The Other Side of the Table

yifIt’s always nice to give back, isn’t it?

So when I was approached a little while ago to help with Ottawa’s Youth Infringement Festival, I was delighted to agree. The Festival, which takes place at Arts Court in May, provides a forum for theatre that is “relevant and accessible to Youth.” What this means, in practice, is that it produces plays by and for youth – people between the ages of 15 and 25. These are the emerging artists who write the plays, direct them, design them, perform in them. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the festival in the past – if there was a way for me to help, I was glad to do it.

The core of the festival, of course, is the plays that are selected. Anyone in the age group is welcome to submit, and as part of the selection process playwrights are assigned dramaturgical support to help refine and improve the scripts. In my case, I was introduced to one artist who has offered two strikingly different submissions to the festival.

I wasn’t particularly surprised to discover that sitting on the other side of the table from the playwright is quite rewarding. In some ways it’s no different from the critique and feedback that we playwrights routinely offer each other at workshops, roundtables and the like. But there’s an added dimension here – I feel as though I’m very much at the beginning of someone’s journey of artistic discovery and expression.

In particular, I’ve been impressed with the maturity my young colleague brings to the table. My friend has written to very different plays, each of which offers very specific challenges for production. In both instances, the playwright has proven to be perfectly receptive to my concerns and suggestions, accepting some, challenging others. I’ve been gratified to see how successive drafts have improved, and I’m proud to have been part of the process.

The festival will soon be announcing the six plays that will be presented in May. If the other playwrights involved are as dedicated as the one I’ve been working with, it’ll be tough to make the choices. I have no idea whether one of the two plays I’ve read will be selected, but in any case I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on offer at the festival – and as for “my” plays, well, if they aren’t picked I’m sure they’ll find their way to a production somewhere else in due course.