24-hour Competition Both Fun and Fruitful

So you’ve always wanted to try your hand at playwriting? Well, Nakai Theatre has an offer for you.

Starting at 11 a.m. on November 3, and running until the same time the next day, Nakai is hosting their annual 24-hour Playwriting Competition at the Edgewater Hotel.

For a fee of $50, contestants are set up in their own hotel room, given a full day to exercise their creative demons, and emerge on the other end, sleep-deprived and delirious, with a play in hand.

Ruth Borgfjord, who has produced the event for the past three years, describes the rhythm of the contest.

“At 10 a.m. all the contestants are excited when they arrive. And then 4 p.m. comes along and people are drained,” she says.

But her favourite part of the whole event is the end, when the newly minted playwrights have conquered their writer’s block and hand in their product.

“People are a little bit anxious, like parents handing over their babies on the first day of Kindergarten,” she says. “I like that moment because of how vulnerable it is.”

It may sound like the whole ordeal is long on existential introspection and short on enjoyment, but Borgfjord insists there’s plenty of pleasure to be squeezed out of the event too.

“It’s the most fun you can have writing theatre. The camaraderie among everyone is amazing,” she says.

To ease the sense of isolation, Nakai provides scribes with a common room where they can gather to exchange laughs and war stories about the writing process. The competition also includes refreshing activities that allow participants to reinvigorate and/or distract themselves from the task at hand.

In past years, this has included such things as a midnight scotch tasting and a yoga session. Borgfjord says similar festivities will be present this year. There will also be a dramaturge on hand to bounce ideas off of.

Anthony Trombetta can attest to the sense of joy derived from the event. Last year he won the $250 first-prize purse for his play, Undying. The story, about a man who can’t come to terms with the fact that the love of his life has been bitten during the zombie apocalypse, and manages to keep her docile with the help of marijuana, went on to be produced at Nakai’s Homegrown Festival last spring.

“It’s a blast,” says Trombetta of the 24-hour Playwriting Competition. “It’s a great way to make sure you write something, especially for a procrastinator like me.”

And Trombetta is adamant that rookie writers should not be dissuaded from participating.

“I absolutely don’t consider myself a playwright, but at the end of the event I came out with something,” he says.

Another highlight for Trombetta was the 24-hour Cabaret, which takes place a few weeks after the competition and gives the writers a chance to present five minutes of their play on stage.

“It’s like a mini reunion with all the other participants. It’s kind of like show and tell,” he says.

Another group of people who should not be dissuaded from entering the contest are people who can’t make it to Whitehorse. Nakai allows anyone who has a Yukon-connection to participate from anywhere in world, and connect with fellow participants via skype.

Ruth Borgfjord dangles a final carrot in front of would-be participants.

“The next morning we buy you breakfast. Nakai isn’t a cheap date,” she says with a laugh.

The registration deadline for the 24-hour Playwriting Competition is October 29, 2012. Applications can be found online at nakaitheatre.com.

Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon

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