Suzanna Derewicz is a playwright, poet, performer, theatre administrator, and producer. Her debut chapbook, Maggie Monologues, will be released through words(on)pages Fall 2016.
Write on Readings, co-produced by Suzanna, is a showcase for emerging playwrights set in Toronto’s West End. Read my profile on it here.
What was Write On born out of?
It’s hard for theatre artists to get their work out there because so much depends on a producer wanting to take it somewhere, unless you make it yourself. The theatre community can also feel very insular, like it’s always the same people coming to shows. We want to foster a community within the theatre and writing worlds for people who don’t have one, who don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. I would place us more on the experimental spectrum. We encourage people to do something weird with us. We want work that’s high stakes.
What are you personally looking for in a Write On submission?
Despite the strength of your writing, if I don’t see individuality in your characters, I’m not going to showcase your work. I’m not interested in hearing how you as a playwright speak, I’m interested in your characters and how they speak. I think you need to write in service of your characters, not your own wit. You’re not the one people see on stage.
What’s the value of putting fresh work in front of an audience?
Because you're writing for somebody to perform it live, you’re writing for an audience. Hearing the work aloud becomes that (much) more crucial. Things that sound good in your head might not sound good on paper and you need a place to air that out. The best way to discover the voice of your characters is hearing them talk; if there are moments where actors aren’t connecting with the work, that comes out immediately on stage.
Do you accept submissions other than drama?
How did you meet your co-founders, Gina Brintnell and Laurel Brady?
Gina and I met in York’s Playwriting program. We held this writing circle and one day it just turned into a production meeting for what eventually became Write on. Laurel, who I met through York’s Creative Ensemble program, had shared her idea for the series with Gina months before. She happened to drop by, and the first thing she said when we caught her up was, “Oh, one thing, it has to be called Write On.”
How did you get into theatre?
I did a lot of drama camps because I had a lot of pent-up energy. My parents couldn’t deal with me in the summers, so they sent me somewhere.
Lately, though, I’ve looked more into myself and tried to focus on being a writer and a producer as opposed to continuing to direct and act. I discovered that, since art barely pays, I have to put my focus on the areas I can't live without.
My reason for continuing to be in the theatre, despite my frustration with the industry, is this: there’s something about being in a room and seeing a story unfold. Doing that with a group of people, there’s something holy about that experience that connects you to those people in a way that sitting home alone writing in front of a screen doesn’t.
What have you learned about Toronto theatre looking back on over a year of showcasing the city’s freshest work?
There’s been a transition over the last while now to work with fewer performances, work that’s site-specific, work that people are creating for themselves to play, work that’s very DIY that allows the creators who are coming out of theatre school, who are getting into this industry, to not have to rely on anyone. What we’re seeing is professional punk.
Is that because there’s a monopoly?
Not so much that there’s a monopoly. Once you’re established, people will hire you. But it's the point between emerging and established that’s so strange. At the end of the day, it takes one thing, but the amount of time and trials it takes to get to that thing that makes you established … really, it’s just creating as much opportunity for yourself as you can. That happens through festivals, through self-producing, that happens through creating your own little independent theatre company and putting work on just ’cause. Sometimes it’s hard and expensive but it’s better than waiting by the phone all day.
And if you fail, you’ll have all this work to show for it.
But then you’re not really failing, because you have all this work to show for it.
Write on Readings runs quarterly out of Junction City Music Hall.