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.


Happy World Theatre Day

In celebration of World Theatre Day, Driftwood Theatre is excited to announce its 2017 season of The Bard’s Bus Tour and supporting projects.


Ahead of the Bard’s Bus Tour, Driftwood presents a reading of Lolita Chakrabarti’s award-winning play, Red Velvet, as part of its Play in a Pub series.

Red Velvet is a fictionalized accounting based on the true story of Ira Aldridge, an African-American actor who achieved an extraordinary career in London and Europe during the nineteenth century. Ira Aldridge, at the age of 26, takes over the title role of Othello from an ailing Edmund Kean as riots build in London’s streets over the abolition of slavery.

Taking on the role of Ira Aldridge for the reading is celebrated Canadian actor, playwright and director Andrew Moodie.

Play in a Pub: Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti will take place on Monday, May 15, 2017 at the Social Capital Theatre (154 Danforth Avenue).   

Play in a Pub is Driftwood Theatre’s casual reading series of plays inspired by or based on the work of William Shakespeare, over a pint.


For its 23rd annual Bard’s Bus Tour, Driftwood Theatre presents Othello. William Shakespeare’s blistering tale of race, jealousy and revenge is set against the backdrop of Canadian history, when in 1974 Canadian soldiers are caught in a life or death struggle on the small island of Cyprus.

Bringing extraordinary presence to the title role is emerging artist Jordin Hall (Titus Andronicus, Seven Siblings Theatre; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Humber River Shakespeare; The Changeling, Shakespeare BASH’D). Completing the cast of six performers are Shelly Antony (Little Pretty and the Exceptional, Factory Theatre; Disgraced, Magnus Theatre; Scarberia, YPT) as Cassio, Christopher Darroch (eight Driftwood seasons; Gone With The Wind, MTC; A Man of No Importance, Musical Theatre Stage Co.) as Iago, Helen King (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Driftwood) as Brabantio/Bianca/Montano, Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves (Laurier, TNB; The Winter’s Tale, Dauntless City) as Emilia/The Duke, and Fiona Sauder (Peter Pan, Bad Hats Theatre; Taming of the Shrew, Driftwood; The Fighting 61st, Blyth Festival) as Desdemona.  

Othello will tour 25 Ontario communities from July 14 – August 13, 2017. The Bard’s Bus Tour is supported by Tour Sponsor, Ontario Power Generation. Toronto performances are generously supported by the Toronto Arts Council Animating Toronto Parks program.


As a special addition to the Bard’s Bus Tour, Driftwood Theatre presents The Cyprus Project , an audio-installation inspired by Fixtpoint Theatre’s Tale of a Town series.

In 1974, a significant incident tore the island of Cyprus apart, enflaming violence, division and war between Greek and Turkish Cypriots which continues to this day. Three Canadian soldiers, serving in Cyprus as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, died during that summer’s conflict and a further 18 were wounded. The Cyprus Project collects the stories surrounding the conflict in order to deepen our understanding of Canada’s role as a peacekeeping nation and the cultural conflict in Cyprus.

The Cyprus Project installation will be a free audio experience prior to all performances of Othello as part of The Bard’s Bus Tour.

The Cyprus Project is supported by The Government of Ontario and Ontario 150, and is presented with the support of FIXTPOINT THEATRE.


Rounding out Driftwood’s summer activity is the Beyond the Bard Playwright Residency. For the first time, Driftwood Theatre will host a resident playwright during its summer season. Emerging Canadian playwright Jesse LaVercombe will work alongside Othello company members for six weeks, developing his play Resurrect, originally created as a site-specific play for Driftwood’s 2017 Trafalgar 24 festival.

The Beyond the Bard residency will culminate in free public readings of Mr. LaVercombe’s work prior to select performances during the Bard’s Bus Tour.

Beyond the Bard is made possible with the support of the RBC Emerging Artists Project.


Driftwood Theatre is Ontario’s leading outdoor, summer theatre company, on the road with its award-winning Bard’s Bus Tour for nearly 25 years, reaching over 46 communities and 100,000 people across Ontario. We are guided by a vision of accessible, live theatre for everyone in Ontario.

Driftwood Theatre is generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council.









In process: Robert, by Briana Brown

Briana Brown is Driftwood s Playwright-in-Residence, and our current Beyond the Castle playwright. Her play “Robert” was the winning script at last year’s Trafalgar 24. Since Then, Briana has been “embedded” with Driftwood working on “Robert” and other ideas.

I tend to carry stories with me for months, or sometimes years, before they first find their way into a draft. I scribble notes in individual notebooks, send emails to myself from my cellphone, and covertly steal scraps of magazine articles from the dentists’ office. I know my characters like they’re family. When I imagine their location, it is with deep nostalgia. I collect all these pieces until slowly the story surfaces. And then I write it. (And rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it.)

From the beginning, the process with Driftwood has been the opposite. In the castle (oh I still love writing that), I pulled something from the air and crafted it into a scene within hours. All that existed of these characters and the world they inhabited ended up on the page immediately. I didn’t have time to consider my choices as obsessively as I tend to do. I was consumed with one thing: “how do I create a scene that works?” It was a fantastic exercise, and I hated almost every minute of it, spending much of the night wondering why on earth I had put myself in such a frightening position, and more importantly why had I invited the man I had just started dating to come see it? Then I saw the play – beautifully staged and performed, mere hours after I’d written it. Which is a truly special experience, and one for which I was very grateful.

Through the Beyond the Castle program, and with the support of the Ontario Arts Council, I have been gifted the luxury of space and time to step back and consider what it is I’m interested in exploring through the premise and characters I created in a panic in the middle of the night last February. Crafting what was a beginning into a full play has been a process of pulling the rest of this story from the air, and following the breadcrumbs of what I’d written to lead me where they want to go.

I think my biggest hurdle so far has been trust. (Alongside overcoming the panic that comes with a lack of trust.) Trusting that these characters will continue to reveal themselves, that there is a story, that it is a story worth telling, that it will connect with an audience and that I, as the ever-doubtful writer, am worthy of telling it. It has been challenging and exciting to engage with the act of writing in a new way, and to force myself into a place of trust and commit the pen to page before I feel “ready”.

Now that I have a first draft behind me, the process feels slightly more comfortable, something I’ve embarked on before, with all its questions and possibilities. Our first dramaturgical session felt good. I was glad to discuss the larger questions of the script, and to get a sense that things are resonating, or are beginning to. The meeting provided me with additional avenues to explore, paths to travel down, and questions to consider. And once again I need to trust — that one of those threads will feel “right” and take me where I, and these characters, need to go.

(And it’s a comedy!)


Together again, huh?

PIAP artworkDriftwood Theatre proudly announces the cast for Play in a Pub: The Jedi Doth Return – the final chapter in William Shakespeare’s (courtesy of Ian Doescher) epic galactic saga.

The cast reading this extraordinary blend of classical theatre and pop culture is led by Jonathan Goad (Stratford Festival) as Han Solo, Sarah Wilson (Soulpepper Theatre) as Princess Leia, and Mark McGrinder (Studio 180 Theatre) as Luke Skywalker.

Joining them is a star-studded cast including Thom Allison as Lando Calrissian, Michael Hanrahan as Darth Vader, Melissa D’Agostino as R2D2, Christopher Darroch as C3P0, Helen King as Chewbacca, Richard Alan Campbell as Yoda, Karl Ang as Boba Fett, and performing all sound and music using only his voice, Steven Burley. This incredible group of performers is set to take the stage for a reading in support of Driftwood Theatre on October 26 at The Social Capital Theatre in Toronto. Tickets on sale now!

PIAP 2013 David Spowart Darth Choke

Play in a Pub 2013. Michael Hanrahan’s (far right) Darth Vader puts the choke on Andy Pogson’s Admiral Motti as fellow PIAP readers (clockwise from top left) Sarah Wilson, Joseph Ziegler, Dion Johnstone, Karl Ang and Oliver Dennis play on.

This fall, the epic saga concludeth. In a pub.

Driftwood Theatre’s Play in a Pub returns for a third year to bring to a close the most epic saga ever penned by the illustrious Bard (also known as Ian Doescher)! The stars of the stage come together in a pub very, very nearby for an evening of theatrical and cinematic mash-up of Shakespearean proportions in support of Driftwood Theatre.

Building on the sold-out success of both Play in a Pub: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and Play in a Pub: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, Driftwood Theatre reunites some of the finest performers of the stage for another epic reading. “I’m just thrilled by the cast we’ve managed to assemble for this reading,” says Artistic Director Jeremy Smith, “its a great blend of familiar faces to the Play in a Pub experience – people who’ve read in previous events like Sarah, Michael, Rick, Helen, Melissa, Chris, Karl and especially Steven Burley, who is a vocal sound effect genius, combined with two new extraordinary talents to Play in a Pub, Mark McGrinder and Thom Allison. It is going to be an extraordinary evening.”

And let us not forget that Play in a Pub is an interactive event! Audience members can get in on the action by participating in the Rebels, Imperials and Droids n’ Creatures Live Auction, and bid on one of three walk-on character tracks – rebels, imperials, or droids n’ creatures. Whether you are an rebel sympathizer, a cold-hearted imperial or a misunderstood droid, there is a role for you to play in the evening’s reading. The Live Auction takes place immediately prior to the reading.


Audience member Steven Harrison takes the stage as a beleaguered Exogorth (look it up), to the delight of the cast, during Play in a Pub: The Empire Striketh Back.

And back just in time for Halloween is Driftwood’s Star Wars Cosplay Competition. In the spirit of the season, we’re inviting guests to attend the event dressed as their favourite Star Wars inspired character. There will be a cash prize for the evening’s best costume.

But the evening’s galactic epic-ness doesn’t end there! Guests can look forward to bidding on some incredible themed baskets at the jawa-worthy Cantina Market Auction. Driftwood Theatre’s board of directors is putting together a fine selection of themed baskets, from Prince Edward County wine, to Craft Brews, to Toronto entertainment packages and the coveted Star Wars Basket – filled with Star Wars paraphernalia and goodies.

Tickets for Play in a Pub: The Jedi Doth Return are now on sale here. Guests have the option of two ticket prices: General Admission for $25 or a special front-of-the-line Jabba’s Palace VIP ticket for $40 including reserved seating, the VIP treatment and some special goodies.

This year’s Play in a Pub will take place at the Social Capital Theatre at 154 Danforth Avenue (2nd floor) in Toronto.

The last two Play in a Pub events sold out – so don’t miss out, order your tickets today! It is going to be an epic finish to Shakespeare’s galaxy-spanning saga.