Theatre Where You Stand, and In Your Ear

Imagine trudging up the terribly endless flight of stairs at the end of Black Street only to be greeted by a small but brilliantly coloured green sign telling you to dial a toll free number and enter in a code.

Curiosity difficult to sidestep? Take the opportunity to make the call (and casually catch your breath) and you may be in for a real surprise.

This past week, Robin Sokoloski, from Playwrights Guild of Canada, was up for a one-day whirlwind of a visit to post nine of these green signs and wrap up a project that has been ongoing since early February.

Sokolski has, for the past several years, been working on a project to promote the arts to youth.

This project is found in her personal creation of a program that has become a collaboration between playwrights and young writers and national guilds and local programs.

Coined “Uth Ink” by one of the early facilitators of the program, the project’s main goal is to offer youth in small communities an opportunity to not only engage in the arts, but also to become artists and producers themselves.

The Uth Ink program begins as a partnership between Playwrights Guild of Canada and a local organization. Here in Whitehorse, Patti Flather of Gwaandak Theatre became interested in the project and what it had to offer.

“The program really gives us the opportunity to appreciate the point of view and perspective of young up-and-coming writers who have something to say,” says Flather.

The program began in February with a workshop headed by local playwright Celia McBride. After a short walk through the community, the youth — 10 participants aged 13 to 18 — were set free to begin working on three-minute radio plays which were to be inspired by locations throughout their communities.

“The youth here [in Whitehorse] really took it to the next level – some took their stories to places that were completely imagined, it was really quite incredible,” says Sokoloski who is currently managing eight Uth Ink projects throughout the country.

Since the plays are inspired by locations, what better place to hear them than their place of conception? Partnering with CBC, several rough drafts and reading circles later, the youth had their radio plays professionally recorded.

So wait, the green signs are …? Yes, that’s right, the green signs are your ticket to becoming an audience member to this unique series of theatrical performances on your local street corner or nature hike.

Simply find a sign, dial in the toll free number, enter the four digit code and voila, you will hear a three-minute play and be able to imagine it unfolding exactly where you stand.

“Writing about the community really makes you realize that Whitehorse really is a great place to live and a great place to grow up,” says youth facilitator and participant Wren Hookey.

On June 2, Whitehorse Uth Ink held its release party at Baked Café on Main Street where the writers heard their final productions for the first time.

Organizers felt the turnout was great and each playwright took pride in presenting their creation.

However, unlike most plays, I dare say that opening night for the Uth Ink series would not have been the best way to absorb these productions. No, for the full experience, grab a Uth Ink map from Gwaandak Theatre and experience the stories of our community’s youth in the community.

My advice? Start with the top of the stairs on Black Street, the play is worth it and the trek can only get easier from there.

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