A room with a current

It is fall of 2005. I have just arrived in the Yukon. I am amazed to be accepted into an advanced playwriting course with the famous Canadian playwright, Tomson Highway. I spend a week with five other lucky writers as Tomson leads us through the steps of building the first draft of a play.

I find myself in the most beautiful boardroom I have ever been in. It is in the Nakai offices on the second floor of the old White Pass building at 1st Avenue and Main.

Even from this vantage point, you can’t help but notice the powerful Yukon River roaring just outside. During this week, there is also a current inside this room.

The group decides who the characters will be and what their story is. We write monologues which are woven together. At times, the words evoke humour; other times, the words evoke sadness or joy.

Like the pulse of the mighty Yukon River heading north, there is energy here. Life. Seven people have come together and work on crafting a story.

At first, Tomson writes the basics out on paper. But as the play comes together, his hands move like a conductor’s … the sound of the words, the texture; you can tell it is all coming together in his head. It spills out on paper. The characters become real and the play takes on its own life.

When I arrived in the Yukon, I knew I was supposed to write a play. I had a story, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to begin it. This week gave me the tools I needed to do just that.

I completed the first draft of my own play in the 24 Hour Playwriting Contest and won in my category – the next 24 hours – this category is for plays that had been started before the contest weekend.

I have always written. But playwriting is different. My play is on its second title, its fifth draft. I missed the playwriting contest last year, having my own four-legged reason.

Having a puppy and living in Carcross, my pup took precedence over the completion of this contest. Nakai is moving with the times, and I am told people can submit their play electronically now.

The good news is that Nakai is still here. It is still a support to local writers, directors, producers and actors. It helps bring the voice of northern people to life. And those northern voices are travelling to tell their stories to other parts of Canada and the world.

Would they have been as successful without Nakai? Would I have completed the first draft of my play without the 24-hour playwriting course? Would I have won in my category (the next 24 hours, for plays that have already been started)?

The play is something I would not have chosen for myself. It is an act of destiny. Nakai Theatre provided what I needed to begin and has continued to be a support and will continue to be as I work toward its completion.

There is a cult-following aspect to this play—a playful, whimsical kind—and I am collecting shoes for this. I have about 25 pairs, mainly of the ilk that someone couldn’t wear them anymore but couldn’t bring themselves to them throw them out. I have some amazing shoes.

Nakai Theatre is my favourite Yukon place. It has provided what I needed to begin my play and will be there to its completion. While I have worked many jobs and made many friends, here, an act of destiny is different. It is something a person is chosen to do. It is the homework assignment a person cannot afford to leave unfinished.

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