PlaySmelter 2017 and Entertain Me

This past week Pat the Dog Theatre Production staged its 5th Annual Play Smelter festival which features new and developing work by local and regional playwrights. In previous years, the festival have featured staged readings, and workshops, as well as guest lectures from established playwrights such as Colleen Murphy. This year in addition to several staged readings of work in development they also produced two full plays on several nights.

Matthew Heiti’s Receiver of Wreck, which had its World debut this past February in Guelph, was staged the for the first time locally.  As well Lara Bradley’s historical based Blind Nickel Pig received an ambitious launch. Both plays were staged on several nights giving local audiences ample opportunity to participate in the marvel of live theatre.

Which brings me to the other part of this post. Part of my enjoyment from this past weeks plays and staged readings went beyond the content, beyond the playwright’s voice being brought to life, beyond the actors performances on the stages, beyond the set designers and sound artists skillful illusions. I smiled on more than one occasion during the festival and thought to myself, I love that as human beings we want to entertain each other and be entertained. That the writers and playwrights pour countless hours into crafting their stories, breathing life into them, then turn them over to producers and actors, and set designers, to further add flesh to those bones. Finally in an act of divine creation, the audience witnesses the story brought to life and you have magic.

In the day and age of YouTube where you can find long lost memories from childhood TV shows that you once thought you imagined, there’s something to be said about the ephemeral nature of live theatre. Especially small productions such as these. I was privileged to be among the few dozen each night during the Festival’s run to witness the performances I did. To see that exact combination of actors on stage in those venues, with the people that sat in the audience with me. It was truly magical moment.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Play Smelter and I hope that Lisa O’Connell, Artistic Director, and her hard working band of producers and stagehands continue to surprise audiences with such wonderful talent.

There’s so much more I could say about the individual plays and staged readings, and maybe I will post more in the coming days, but for now I just want to say thanks to everyone who gave me these wonderful memories. I know as a writer myself, you can never fully quantify the amount of work that goes into producing the final product. That the number of hands that help along the way in bringing the piece to fruition make it impossible to put a true value on the cost of the labour to produce the end result, but in the end you hope it connects with an audience.

You’ve definitely connected with me and I appreciate the effort that it took to get to this stage. Congrats!

New Chapters

A Shinny Big Nickel
A Shiny Big Nickel by BigA888 (via Flickr) Some Rights Reserved

Seven years ago this week I moved my young family (my son was 2 1/2, my wife was 8 months pregnant) to Sudbury, Ontario (aka The Big Nickel) to start a new chapter in our life. Toronto and the surrounding area had become virtually unaffordable to live (especially with a growing family and one income). Sudbury offered a new job and a chance at one day owning a house. I left behind nearly 20 years of memories, friends and connections. Among those friends were many close writing friends that I had grown to rely on for advice, support and critiques.

Learning a new job and coping with a newborn left me exhausted. Although I continued to write, it wasn’t until I had been living here for the better part of 2 years that I began to reach out to other local writers.  Between the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and the local Sudbury Region NaNoWriMo group that I began to cultivate a close knit group of writers that I could once again count on.

From that NaNoWriMo group in November 2008 a core group of writers began to coalesce into its own critique group. While it went through several iterations since its humble beginnings in late 2008, always at its core was Stephanie aka Steph.  In the past 5 years I have come to count Steph as formidable writer and a close friend. She’s challenged me and the other writers in the group to up our game at every turn, all the while discovering her own voice as a writer.

I owe a lot of where I am as a writer to Steph. The reason I am singling her out here and not one of the many other writers that have influenced me over the years, is because Steph has started a new chapter in her own life this week. Late last night Steph boarded a plane, leaving this sleepy Northern Ontario mining town behind for a new beginning  in Vancouver.

Goodbye - (If you get this reference then you must be nearly as old as I am!)

Goodbye – (If you get this reference then you must be nearly as old as I am!)

Myself and the rest of our writing family said our goodbyes to Steph earlier this week and while we were sad to see her go, we couldn’t be happier for this new chapter she is beginning. Just like the time was right for me and my family when we moved north to Sudbury 7 years ago, I am certain this is the right move for Steph. While 3000+ km  may separate her and the rest of her ‘old’ writing group, thankfully we have the internet to keep in touch.

To Steph: I wish you all the best in this new chapter in  your life and I look forward to flying to Vancouver in the near future to attend one of your book signings. 😉 Thanks again for your continued friendship and your parting ‘advice’ to “Keep writing”. I will.

You can check out Steph’s blog here – What I Write



H is for History

H is for History I’ve already talked a bit about my love for the history of words in my post E is Etymology or Why Do We Say It?, but my love of history goes far beyond just words.

I’ve always been interested in local history, or history that is tied to a specific place and people. I am interested in how people shape their surroundings and vice versa. I’m a geographer at heart, so I can’t help be fascinated by the interaction of geography and people. So far I’ve had the pleasure to live in three different urban settings each with their own particular geography and history. I am always fascinated by the reasons these settlements grow into the cities they do and what attracts people to them. As the old real estate joke goes the three most important things about a city is “Location, Location, Location”.

My hometown and birthplace of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was settled on a a portion of the St. Mary’s rapids that were significant fishing grounds for local aboriginal populations, but also provided access between what would eventually become Michigan on the south shore of the river and Ontario on the north shore. Sault Ste. Marie, or The Soo for short, was originally settled by Europeans since 1668 when French Jesuits established a mission there. I could go on at length about how the Soo’s geography has shaped its history over the years, but that’s a lecture for another time.

My second adopted hometown was the great metropolis of Toronto. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto was settled on aboriginal lands purchased from the Mississaugas of the New Credit in the late 1780s to provide a home for British Loyalists fleeing America after the revolutionary war. Prior to European settlement, the area was a well established portage route between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Toronto has a great history and some great local historians that have well documented the growth and stories of the city. One such historian whose books about Toronto and its people that I love reading is Mike Filey. His series of books called Toronto Sketches brings to life portions of Toronto’s history with pictures and stories that everyone can relate to.


Miners posing in a ore car – Copper Cliff Express

My third and current hometown is Greater Sudbury, an amalgamation of a number of communities surrounding the City of Sudbury in Northern Ontario. Originally a logging town, the town became a hub for railways and a mining centre when copper and nickel were discovered in the late 1800s. More than 150 years later they are still taking ore out of the ground.

Everywhere I go there are stories to be uncovered about the changing face of the places I live in and the stories of the individuals who live there. Maybe its the writer in me, but I never grow tired of learning about local history.