The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

 

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Playwrights

Although there was some encouragement of Saskatchewan drama in the 1970s and 1980s, including Globe Theatre productions of works by its playwright-in-residence Rex Deverell and others, a new era began in 1982 with the establishment of the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre (SPC), based in Saskatoon. Before then, aspiring writers had to depend on some writing courses at the universities or in schools, and on others sponsored by the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Nonetheless, several successful dramatists, such as Len Peterson, Maureen Hunter and Ken Mitchell, emerged. The SPC, however, was designed to serve both established and new dramatists in developing their scripts and promoting their works, within and outside the province. To that end, the Centre conducts regular workshops of members’ works, and sponsors special events with Canadian dramatists throughout the province. Other services include script analysis, a newsletter, and a catalogue of plays by local writers which is distributed throughout the country. It also sponsors an annual Spring Festival of New Plays—a week-long presentation of public readings and workshops in Regina.

Largely under the aegis of the SPC, but also with the assistance of the universities and the Globe and Persephone Theatre companies, the province has produced some outstanding dramatists and their works. As well as Ken Mitchell, whose popular Cruel Tears predated the formation of the SPC, notable dramatists include Barbara Sapergia, Connie Gault, Dianne Warren, Eugene Stickland (later playwright-in-residence at Calgary’s Alberta Theatre Projects), Don Kerr, Mansell Robinson, and others. More recently, even community theatre groups such as Regina Little Theatre have promoted Canadian playwrighting through competitions for original scripts. Such groups as Saskatoon’s Off-Broadway Dinner Theatre, Rosthern’s Station Arts Centre, and the Barn Playhouse, north of Saskatoon, have sponsored original productions linking popular music with dramatic scenarios. Large community theatrical productions have been staged in Fort Qu’Appelle and other centres. This burgeoning activity seems set to increase as time passes.

Richard Harvey

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