Fifth annual Playwrights Retreat gets underway in Stratford

October 1, 2012 The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s fifth annual Playwrights Retreat begins today and runs through October 20. This year eight writers from across the country will be in Stratford for the three-week retreat: Meg Braem (Calgary), Matthew Heiti (Sudbury), Daniel Karasik (Toronto), Kevin Loring (Vancouver), Bryden MacDonald (Halifax), Haley McGee (Toronto), Janet Munsil (Victoria) and Elyne Quan (Toronto).

Established in 2008, the Playwrights Retreat offers playwrights a more secluded setting in which to write and gives them an opportunity to meet and commune with fellow playwrights. They attend Festival productions and are given the opportunity to meet with members of the Festival’s artistic and administrative teams.

“This season we saw two works that came out of our playwright residencies appear on our stages, both to great acclaim – Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers and the Alon Nashman/Paul Thompson collaboration Hirsch,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “Fully 50 per cent of the 2012 season was Canadian, further proof that the Festival is as dedicated to new plays as to the classics.”

“This retreat allows playwrights to come to Stratford and immerse themselves in an environment that feeds the creative spirit,” says General Director and Artistic Director designate Antoni Cimolino. “Our artists need to have a place where they feel they can pursue their most courageous work and Stratford is that place.”

Since 2008, 66 playwrights have participated in the Playwrights Retreat and other residencies at the Festival, including John Murrell, who completed a residency in August, where he continued his development of Taking Shakespeare which will be produced next season.

The Retreat is led by Bob White, Consulting Director of New Plays, and was established by Dramaturge Robert Blacker.


Meg Braem

Meg Braem is a Calgary-based playwright. Her plays, Blood: A Scientific Romance, The Josephine Knot, Potentilla and The Year of Falling Down, have won numerous awards including The Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama, The Alberta Playwriting Competition, The Playwrights Guild of Canada University Competition, Best of Victoria Fringe, A Victoria Critic’s Choice Award and Intrepid Theatre’s Petri Dish Play competition. She has had productions/readings at ATP, Theatre Calgary, Sage Theatre, The Gateway Theatre, Urban Curvz, Atomic Vaudeville and the Belfry.  This year, Meg is a member of the Citadel Theatre’s Playwriting Forum as well as a playwriting instructor at the University of Calgary. Her play, Blood: A Scientific Romance, will be published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2013.

Matthew Heiti

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Matthew holds a BFA in Acting from Ryerson University and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of New Brunswick. His plays have been workshopped across the country and produced at various festivals including SummerWorks and Lunchbox Theatre, where his solo-woman piece, Aviatrix, will debut in November. He has won writing awards with Theatre in the Raw (One-Act Play competition), Toronto Fringe and Pat the Dog (24-hour competitions) and Tarragon Theatre (RBC Tarragon Under 30 Playwriting Competition). Matthew’s short fiction has been published in many Canadian journals, and he is also the co-writer of the film Son of the Sunshine, which was nominated for a 2012 Genie Award in the Best Original Screenplay category. He is currently the playwright-in-residence at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, Dramaturgical Associate with Pat the Dog Playwright Centre, and an Associate Artist with Encore Theatre Company.

Daniel Karasik

Daniel Karasik is a Toronto-based writer of drama, poetry and fiction. A recent grand prize winner of the CBC Literary Award for Fiction and Canadian Jewish Playwriting Award, he is the author of a book of plays, The Crossing Guard and In Full Light (Playwrights Canada Press), with two more books upcoming in early 2013: The Remarkable Flight of Marnie McPhee (Playwrights Canada Press) and a debut poetry collection, Hungry, from Cormorant Books. He also works as an actor and director and helms the Toronto-based theatre company Tango Co., through which he has developed many of his plays, subsequently presented in New York, Vancouver, and regularly in translation in Germany.

Kevin Loring

Kevin is Nlaka’pamux from the Lytton First Nation in British Columbia. He is a professional actor on the stage and screen, an award-winning documentarian and the Artistic Director of The Savage Society a non-profit production company mandated to tell aboriginal stories using contemporary mediums. His first published play, Where the Blood Mixes won the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. He was a Playwright in Residence at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, in 2010, as well as a company member of the National Arts Centre English Theatre Acting Company. Recently Kevin played the villainous Edmund in the National Arts Centre’s Production of King Lear, featuring a cast of aboriginal actors. Kevin is a graduate of Langara College’s professional Theatre training program, Studio 58, and a senior member of Margo Kane’s Full Circle: First Nations Performance Ensemble.

Bryden MacDonald

Bryden MacDonald is a Halifax-based director, playwright, dramaturge and teacher. His published plays (talonbooks) are Whale Riding Weather, The Weekend Healer, Divinity Bash/nine lives, and With Bated Breath. He is the creator and director of theatrical interpretations of the words and music of Carol Pope & Rough Trade (Shaking the Foundations), Joni Mitchell (When All the Slaves Are Free) and Leonard Cohen (The Light Gets In). Other directing credits include: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, What the Butler Saw (Neptune); Perfect Pie (GCTC); Fire (Lighthouse Festival); Short Skirt Butch (Plutonium); Down Dangerous Passes Road (fluffer). Mr. MacDonald has served as dramaturge at Playwrights Workshop Montreal, Mulgrave Road Theatre and Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre. He coaches students at the National Theatre School. Currently he is artistic producer at fluffer theatre in Halifax. His latest play is Odd Ducks.

Haley McGee

Haley McGee is a Toronto-based actor and playwright. Her solo play, OH MY IRMA recently toured internationally to Amsterdam, Brighton, Kiel, London and New York City, where it won Best Production at the United Solo Theatre Festival. OH MY IRMA was developed through Theatre Passe Muraille’s BUZZ Festival and The Banff Playwrights’ Colony. She performed it at the Edmonton Fringe under the direction of Mitchell Cushman, before its professional debut at Theatre Passe Muraille under the direction of Alisa Palmer. As a member of the 2011 Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights’ Unit, she began development on a new play, Everyday Neurotics. As a writer-in-residence at Theatre Columbus she is collectively creating The Public Servant and has been commissioned to write an outdoor winter show, which will be produced in 2013. She is a founding member of FLASHQUIZ, a site-specific writing and performance collective, with which she collectively created, performed and produced The School PROJECT.

Janet Munsil

Janet Munsil is a Victoria-based playwright whose plays include The Ugly Duchess, Circus Fire, Emphysema (a love story), that elusive spark, and a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which premières this fall as a co-production between Theatre Calgary and the National Arts Centre. Her job-job is as Artistic Director of Intrepid Theatre in Victoria, where she produces the Victoria Fringe, Uno Fest and an international alternative and experimental theatre season.

Elyne Quan

Elyne Quan is a Toronto-based writer, actor and director. She holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University/Tisch, a BA Honors degree in Drama from the University of Alberta and is an alumna of the TV program at the Canadian Film Centre. Produced plays include the Sterling Award-winning Lig & Bittle (with Jared Matsunaga-Turnbull), Stray, Look Both Ways, Souvenirs of Home, Trust, What, One Block Radius and a radio play, Direct Dial (CBC Radio). Upcoming projects include Retrospective, a TYA play called The Dream Box, and a new play that she is developing as a member of the Citadel Theatre’s Playwrights Forum. She was Artistic Associate at Workshop West Theatre in Edmonton where she led the Pitch-to-Play Playwrights’ Unit for the 2006/2007 season. Ms Quan currently lives in Toronto. She is a proud member, and current president of the board of the Playwrights Guild of Canada where she has been a member since 2001.



Try something new! Join us for one of our world premières for only $39.

by Christi Rutledge

Some of my absolute best theatre experiences have come out of seeing new shows. Last year, The Little Years absolutely blew me away. I didn’t know a whole lot about the production before I went to see it, but I went into it with an open mind and found it refreshing to see a new work! This year we have the incredible privilege of having not one, not two, but three world premières on our stages, all written by Canadians: The Best Brothers, by Daniel MacIvor; Hirsch, by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson; and Wanderlust, by Morris Panych and Marek Norman. If you’ve never taken a chance on a new play or musical, I want to encourage you to join us this season for one or all three of our world premières.

I’ve been to see all three shows now, so let me give you a little bit more information about each of them!

The Best Brothers
By Daniel MacIvor; Directed by Dean Gabourie.

If you’ve ever had a sibling, mother or dog, or have lost a relative (that’s pretty much all of us), this show will hit home. The Best Brothers follows the brothers Kyle (played by John Beale) and Hamilton (played by Daniel MacIvor) as they cope with the death of their mother, Ardith “Bunny” Best. The two of them are like oil and water, which means that the already difficult task of arranging their mother’s affairs is even more trying. But together, through their struggle (which is coloured with humour), they come to learn more about themselves, each other and the woman who gave them life. The Best Brothers will have you laughing, crying and, more than likely, identifying with Mr. MacIvor’s beautifully imperfect characters.

“Best Brothers was excellent! Definitely in my top three plays of the year at the Festival.” – Facebook

By Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson; Directed by Paul Thompson.

Hirsch allows us a look at the personal and artistic life of past Stratford Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director John Hirsh, with powerful effect. A happy and art-filled childhood ends very darkly for a young John Hirsch, who was orphaned at age thirteen in the Holocaust. After three years wandering alone in Europe, Hirsch finds sanctuary in Winnipeg, Canada. Alon Nashman, who portrays Hirsch, highlights the director’s amazing talent and fiery temperament, which made him a fierce cultural force on the national and international theatre scenes. Throughout the play we are reminded of the painful formative experiences that shaped Hirsch’s life. On more than one occasion I found myself in tears as Mr. Nashman embodied them vividly on the stage of the Studio Theatre. But with the hurt there is also hope, humour and joy – all of which weave into a stunning tapestry of a life that was truly extraordinary.

“Just caught a preview of #ssfHirsch … wow, wow, wow!!! So inspired. Alon Nashman is brilliant!” – Twitter

Book by Morris Panych; Music by Marek Norman; Based on the poems of Robert Service with additional lyrics by Morris Panych; Directed by Morris Panych.

Wanderlust, a new musical based on the poems of Robert Service, has absolutely captivated me! If you’re expecting a biographical retelling of Service’s life, you might be in for a bit of a surprise. Morris Panych – who adapted and directed Moby Dick (2008) and wrote and directed The Trespassers (2009) – uses the poems of Service to tell a story about imagination and the liminal space between dreaming and doing. Tom Rooney takes the lead as the Bard of the Yukon, Robert Service, and Panych leverages Service’s fictional characters, Louise (played by Robin Hutton), Dan McGrew (played by Dan Chameroy), Mr. McGee (played by Randy Hughson) and Mrs. Munch (played by Lucy Peacock) as his real-life friends and foes. The result is pure imagination! Mr. Norman’s beautiful score is quite literally music to your ears. Unlike some modern musicals there is a beautiful sense of fluidity and use of melody that ties the production together. The set, the staging, and the lighting … well, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

“#ssfwanderlust was amazing. The best, most innovative staging I have seen this year. Well done again @stratfest!” – Twitter

Try something new this year and join us for The Best Brothers, Hirsch and Wanderlust!  Here’s the best part: if you purchase tickets to any of these shows between today and Monday, July 9, at 11:59 p.m., you can take advantage of our special $39 world première ticket deal!

Here’s what you need to do to take advantage of this limited-time offer:

  1. Log into our website at with promotion code 44722
  2. Select any performance of The Best Brothers, Hirsch or Wanderlust in July (excluding their openings)
  3. Select your own seats
  4. Complete your checkout
  5. Enjoy the show! 🙂

*Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances or in conjunction with any other promotion, including SSP, Family Experience, TiXX and PlayOn. Offer is not available on A+ seating. Promotion is only available online through our website or through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page. Promotion excludes the July 11 performance of Wanderlust and the July 12 performances of The Best Brothers and Hirsch.