Sunday, June 3, 2012

Positively Thrilled

I haven't posted in a while, mainly because I've been busy writing papers and preparing course syllabi for the fall, and generally trying to make up for all my procrastination during the past nine months I've had off from teaching. Then, too, I have been in Ontario for the past 10 days, first attending the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences co-hosted by the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, and now here in Toronto since yesterday for the premiere of my play, Positive I.D., at the 7th annual InspiraTO Festival of 10-Minute Plays, which runs from June 1-10 at the Alumnae Theatre on Berkeley Street.

Yesterday Richard and I, along with a posse of family members who live between Oshawa and Kitchener, attended the second of five performances the play will receive over the span of the Festival. I will admit that I was nervous. This was the first theatre piece I'd written in which I had no direct involvement in the workshop or rehearsal process, not least because I was several thousand miles away. Then there was he fact that the play itself features two black characters who not only speak to each other in the obscenity-laden invective of the projects, but who also must weigh in respectively on what it means to be a black man in today's world while somehow simultaneously avoiding becoming a caricature or stereotype on stage (despite the imprimatur of the judges who assessed my play as worthy of inclusion in the Festival, I couldn't help obsessing over me being a white gay academic who was likely channeling too much from The Wire). On top of this, the lead character in the piece, which I'd written for a black male actor, was--due to casting issues, and after a bit of quick rewriting on my part--going to be played by a woman!

I needn't have worried. Less than a minute into the play, I could tell that the instincts of my director, Ryerson theatre grad Madeleine Jullian, were spot on. She assembled a top notch cast in Kate MacDonald, Kelan Brown, and Virgilia Griffith, who found depths in my script I hadn't even known were there. In a short play like mine that in addition to borrowing from the police procedural has three distinct scenes punctuated by two separate blackouts, pacing and above all tone is everything. Both were evident in abundance last night, and I couldn't have been happier with what I saw, nor with the enthusiastic reception the piece seemed to receive from a surprisingly full house.

And while I regrettably was unable to meet Madeleine in person, I did get to give Kate, Kelan, and Virgilia each a hug. Then it was off to a fantastic meal at Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Bistro with Richard and the family. One couldn't have asked for a better night.

I would be remiss, in closing, if I didn't single out InspiraTO Artistic Director Dominik Loncar for special praise. This is the largest 10-Minute Play Festival in the country, and he works tirelessly to make it run as smoothly and professionally as possible, recruiting top notch talent not just on stage, but also behind the scenes, with the set design and striking and setting up of each new play being especially expert.

Check out the rest of the Festival at


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