Arts Club presents dramatized script readings
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
The Arts Club’s ReACT series celebrated its 13th season last weekend with four unproduced scripts dramatized by professional actors to an audience at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. The readings included Ed Roy’s Whispers, Michele Riml’s The Amaryllis, Hiro Kanagawa’s Indian Arm, and introduced new playwright Melody Anderson’s piece, Me and You.
Anderson got involved with ReACT through a women’s writing collective she belongs to where she was able to take an idea she’d had for years about sisters growing up together and develop it into her breakout script.
“I decided to pursue that idea with the group and received wonderful feedback from the women in the group. I decided to submit it to the Arts Club to see if they would be interested and they selected it as one of the pieces,” she explained.
Me and You follows the lives of two sisters from their childhood through to old age, using masks on the actors to depict the different ages. Anderson’s years of mask-making experience allowed her to create two prototype masks that were shown at the ReACT reading, which featured local actors Deb Williams and Erla Faye Forsyth.
Anderson’s story begins in the 1950s and follows the two sisters through the years. While there’s a sense of nostalgia for older viewers with references to the toys, technology, and issues for that generation, Anderson believes the story will appeal to all ages.
“What I hope to achieve is a universality,” she said. “I think women—people—of any age could relate to what it is to be a sibling.”
Rachel Ditor, the literary manager at the Arts Club, created the ReACT reading event to get a sense from audiences which scripts they were interested in seeing produced and performed at the Arts Club.
“A big part of my job initially was to take the reins with new plays and come up with a plan about how we were going to continue to premiere work—how are we going to develop it? How are we going to find writers? How are we going to get plays from a proposal stage to a premiere?” she said. “ReACT was part of that, part of giving a really important tool to the writers… and great for us because we get to assess where a script is in its development and what we want to do next with it.”
The readings are a mix of writing from professional playwrights who are new to the Arts Club and first-time playwrights like Anderson. Some come with final drafts that are ready to go into production while others are just starting out.
“It’s usually somewhere between three and seven years in terms of getting a play from a first draft to a premiere,” Ditor said. “ReACT is a good way to get to know a writer because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together if you decide that it’s a good match and we’re going to premiere the piece.”
One of the scripts previously read at ReACT was Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, a musical based on humorous Craigslist ads that was performed this summer at the Arts Club.
“It went through a couple of years of ReACT and readings. It had fans; people would come to one reading then they’d come back the next year to hear how it’s changed,” she said.
“They could see their voice in the development and that was really exciting for some people. It was neat how you can follow a piece that way from early stages through to production.”
Ditor, who teaches in the theatre department at the University of British Columbia, got a suggestion from one of her students that the playwrights should add a song about advertising for roommates, which is a common topic on Craigslist. This comment inspired the addition of the roommate songs in the musical, which involve ridiculous requirements for the potential candidates.
“That was really exciting for them: to think some comment they had, they could come and see how that evolved and was present in the actual show,” Ditor said. “It felt like you had the inside scoop, which they did.”
Keep an eye out for the scripts featured in this year’s ReACT series because they could have a premiere show as early as next year. ReACT will be back next November with another batch of great Canadian playwrights’ works.