Witnessing the Results of an Intense Creative Process: Playwrights present their 24-hour creations

The audience in the Yukon Inn’s Fireside Room this weekend will have the opportunity to witness the results of 24-hours of intense, high-pressure, creative labour.

Creation begins with inspiration – it’s inspiration that sets ideas in motion. From there, determination takes over. When challenges arise, and they will, the creator must push on — through fear, computer glitches, or the notorious writer’s block.

This is part of the creative process, and it’s much easier said than done, as participants in the Nakai Theatre’s 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge can attest to.

Luckily, for those interested in writing for theatre, the folks at Nakai Theatre have developed a way for budding playwrights to push through the challenges of the process. Nakai hosts a progression of events to help writers past their regular limitations and develop their ideas to fruition.

The first of these events is the 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge, held this year on Oct. 5 and 6. Participants spent the night at the Edgewater Hotel in Whitehorse and were given one day to bring their work as far as they can.

Next up, on Nov. 9, is the 24-Hour Playwriting Cabaret, which is a celebration of the works created at the challenge. Participants will perform scenes from their scripts before an audience at the Fireside Room. Prizes are awarded for many different categories and the event is open to the public.

After the cabaret, Nakai Theatre often commissions the standouts to develop their scripts further and present larger performances at the Homegrown Theatre Festival, which takes place May 6 to 11 at The Guild Hall.

Nakai Artistic Director David Skelton says they have made efforts to keep the event as open as possible, encouraging all types of writers (and non-writers) to join the fun.

“Its about you as a creative person coming up with something that you never expected and in some ways – in many ways – you’re scared to do it because you’re going into a place you’ve never gone before,” Skelton says. “But it’s because you’re scared to do it that it will be interesting.

Skelton and Hazel Venzon offered their assistance as dramaturges to help writers who found themselves stuck.

“I like to think of a dramaturge in this situation as an outside eye or someone to just bounce ideas off of,” says Skelton. “Inevitably when you’re writing for this amount of time in this kind of situation you’re going to hit walls.”

Julia Seymour and Doug Rutherford both participated in the 24-Hour Challenge this year.

Seymour did so all the way from Vancouver, using Skype to connect with Skelton at the Edgewater Hotel. She had driven a U-Haul to Whitehorse the previous week, helping a friend move furniture.

“I was supposed to stay four days but I ended up staying over a week,” says Seymour. “I got to learn about Nakai Theatre and talk with them about what was going down. We talked about the 24-Hour Challenge and it was really interesting to me how it was more of a personal challenge, as opposed to a formal contest. So I wanted to participate in some capacity but I had to fly back home.”

Doug Rutherford is a long time Whitehorse resident and has participated in the challenge the last four years in a row.

“It gives you a chance to lock yourself away and actually create,” says Rutherford. “The phone doesn’t ring. There’s no stuff to do in the back yard because winter’s coming. It’s a chance to actually sit down and write. You get lots of support because you’re locked up with a bunch of other people who are doing exactly the same thing.”

They both entered the challenge with an idea already started, which they hadn’t been able to devote much time to.

By the end of the allotted time, both were happy with what they had completed.

“I just kind of made a little nest in my basement and tried my best to write some pages,” says Seymour. “I really would have loved to have been there and feel the creative energy of everyone. I think it’s much more challenging to do it by yourself. It’s hard to find that motivation to keep pushing through. But I feel really happy with what I did – I feel I had some breakthroughs and it was a really good opportunity. Even from far away.”

Rutherford is also positive about the experience.

“I exceeded my reasonable expectations and was leaning toward the unreasonable ones,” Rutherford says. “I finished a working first draft, which in 24 hours is really what you hope for. I certainly would not have accomplished that on my own. It’s the deadline. I like deadlines. Deadlines make me perform.”

Both plan to perform in the 24-Hour Playwriting Cabaret on Saturday, Nov. 9 – Rutherford in person and Seymour via the magic of Skype.

If you’d like to join them, tickets are $5 at the door. The Fireside Room is located in the Yukon Inn at 4220 – 4th Ave.

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