**Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with Andrea Scott, an award winning playwright and producer who has been writing since 2011. She has been in the playwright units at Obsidian Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Roseneath Theatre, Factory Theatre, Theatre Direct, Nightwood, and Eastern Front Theatre.
How did you get started as a playwright?
I’d grown tired of a lot of the theatre and tv roles for which I was auditioning, finding them flat, sometimes one dimensional and devoid of agency. These were parts that were written to be performed by black women but they were peripheral roles and usually only there to support the white protagonist. Even though I’d never written a play before I felt that I could create better parts for women of colour since I knew what we wanted to be allowed to attempt on stage. ‘Eating Pomegranates Naked’, a play about multiple people dealing with truth and lies in their relationships as they tried to figure out what they wanted was inspired by a Dear Abby column I’d read in the 2000’s. I knew there would be a dinner party gone wrong, a pregnancy test nobody was supposed to see, and lots of flawed characters lying to cover more well-meaning lies. After a reading at rock.paper.sistahz Joseph Recinos told me that he loved it and that it had a chance in SummerWorks. Mel Hague, the dramaturge at Obsidian Theatre at the time, read it for an Ontario Arts Council Theatre Creator’s Grant and invited me into their playwright’s unit alongside Meghan Swaby and Audrey Dwyer in the Fall of 2011.
As someone who wears many hats, how do you balance being an actor, playwright and producer?
I’m transitioning out of acting in order to give enough attention to the writing and producing. I have paper notebooks where I keep lists of things to do and complete by certain dates. In the past I would find it challenging to set time away to write a specific scene or flesh out a character only to be pulled away to prepare sides in order to go to an audition in the East end. Producing is something I work on all the time, every day, but Wednesday is my dedicated ‘admin’ day. That is the day I write up the tasks I need to do in order to get the business-related jobs completed. I will write a mailing list, create the excel spreadsheet, and print the labels for a mailout I know I want to do in three weeks. I’ll read articles about the best way to get your message to stick with your consumers over the course of a long campaign. I’ll mock up budgets by researching costs and cross-referencing with older productions numbers. Playwriting time is more deliberate and set, whereas producing is always on my mind, all day, every day. I love it.
Tell us a bit about Controlled Damage and what inspired you to write it. When can we expect to see it on the main stage?
Controlled Damage started as an 8 minute play for Carrie Costello’s Castlemoon Theatre in 2015. She was interested in seeing more Theatre for Young Audiences plays that valorized the lives and contributions of Canadian women. After an hour of scrolling through Google I found Viola Desmond’s story and began writing. When the funding fell through for the Castlemoon initiative I kept working on the play because I believed the story of entrepreneurial black woman’s career trajectory cut short due to racism and legal loopholes in 1946 felt current. Also, as a tiny black woman myself (Desmond was 4’11”) who was attempting to make a name for myself in an industry dominated by people who did not look like me, I felt a kinship with her struggle.
On March 5, 2019 Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in association with bcurrent Performing Arts announced that they would be producing the play in their 2019/2020 season.
What are the main challenges you face as a playwright?
The main challenge I face as a playwright is finding a platform upon which to exhibit my work where I do not have to do all the fundraising and grant writing to get it developed and to the stage. Every play benefits from development in a safe space with a dramaturge and gifted actors working through the script but all of that costs money. Bcurrent performing arts and Catherine Hernandez provided me with space, funding, and cheerleading in order for me to get Controlled Damage to where it is now and for that I can’t thank them enough.
You’ve been a member of PGC since 2012, how has your membership helped you throughout the years?
The PGC helped me by being readily available to answer any and all questions that applied to contracts and compensation for my work. Sometimes just hearing that someone is interested in producing your play, or engaging your skills as a writer, can cause you to downplay discussion around renumeration but the PGC makes sure you have all the facts first before you sign a contract. I’ve also learned about opportunities outside of Toronto to expose my work to non-Canadians (Better Angels: A Parable had its US debut in Chicago because of something posted on the PGC website).
What are some of your interests/hobbies outside of theatre?
I love the cinema and I’m currently learning everything and anything I can about horror movies, a genre I’ve avoided my entire life out of fear. Eric Woolfe (AD of Eldritch Theatre) has sent me an exhaustive list of films to watch in chronological order that I’ve been consuming (and loving) since January; Rosemary’s Baby is my favourite so far.
Disclaimer: Playwrights Guild of Canada (“PGC”) is a national arts service mandated to engage and grow an active Canadian writing community. We promote Canadian plays around the world to advance the creative rights and interests of professional Canadian playwrights for the stage. The views of our members are their own. The opinions of PGC as an association remain neutral.