Maja Ardal knows the importance of an audience, and it's not just about putting bums in seats.
The interim artistic director of Nightwood Theatre sees the company's annual Groundswell Festival drawing on theatregoers in a way that's different from a fully staged production.
"Theatre artists require an audience to help with their process," she says just before launching the 24th fest of in-progress scripts by women. "Actors and directors are contributors, but it's the writer who's central, and the writer doesn't know what she has until an audience is in the room."
This year's Groundswell offerings, which run from September 9 to 15, include works by junior writers and some established talents.
The fest starts with a collective creation from the Busting Out! group, aged 12 to 16, who've been working under the tutelage of Lisa Codrington and Anna Chatterton .
The two also oversee the Write From The Hip readings of short plays created by young playwrights; the group's been in a five-month mentoring and workshop program. The pieces are by Steph Berntson , Jayne Collins , Audrey Dwyer , Julia Lederer , Arti Mehta and Rebecca Singh .
"We generate plays so we can produce them, but we also provide a solid community outreach service," says Ardal of the importance of these developing junior writers. "Our doors are open to people at an early age, and we hope artists grow through contact with Nightwood."
The six mainstage offerings feature some writers unfamiliar to local audiences and some returning faces. They've all worked with Ardal, artistic director Kelly Thornton and artistic associates Beatriz Pizano and Dwyer.
The new faces are Dennison Smith , whose Desert Story looks at a teen whose unhappy home life changes when she discovers native culture, and Stacey Engels , whose Light Swooping Through is inspired by the life and art of Emily Carr.
Sonja Mills (The Danish Play) is working on Oil Man , about a 50s dynastic family involved in the oil business when the phrase wasn't a dirty one, while Erin Shields continues to develop her Fringe hit The Unfortunate Misadventures Of Masha Galinski , based on Angela Carter 's feminist fairy tales.
Niki Landau 's (Territories) The Corpse Bride , based on the Yiddish folk tale that also inspired the Tim Burton film, will eventually be a physical-theatre piece, but at Groundswell she's working on clarifying and strengthening the script's narrative aspect.
One Groundswell piece gets its last public workshop before production early next year. Marjorie Chan' s last play, China Doll, was also presented by Nightwood. This time out she's working on a nanking winter , which combines two stories: the vicious Japanese takeover of Nanking in 1937 and the harassment and death of a woman who chronicled that invasion.
"Marjorie's style has grown increasingly sophisticated," notes Ardal, a playwright herself. "I'm thrilled when someone takes on a political and controversial topic. Here, you start to wonder who your heroes are when you discover that a safe zone in Nanking was established by an American nun and a man who worked for the Nazi party."
Wanna have your play produced or published? Three different groups have put out calls for scripts.
The Paprika Theatre Festival , which highlights the work of under-21s, wants scripts for its seventh fest next March. New this year is the presentation of non-traditional work, including art installations, soundscapes and collaborations between video artists and live performers.
Workshops begin in the fall for the writers chosen for either the creators or the productions unit. For more info, go to www.paprikafestival.com or contact artistic producer Tessa King at 416-831-9161 or 647-830-3337. Deadline is September 15.
It's also the seventh year for the rock. paper. sistahz festival , run by b current. The company presents and supports performance works from the Canadian and international black diasporic communities. The festival offers works at varying levels of development by both emerging and established artists from all disciplines.
For submission details, check out the company's website, www.bcurrent.ca , or call 416-533-1500. Deadline is October 30.
Playwrights Canada Press is publishing an anthology of lesbian scenes and monologues edited by NOW senior entertainment editor Susan G. Cole .
The press seeks monologues and short scenes by either men or women writing for a lesbian voice. All submissions must come from produced plays. Monologues should be a maximum of two pages and scenes a maximum of six. Both should have brief stage directions that set up the selection. The entry should also have title, author, translator (if applicable), first production credits and publisher (if applicable).
Send or fax submissions to Lesbian Scenes & Monologues , Playwrights Canada Press, 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 230, Toronto M5T 2C7; fax 416-408-3402. For more information, contact Annie Gibson at email@example.com. Deadline is November 30.
STAF and Labspace Studio offer a new series aimed at indie theatre artists who want to polish up their behind-the-scenes skills.
The Reality Check Workshops offer sessions with performing-arts specialists. Sue Edworthy and John Loerchner speak about marketing an indie production (Tuesday, September 11), while Patterson Fardell talks about education outreach, especially in under-serviced communities (September 18).
Jane Marsland discusses the roles and responsibilities of boards (September 27), and the series concludes with Ian Arnold talking about misconceptions about agents and their relationships with artists (October 2).
The 7 pm workshops are at Labspace (276 Carlaw, suite 202, north of Queen). Pwyc ($7 recommended) at the door, though reservations are suggested. For more info, call Erika Rueter at 416-703-2773 ext 202.