Featured Member — Gary Mok
**Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with Gary Mok, Theatre School of Canada graduate, and winner of the 2017 RBC Emerging Playwright Tom Hendry Award for his play we could be clouds, about mentorship, and life as an emerging playwright.
How has your perspective changed since graduating the National Theatre School of Canada and continuing on the path of a professional playwright?
When I was at NTS, I felt valued as an artist above the art I made. My experiences working with theatre companies since graduating have surprised me in how similar they are in valuing the artist over the art. Both Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre and Factory Theatre have made me feel like they are invested in me first, and I have felt such privilege working with them knowing that I will always have a home as a storyteller even if my stories occasionally crash and burn.
Mieko Ouchi was your first choice in mentors as part of your prize from the RBC Emerging Playwright Award. What influenced your choice?
Mieko Ouchi is a theatre hero of mine and having met her at the Banff Playwrights Lab in 2016, I found she was just as inspiring in person as well. I also knew that I wanted a mentor who was a playwright and an arts leader for their community. Using story to change the world is something Mieko has been doing for a long time, and learning how she does it with and beyond playwriting has empowered me to try to do the same.
What was it like working with Mieko Ouchi for the 2016 Banff Playwrights Lab? How does working together one-on-one compare to working as part of the Lab?
The Playwrights Lab is amazing in that every step you take, you can feel an imagined sense of inspiration in the air. Beautiful work is being done by so many people all around you that you can’t help but be moved to create. When working together one-on-one, I have been able to tell Mieko about my storytelling hopes and dreams and she has been able to more precisely direct that energy towards actions that will accomplish those goals.
What have you been working on since your reception of the RBC Emerging Playwright Award?
Since receiving the RBC Emerging Playwright Award, I worked on a new draft of ‘we could be clouds’ which was read at the Kay Meek Arts Centre in Richmond, BC. I also spent time with Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre and Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver to stage a reading of ‘i broke the ocean’, another play about my immigrants parents I began writing at NTS. More recently, I have been developing a play at Factory Theatre in Toronto based on my former hairdresser, my favourite family member, and a character named Gerry who is not based on myself.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of your mentorship?
I hope to be better equipped to be an arts leader for the Asian Canadian community. Right now, that means challenging the accepted truths of theatre as a playwright. On a more literal level, I hope to have a draft of a tri-lingual kung fu play about inherited hopes and dreams.
As an emerging playwright, what do you see as your next steps in professional development?
Tell stories. Change the world.
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.