Say Yes, And…

Say Yes, And…

(Or, How I became Driftwood Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence)

Creativity, much like love, is a frustrating alchemy—the more you chase it, the further away it gets. If you really hope to make something extraordinary, you gotta relax and let it happen. In other words, let the gold find you.

I can’t tell you a magical formula to conjure inspiration. But I will say that whenever she decides to pay me a visit, I let her do whatever she wants. She’s like an old auntie that I’m afraid to piss off. Which brings me to the crux of this tale: Say Yes, and…

The golden rule of improv is how I won T24. No kidding.

Last year, I auditioned for Driftwood’s Bard on the Bus tour. Artistic Director D. Jeremy Smith sent me (and I say this without sarcasm) the nicest rejection email I have ever received. It left me feeling motivated to try again in the future. He offered a small consolation: would I like to perform in the Trafalgar 24 festival? Nope! I wasn’t moving my work schedule around for a one-night only event. And if we’re not going steady, you can’t take me to prom Jeremy! Petty? Perhaps.

Luckily, Jeremy counter-offered: would I like to write in the Trafalgar 24 festival? My writing experience is at the bottom of my actor’s resume, and most directors don’t even bother to ask about it. But he did. And that small gesture made my Grinch-heart double in size. It whispered to me, “This feels right. Do it.” So, I said yes, and…

Then I got to write a site-specific play in a frickin’ castle and I got to meet some other amazing artists! That night I was a woman obsessed: I worked 8 hours straight without breaks.* I turned into some weird vending machine—shoving in pizza and then dispensing words on the page.  

For some reason, inspiration decided that my play could only take place inside a brain. I questioned her at first, but then she threatened to leave and take her sweet potato pie with her. So I said yes, and…

I let the story be as ridiculous as it wanted to be. I was unconcerned with how it would be received. Whatever I submitted at 6am would be something I enjoyed reading. That was enough for me.

In all honesty, I was planning on losing T24. Seriously. I had rehearsed the moment in my mind, as well as my best I’m-so-happy-for-you-because-you-totally-deserved-it smile. They’d call all the playwrights up on stage. Jeremy would announce that the laundromat musical won (it was charming AF), then I’d smile and wish them well. Maybe hit up that dessert platter on the way out. #BLESSSSSSSSED.

But then I won. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I was just writing for the hell of it. Somehow that landed me this gig. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with my reckless abandon. And so, I offer it to you. Maybe the secret to inspiration is to give her carte blanche. You have no idea how things will play out, and for whatever odd reason, you’re okay with it.

*Okay maybe like two 5-minute breaks to pee, but still! I’m hard-core, okay?


Alicia Richardson is Driftwood’s 2018 Playwright-in-Residence, working on her play Solve for X, which was first written for Trafalgar 24, 2018. Join us for FREE readings of selections from Solve for X on July 28 (Toronto), August 5 (Peterborough) and August 12 (Port Perry). Visit for details, or call 416-605-5132.

Comedy, Tragedy, Music and Puppets

Driftwood Theatre announces playwrights for Trafalgar 24

March 9 from 6:30 to 11 pm at Trafalgar Castle in Whitby

What do you get when you lock six (or eight, actually) playwrights in a castle overnight? The answer to that question is revealed annually at Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar 24.  Since 2011 Artistic Director Jeremy Smith has been turning Whitby’s Trafalgar Castle into a round-the-clock theatre creation hub for one day in March.

Playwrights arrive in the evening of March 8 and are assigned a room at the castle. They have until the morning of March 9 to create a play to be performed in that space. Next morning, the actors and directors arrive, and at 7:30 pm MC (radio personality and voice of the Oshawa Generals) Terry Johnston sends audiences out into the castle to see these world premieres.

Trafalgar 24 is also a competition, with a jury of theatre professionals (and one lucky silent auction winner) choosing one of the plays to go on to further development as part of Driftwood’s Beyond the Bard program.

For 2018 Smith has assembled a group of writers who are sure to create a wide (and wild) variety of plays:

Sophia Fabilli and Aaron Jensen are going to make a musical – overnight! Aaron is a composer and vocal director whose music has been heard from Schitt’s Creek to the Edinburgh Fringe. Sophia’s play, The Philanderess, won the inaugural Second City Best New Comedy Award – and she recently wrote and starred in Floss, a short film about sexy dental hygiene.

Fan favourites Warren Bain and Matt Bernard (aka Bain & Bernard Comedy), creators of works such as Romeo and Juliet: Chainsaw Massacre are back for a second dark night of creation.

Rhiannon Collett, winner of the 2016 Playwrights Guild of Canada Emerging Playwright Award, also returns to Trafalgar for a second time. Rhiannon’s play, There Are No Rats in Alberta, will premiere at the 2018 Rhubarb Festival. There are also no rats in the castle.

There will be puppets! Tom McGee is a playwright and puppeteer, and co-creator both the children’s theatre company Shakey-Shake and Friends and the really-not-for-kids Theatre Brouhaha. Some of his cast will be made of cloth.

Alicia Richardson is a Toronto actor and writer who says she, “works alone and edits like nobody’s business.” Exactly the skills needed for this solo overnight writing challenge.

Ran Zhu can be seen online in the LGBT-focused satire Ran and Jaden. His degree in playwriting from York University will come in handy for this challenge. His economics degree, not so much.

Trafalgar 24 is also Driftwood Theatre’s biggest annual fundraiser, featuring a silent auction with dozens of great prizes and scrumptious pre and post show receptions (wine, cheese, desserts, oh my!). 

Why wait? Purchase your Trafalgar 24 Tickets today

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Homecoming for Driftwood’s new General Manager

Lee Bolton brings theatre experience from coast-to-coast to her new position as Driftwood’s General Manager

After working in Canadian theatre from sea to sea to sea, Lee Bolton decided last spring that it was time  to return to her hometown of Peterborough. Luckily for Driftwood, her quest for a new theatrical adventure coincided with our search for a General Manager.

Lee is a passionate believer in “bringing theatre to people, and people to theatre.” As an educator, director, presenter and administrator, she’s been doing that for more than three decades.

No stranger to bus touring, Lee founded Second Mile Theatre while still a York University student – touring original plays to seniors’ centres and homes across the GTA. She went on to become Artistic Director of Yukon Educational Theatre – taking plays for adults and children to every community in the Territory, every winter. Buy her a beer and she’ll tell you the stories.

As an educator, Lee spent 14 years in Vancouver training emerging actors at the William Davis Centre for Actors’ Study and serving as Education Coordinator for Full Circle First Nations Performance. She has given workshops for everyone from juvenile inmates to senior citizens to business executives, including a particularly memorable afternoon spent with 200 social workers. (She was expecting 20.)

After completing her MA in TheatreMaking at the University of Leeds, Lee returned to Canada to become Executive Director at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, New Brunswick. Learning the intricacies of presenting artists in a restored 1913 vaudeville theatre was exciting. Dealing with bricks falling off a historic building (never say “spall” in her presence) encouraged her to come work for a company that has no walls!

Lee says, “Coming to Driftwood is a return to my roots – personally as a child of Ontario and professionally as a theatre person who believes in making the work accessible to everyone, everywhere.”

Brainfarting in Good Company

Playwright In Residence Jesse LaVerbcombe reminisces on his experience developing Resurrect for Beyond The Bard

When I applied to be a Trafalgar 24 Playwright, I summed up my short application letter like this, “Why do I want to write a play in a haunted castle? Well, it sounds fun as hell, but I also know that physical space and time pressure are the two things I creatively respond to best.”

I’d like to add something to that extensive list of two: good people.

But more on that at the end, because now that I’m not trying to convince Jeremy of anything, I’d also like to amend the tone of that quote. As it stands, it implies that I respond creatively to many things, but I only have space to list the two tippity top things, and that my process is very self-aware and intentional…As opposed to the truth, which is that my process is as follows.

I walk around thinking about structures of plots, characters and themes in my head, which sounds exactly like this, “I think I have something…I think I have something…Oh my God I—nope. I definitely have nothing.”

The clinical term for this is “brainfart.”

Now, eventually the very best (cogent, poignant, funny, character-arc-assisting) of the brainfarts make their way onto a page, and, if there was any sense that these top-notch farts were solid in my head, once I put them onto Good-Old-Microsoft-Word, it becomes very clear that most of them are, in fact, far from that, and they quickly evaporate as well.

And then months go by.

And deadlines approach.

Then I get real OCD and start making lists of the scenes I need to write (all of them), and I just start writing down the latest brainfart, not because it’s the best or brightest, but just because there’s no more time to wait for a better one.

Then I do things like pull all-nighters in the Lakeview Diner and drink coffee at 3am even though caffeine makes me feel like the world is ending.

Then I offer myself rewards, like, if I finish a scene (made entirely of brainfarts), I can “go for a run” or “make myself a smoothie” or “watch a West Wing clip on Youtube*” – but then a week later, I realize the rewards are getting weirdly dark, like, now, if I finish a scene (still 100% organic brainfart), I can “call my family back” and “buy vegetables” and “leave the Lakeview Diner.”

Now the brainfarts (and the normal kind, too) are really rolling at this point**, and all objectivity regarding bad writing vs. good writing and illogical plot leaps vs. that’s-totally-something-a-human-would-do is out the window – and yes, now there are words on the page, and the page is now more like 45 pages, then 60, but it’s occurring to me on a pretty regular basis that the gestalt of all these brainfarts isn’t a gestalt at all, but rather just an organized collection of nothings, ready to evaporate at the slightest scrutiny of another human as they approach, nose cringed.

Then the deadline arrives and I deliver a draft… And let’s be very clear: it’s not good. It’s technically there. And I’m desperately hoping that everyone is too busy to read it, and I’m writing them emails like, “no worries at all if you’re too busy to read it,” but then they do.

They read it.

And here’s why I want to add “good people” to the list of things I respond well to creatively: because when smart actors are given a script, they argue about it.

In the case of Driftwood, these six actors argued about what I wrote, with me and with each other, and slowly, my play – my raggedy-brainfart-cardboard-box filled with free-floating brainfarts, my collection of nothings with a title page mendaciously slapped on the front – it started to feel like something solid. Something that could stand on its own and be looked at and commented on, even if I, like, left the room.

And then something truly nuts happened – everyone else started offering brainfarts of their own. And yeah, some of them slightly soured the room as they ascended into the atmosphere, but a lot of them were really pretty good, and when I’d do another draft they’d end up on the page, and then we’d get to read the thing again, but now it would be little better, clearer, leaner.

So what did I get from the Beyond the Barb Residency? I got to brainfart with really good people, and it made me a better writer. I struggle a bit with expressing gratitude (like, sometimes when I try, I end up just writing a whole blog post about farting), but this summer Driftwood made it very difficult to forget how lucky I was, and so, for that, to the acting company, dramaturges, my director, and Jeremy, thank you.

*This is something that I would not recommend to anyone attempting to write dialogue.

**Am I writing about farting more than you expected me to? Well, in fact, I’m part of a very small, recently established and self-proclaimed “elite” book club (of two), and our name is Friends Are Reading Together, but we usually go by the acronym.