That tricky first draft

Driftwood Metcalf Intern Artistic Director and dramaturg Caitie Graham reflects on our June playwrights retreat with some thoughts about that often elusive first draft. 

Hi! It’s Caitie here; Driftwood’s Metcalf Intern Artistic Director and Retreat Dramaturg. You’ll be hearing from me this month (how fun!) 

Last week, we hosted our second Gillespie House Playwrights Retreat of the season, with playwrights Anahita Dehbonehie, Helen Ho, and Mariya Khomutova, and it was a truly special experience. We shared good food, good conversation, and on more than one occasion we fell asleep watching a movie in the living room…

And while all of that sounds like a cozy and wonderful time, these playwrights were also hard at work generating first drafts of their new plays. And first drafts are tricky. Read on to learn more about the specific joys and challenges of being at the very beginning of a new process; something all three of our playwrights were doing last week.


The early stages of writing a new play can be complex to navigate. It’s different for everyone, but for me at least, there’s a spectrum of experience during this period that usually hinges around the idea that – before a first draft exists – the play could be anything. On good days, this can be totally freeing; ideas flow and everything clicks – all seemingly without effort. But on rougher days, the idea of ‘anything’ can become a block; doubt pervades, you can feel lost.

In my experience, writing a first draft is basically just finding a way to stay afloat while bouncing between feeling totally empowered – and totally defeated – by possibility.  It’s doing whatever you can to trick yourself into writing one complete version of the story without running away from it entirely.

During this tumultuous stage, these are some pieces of advice I’ve learned to hang on to….

  1. A first draft’s only responsibility is to exist. That’s. It. There is no need to borrow trouble from future stages of development when all a first draft needs to do is be
  2. Getting it wrong is a necessary step before getting it right. All writing is productive, even if it doesn’t end up in the play. Exploring what doesn’t work ultimately helps us envision what does.  
  3. Remember the difference between choices and decisions. In first draft land, we are only making choices (i.e. trying on clothes, seeing what fits). Only later do we begin making decisions (i.e buying the dress). 
  4. No new play follows the same process as the one that came before it. No matter how many plays you’ve written, each new project has the power to change the way you work. Let it. 

To all the playwrights who are in the early stages of developing something new, thank you for staying in your process (no matter how uncomfortable it is at times) and for committing to the act of making something from nothing. As eager audiences of your work, we are grateful for your perseverance. 

And to you, reader. Thanks for being part of Driftwood’s new chapter. We’re in something of a new draft process ourselves, and we’re grateful for your support as we find our new way to be. 

Your favourite intern, 


Pictured above: Sometimes that first draft is about as elusive as your favourite feline. Like Merlin. Photo by Caitie Graham.

A different kind of summer

Well, here we are.

For the first time in Driftwood’s history, we are not spending the summer touring Shakespeare’s epic stories across southern Ontario. Willingly, at least (we’re not counting those COVID years).

The big changes at Driftwood this season have never  been more apparent than right now as we head into the summer months. Usually around this time, we’re kicking it into high gear for the  Bard’s Bus Tour. And for those of you who are really feeling that loss, I’m with you. I miss it too.

There will always be a part of me that longs for those special summers spent connecting with folks all over southern Ontario through the act of sharing Shakespeare’s plays.

But I’m also excited about what IS happening at Driftwood. Changing from a company that produces epic theatre into one which incubates and supports it is no small feat. The shifts we’ve made are big, and maybe even a little scary, but they are necessary for the long-term health of our company and our industry.

Thirty years ago, I started Driftwood Theatre because I wanted to share epic stories with people across Ontario. When I think about it, that mandate hasn’t changed all that much. Though we have changed the who and the how, that original kernel of an idea is still there: people sharing epic stories.

I love Shakespeare. I love his plays. I think they’re big, bold, messy and glorious. But Shakespeare isn’t the only storyteller who can write big, mythic tales. Many of these storytellers live right here, right now, and they need support now more than ever to get their works onstage. So we shift.  

What’s really interesting about driftwood – I mean real driftwood – is that it serves a very specific ecological purpose along the fringes of Ontario’s lakes. After meandering and wandering through our waterways, being honed and changed by the experience, it gathers and settles onto the shore and provides the shelter and stability required for massive new growth. How cool is that.

It’s exactly how I see Driftwood moving forward. We’ve traveled. We’ve been shaped by that experience. Now we’re starting a new life as a place where big ideas can take root and grow.

This summer might look different than those of our past, but it’s still full of creativity and play. With two projects lined up: 

June Gillespie House Playwrights Retreat

So far this year, we’ve welcomed three playwrights to our partnered B&B – The Gillespie House – in Prince Edward County for a week-long stay and in June we’ll welcome three more (Anahita Dehbonehie, Helen Ho and Mariya Khomutova). These retreats are an important opportunity for storytellers to break away from their day-to-day, focus exclusively on creation, and convene with other artists to share and generate ideas and find inspiration.

D&D Summer Camp

Driftwood is also keen to support young storytellers along their creative journey. This summer, we’ll be offering two Dungeons and Dragons summer camps in cooperation with The Baxter Arts Centre in Bloomfield. At our D&D camp we’re welcoming participants ages 9-12 for week-long improvisational games designed to get them thinking creatively and cooperatively as they build and share a story together. Not every person who is passionate about theatre is a performer, and our D&D camp presents a way for people to express themselves without the anxiety of getting onstage. This camp is all about imagination, play and theatricality, but without the expectation of performance.

So, while this summer is certainly new territory for Driftwood, it feels like we’re on the right path. I hope you’ll follow along with us.  

Be joyful,


Photo credit: Summer Sky, by Dahlia Katz

Yup, we’re hiring for the summer (who knew?)! 

Love playing table top roleplaying games and building fun miniature environments for players? Well then, we’ve got the perfect summer job for you.

Given all the change that’s been happening around here lately, you’d be correct in maybe wondering why Driftwood Theatre, a company no longer producing a summer tour) is hiring for the summer. Well, let it be known that we are really excited to be on the lookout for a Assistant Dungeon Master/Miniature Props Builder/Camp Counsellor to join Artistic Director Jeremy Smith as he leads two epic summer Dungeons & Dragons camps in Prince Edward County. 

Driftwood Theatre is committed to reflecting Canada’s rich diversity in all aspects of our work We encourage and welcome applicants from all backgrounds and will prioritize applicants who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, Women, Gender minorities, 2SLGBTQ+, d/Deaf, Disabled/People with Disabilities, and/or Neurodiverse.

The following position is made possible with the generous support of Canada Summer Jobs. Candidates must be between 19-30 years of age and be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person to whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Assistant DM/Miniature Props Builder/Camp Counsellor

Reporting to the Artistic Director/Lead Dungeon Master, the Assistant DM/Mini Props Builder/Camp Counsellor will be responsible for realizing all program props and miniatures for Driftwood’s summer camp, while also helping to develop and lead camp activities, supervising participants, and liaising with parents in co-operation with the Artistic Director.

The Props Coordinator will be directly involved in interpreting design drawings, purchasing materials, assembly and repairs. As this is a learning position, the Props Coordinator and Camp Assistant will also receive instruction in: time and financial planning in order to successfully bring a design to production on time and within budget; camp programming and execution, including storytelling-based activities; and outdoor summer safety.

Duties and Responsibilities include

  • Working under the direction of the Artistic Director to interpret designs, purchase materials, construct, paint and repair all miniature game props and pieces
  • Assisting in game design for two week-long table top roleplaying campaigns for participants aged 9-12
  • With the Artistic Director, designing and programming outdoor, activity-based games inspired by D&D
  • Working with the Artistic Director, serve as camp counsellor for two week-long camps for up to 12 participants
  • Ensure a safe, respectful and fun environment for all participants
  • Serving as Dungeon Master for a group of 5-6 participants per session
  • Coordinating and communicating program details with parents 
  • Attending and reporting at all pre-camp meetings

Knowledge and Skills Required

  • Detail oriented, self-motivated and comfortable working in a small, collaborative team environment
  • Experience in either scenic prop or miniature model design and construction
  • Experience in playing or leading table top games (like Dungeons and Dragons)
  • Experience working with children/children’s programming an asset
  • Excellent organization and time management skills
  • Proficiency in Google Suite Applications an asset

Salary/Job Details

  • Full-time (35hrs/wk), contract position with some flexibility in the schedule
  • Contract dates: July 2 – August 30, 2024
  • Salary: $20/hr + 4% vacation for the duration of the contract
  • This position will include both remote and in-person work (camps take place in Prince Edward County July 29-August 2 and August 26-30)

To Apply

  • To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume (as a single PDF document) to Artistic Director, Jeremy Smith at with the subject line stating the position you’re applying for and your name, e.g. “DnD Job – Jeremy Smith”

Application Deadline: May 24, 2024 @ 5pm.

Retreats in Full Swing

In March we hosted our first Gillespie House Playwrights Retreat of 2024. It went so well, we’re already planning for the next one!

Last month Driftwood hosted its first playwrights retreat of the season at our partnered Bed & Breakfast, The Gillespie House. We were joined by Ellen Denny (playwright, The Great(er) Maple Syrup Heist), Deivan Steele (playwright, Children of the Black Water), and Ahmed Moneka (playwright, The Onion Cellar). For one peaceful week in the County – away from day to day life – these playwrights got to explore bold new ideas, take leaps and strides in their work, and share in each other’s pursuits.

All week, we were inspired by our guests’ processes. Deivan’s routine of writing with the sunrise, Ellen’s piano playing drifting through the halls, and reading aloud The Onion Cellar chapter (from Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum) with Ahmed. It was such a unique pleasure having these artists in our space, and we are so excited for what comes of their work. 

This is River, with her World Theatre Day poster (made with her dad, Jeremy).

“Something magical happens when artists inhabit this house,” says Artistic Director (and Gillespie House co-owner) Jeremy Smith, “there’s a vibrancy and joy that just fills the space. It encourages me to rediscover that creative spirit as well – like the one we all have when we’re kids. And it was particularly special to have the house overflowing with that energy on World Theatre Day (March 27).”

But enough about us! Read on to learn more about the experience from the playwrights themselves. 

“Everyday during my residency at Gillespie House, the warm hospitality cultivated a feeling of support and joy. Our days were full of quiet focus and our evenings full of inspiring conversation. Having on-site dramaturgical support deepened my understanding of my project and gave me a lot to digest moving forward. A truly special week in a beautiful setting.”

– Ellen Denny, GHPR March 2024

“The Gillespie House Playwrights Retreat is all about enabling playwrights to do their best work, and the folks at Driftwood are exceptional at supporting the process of every individual. The gifts that GHPR gave me weren’t just time and space to work, but also a lovely introduction to a beautiful corner of Ontario, flexible support for all kinds of projects, and an invitation to really become part of the family for a week. When Driftwood says their vision is about ‘Good people sharing great stories’, nowhere is it better exemplified than this productive, collaborative, and heartwarming experience. I can’t say enough just how much I recommend GHPR to any playwright looking to kickstart their story with a wonderful team.” 

– Deivan Steele, GHPR March 2024

For those of you who may have missed it – or who need the extra nudge – our call for submissions to the June Gillespie House Playwrights Retreat (GHPR) is still open! We’re looking for emerging and established playwrights who are developing new works that are epic or mythic in nature (whatever that means to them). From June 3rd – 7th 2024, selected artists will be invited to stay at The Gillespie House where they’ll receive; full accommodation, complimentary breakfasts, a travel stipend within Ontario, access to dramaturgical support, and an honorarium of $500.00. The deadline to submit is Thursday April 18th, 2024 at midnight.