Die, Imposter, Die

A second blog from Driftwood’s 2018 Playwright in Residence, Alicia Richardson as she continues to work on her play, Solve for X

Sometimes there’s a strange comfort in failure. Sure, initially it sucks. But then there’s some relief. You don’t have to fulfill the expectation of greatness. Success means that you have something to lose and people who will shake their heads and smack their teeth at you when you screw the pooch.* At least when you fail it’s definite, there’s closure. With success, you’re on the wave for however long the surf’s up. There’s really no telling when you’ll wipe out.

Take my case, for example. About a week after getting this gig, uneasiness washed over me: whatever I write has to be great. Regular ol’ “good” just ain’t gonna cut it. This needs to justify the government dollars that are funding this residency. “Artist-in-Residence” sounds so fancy, man! So freaking legit. Am I gonna have to make statements and talk about my “process”? I don’t even know what my process is!**

What if my win was just a fluke? I won the audience vote by four people. Four. Things could’ve easily gone another way. I didn’t even vote for myself because I was so certain that I didn’t deserve to win. There were much more established playwrights in the competition; one of whom has a degree in playwriting for crying out loud! Yet I, the hamburgler, crept away with what I thought belonged to someone else.

After all, I’m just an actor. I’m not even a real writer. But that’s not true. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager: fiction, essay, spoken word, and yes plays too. I thought that what I wrote wasn’t that big of a deal, so my words would spend an eternity in a graveyard of old notebooks. No one reads my work, no one can judge it. But as Marianne Williamson so beautifully wrote, “Your playing small does not serve the world.” No one reads my work, no one can be inspired by it. I can do for someone else what Suzan-Lori Parks and James Baldwin did for me.***

When I think of writing as something I do to serve a bigger purpose, that’s how I kill my inner critic. Suddenly it’s not about being good enough or fighting impostor syndrome. It’s not even about me. It’s about creating more leading roles for black actors. It’s about making women agents of the narrative and not just victims of it. But underneath the revolution of it all, each play I write is a love letter to a member of my family.

Solve for X is part of an ongoing conversation with my brother, about how we can learn to thrive in a system that seems built to destroy us. We’ve learned to negotiate with humor because joy seems to be the biggest resistance we’ve got. Maybe one day he’ll see a production of this show. The thought of his big, baritone laughter filling the air…that’ll be all the confirmation I need.


*But would they really? I mean, people who love and support you are rooting for you. And who cares about the haters? Well you’re not even famous enough to have haters, let’s be real. By you, I mean the proverbial “you” of course…

**Does eating my feelings count?

*** That’s a reach cuz they are both pretty epic. But you feel me, right?}

Alicia Richardson is Driftwood’s 2018 Playwright-in-Residence, working on her play Solve for X, which was first written for Trafalgar 24, 2018. 

Driftwood Audiences Know About Love

At each of our 26 performances of Shakespeare’s “Rosalynde (or As You Like It)” we handed paper hearts to our audiences and invited them to share their thoughts on love – a poem, some advice, how they met their love. Those who also wanted to share their email address were entered to win a “Heart’s Desire Gift Crate” of fantastic Ontario artisan gifts. (More on that later.)

We had no idea what would happen. More than 200 submissions later, we have learned a few things about our audiences, and about love.

To begin, there are some darn well-read folks out there. People submitted poetry and quotes from sources ranging from Leonard Cohen to Lord Byron, from Ed Sheeran to the Bible, from T.S. Eliot to Joni Mitchell, from Rumi to the Beatles to Burns – and of course, Shakespeare.

A wealth of wisdom was also shared, coming from singles, newlyweds and couples who have been together for more than five decades! Some of our favourites:

“Always believe in good intention.”

“ Listen more, criticize less.”

“ Never share a toothbrush.”

“ Don’t look for it, let it happen.”

“ Love is a dance. As time goes by the music will change. Try not to step on each others’ toes.”

As for romantic tales –there were so many. From the couple who met at an age when 7 years was too much of an age difference, were apart for 33 years and then found each other again to the pair who met at the Molson Indy (he still revs my engines!) to the smart sax player who serenaded his way into his wife’s heart, there are some beautiful and funny stories of love out there.

Thank you all for sharing your warmth and humour, and to quote one of our wise audience members, “Don’t forget to make time for love!”

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 driftwoodtheatre.com 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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