that first script, penned a few years ago, as “Hamlet set on a reserve.”
Since trading in legal briefs for character arcs, Dumont’s been busy. Last year she premiered her play Nicimis (Little Brother), an autobiographical work about her aimless brother, at Nightwood’s Write From The Hip workshop for young writers.
At this year’s Groundswell fest, she unveils the more ambitious Four Directions, a look at love, sex, jealousy and politics among four former childhood friends on a prairie reserve.
Dumont is familiar with First Nations politics. Her father is a former Saskatchewan reserve chief, and her aunt currently holds that position.
“Chiefs are like parents,” she explains. “They don’t just run the reserve, they’re responsible to and for the people, for solving their problems. I remember my auntie bringing 10 kids into a band meeting and talking seriously about drug use. That’s very personal.”
Dumont says her characters are a blend of people she’s known from the reserve, but laughingly admits to first-hand experience with jealousy.
“When I started writing the play, I had gone through these unprovoked feelings of jealousy with my boyfriend,” she says. “It’s a strong emotion, irrational yet so real. It comes from being insecure. I wanted to explore what it can do to relationships.”
Dumont’s still dating the boyfriend, and says she feels more secure — about the relationship and her career.
She recalls playwright Judith Thompson’s advice about structure at last year’s Write From The Hip.
“I thought things had to be structured a certain way, but Thompson told us structure can be internal. If you write what you’re passionate about, and follow your intuition, you’ll find your own structure.”GS