PACT Preconference Topic: Dramaturging Montreal: Embracing issues of country, isolation, and assimilation to inspire playwriting and curriculum reform
Inspired by the ATHE theme and Quebec motto “Je me souviens,” the PACT Preconference will explore the dramaturgy of Montreal. Heather Helinsky is a dramaturg that playwrights have recognized as “especially adept at freeing energies in unexpected ways” and will be leading our pre-conference event. We will begin by exploring plays by Montreal writers; then, we will adventure out into the city itself for site-specific writing exercises. Our site-specific sessions will have participants writing plays, collaborating with colleagues, and envisioning new curriculum. We plan on partnering with theatre scholars Erin Hurley of McGill, Patrick Leroux of Concordia, and Montréal-based dramaturg Alison Bowie, as well as local museums, theatre spaces, and historic sites. We hope by investigating the work of Montréal playwrights and exploring the narratives of the city itself, we will raise questions of how we can better engage the history of our own communities to create new works that instigate change.
Heather Helinsky: As the guest artist for the PACT pre-conference workshop, you can find more about me here. What may be more interesting for you to know is this summer, while I am reading these Montréal plays, I am working on the following projects. I have to thank all of them for their artistry while I prepare for ATHE.
- I’ve been the dramaturg for the Great Plains Theatre Conference for the past five years. It’s a writers’ retreat and an artistic family reunion for me. Downtown NYC theatre artists come to Omaha for a mid-western vacation. Sometimes, there are tornadoes and hotel fires while we devise theatre and movement performances on garage rooftops, city parks, and museums. As a dramaturg, I help develop 10 plays simultaneously, it a lot of work but I always come out on the other side inspired and fueled for my next season of work.
- I’ve been hired by Philadelphia’s PlayPenn this July to dramaturg J.T. Rogers‘ new play OSLO. I’m based in Philadelphia throughout the year, so I’m glad to be working this summer in my hometown, which has not always been the case in my career.
- I also dramaturg two classical plays for the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival—this year I’m assigned to Henry V and Pericles. Henry V will be helmed by Philadelphia-based director Matt Pfeiffer. Pericles is also a “director-less” play, nicknamed “Hit-and-Run” Shakespeare where there is no directorial concept to the production, just resident actors gathering to rehearse it in a short period of maybe four days at the most? So, I’m currently in the pre-production, article-writing phase while I also read about Montréal playwriting.
- I also have an active freelance dramaturg career with many new plays in progress, too much to go into here, so as I said before, you can check out my website to know what other playwrights have hired me to work with them on their latest pieces. All these plays are influencing my blog posts.
Alison Bowie is a gracious Montréal -based dramaturg who said yes to collaborating with me on this, in spite of her busy schedule. I am so grateful.
Alison Bowie achieved her undergraduate degree in History from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario in 2006. While working at the Living Arts Centre she developed the French Educational Arts Program at the Centre through a Trillium Foundation of Ontario grant and the program is now fully self-sustaining. Alison is passionate about teaching and the development of students’ critical and creative skills. For the past three years she was a Teaching Assistant at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she also completed her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Dramaturgy. She is currently working for Repercussion Theatre in Marketing & Development and as Associate Dramaturg for SpiderWebShow. She is based out of Montréal, Québec. Her primary areas of research are postcolonial studies, Early 20th Century Québec theatre, pedagogical practices and translation. She has worked as an assistant dramaturge and assistant director on several productions.
I also couldn’t have put this project together without the advice of Montréal scholars Erin Hurley and Patrick Leroux in August/September of 2014. If this blog has inspired you to add more Montréal plays to your curriculum, please know they’ve been fabulous resources and generous with their time and expertise.
Erin Hurley is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at McGill University. The author of National Performance: Representing Quebec from Expo 67 to Céline Dion, Theatre & Feeling, and Theatres of Affect, she specializes in contemporary Quebec performance, performance theory and affect studies. Her new research focuses on the history of minority-language theatre in modern Quebec.
Louis Patrick Leroux is a Canadian playwright, director, and scholar. He has worked in traditional and experimental theatre and video installation. In the 1990s, he founded and was Artistic Director of Ottawa’s Théâtre la Catapulte. His plays have been performed in French, English, and Spanish. Most recent titles include Ludwig & Mae (Talonbooks, 2009), Se taire (Prise de parole, 2010), and Dialogues fantasques pour causeurs éperdus (Prise de parole, 2012). He has recently been visiting scholar at Duke University and Charles University in Prague. Over the past two years, he has been a scholar-in-residence at Montreal’s National Circus School and is an ongoing collaborator with the school’s and 7 Fingers’ focused exploration into circus, technology, and narrative. He is currently teaching the history, aesthetics and creative process class at National Circus School and is director of the Montreal Working Group on Circus Research. He is also an Artist in residence at matralab and is affiliated with the Hexagram Institute for research-creation in media arts and technology at Concordia University in Montreal, where he teaches playwriting and Québec drama in both the departments of English and French Studies.
I am thankful to the PACT committee:
Mark Charney, chair of Texas Tech, who is always everywhere making things possible for our field, I don’t know how he has time for it all. Mover of mountains, frequent flyer, and the most fun person to hang out with at a conference. Read his impressive bio here.
Ingrid deSanctis, Assistant Professor of Playwriting at James Madison. Couldn’t have done this without her and her students are amazing. Check out her website for more about her work and theatrical manifestos.
Rodger Sorenson of Brigham Young University. Dr. Rodger Sorensen is an Associate Professor of Theatre and Media Arts. Before coming to BYU in 1996, he taught at the College of Eastern Utah from 1974 to 1979, and at BYU-Idaho from 1979 to 1996 where he served as Department Chair for ten years. He completed his doctorate at the University of Texas at Dallas in 1999. He also serves as the Focus Group Representative: Playwrights and Creative Teams for the Association of Theatre in Higher Education. From 1978 to 2004, Professor Sorensen was involved with the Hill Cumorah Pageant near Palmyra, New York, and served as Artistic Director from 1997 to 2004. He has directed over a hundred theater productions, including premieres of original scripts, adaptations of his own devised pieces, a range of interdisciplinary projects, many operas, musicals, dramas, and comedies. Professor Sorensen’s responsibilities include faculty, hiring, faculty funding, professional development, religious educations transfer faculty, as well as rank and status.
And I also want to thank Canadian dramaturg Iris Turcott, Simon Barry, the director of the library for the National Theatre School of Canada, and Brian Drader, the Director of Playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada.