Introducing our 2016 MSG Lab Plays

by: Annie Jang on

It's that time of year again! We're gearing up to bring some exciting talent to you through our MSG Lab play development program. Every year, we select two to three plays to receive the opportunity to have their plays dramaturged and staged-read. (Empire of the Son – a huge hit last fall at The Cultch – was incubated through our MSG Lab!) This year we have three new plays in the works, and we invite you to join us for the public readings to be held at PTC (202-739 Gore Ave, Vancouver). Admission is free. 

This year, we are also very excited to be partnering with PTC for our MSG Lab with dramaturgy from Kathleen Flaherty and Heidi Taylor. PTC is developing 17 new plays this season, four of them with VACT, and they are excited to share their processes with these inspiring writers. PTC 's last collaboration with VACT was Empire of the Son.
Now, on to the plays!

The Girl with No Face by Carolyn Nakagawa
Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 7:30 pm at PTC

"The Girl With No Face is not my first play (in addition to the play I wrote with MSG Lab in 2013, Trig Variations, I've also had several one-act plays performed in and around Vancouver, from UBC to Coquitlam), but it is my first play that deals explicitly with Asian Canadian content. It's my attempt to write a third/fourth-generation Asian Canadian play - talking about what it means to be Asian Canadian when your parents aren't immigrants and you don't even necessarily know very much about the culture you're supposedly from. It's also a play about living in Vancouver as a young person in 2016, and navigating 21st-century multiculturalism in that context while trying to go about your life.

I originally connected with MSG when I was taking a class at UBC with Ray Hsu, who at the time was a dramaturg for MSG and invited his students to a reading. Coincidentally, the reading was for Deep Water by Loretta Seto, who later became my dramaturg when I got into MSG Lab the following year. Everyone at VACT was so fantastic to work with my first time through the program that I decided to apply again in 2015."

Seconds by Jamie Lam
Monday, February 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm at PTC

Seconds is a play that explores the theme of time, how we use it, and what changes when you know just how many seconds you have left.

"Seconds was formerly known as When The Clock Strikes Zero, a play I wrote for the LEAP Playwriting Intensive with Shawn Macdonald at the Arts Club last year. It was at LEAP's year-end program that I connected with Donna Yamamoto, who then kept in contact and encouraged me to apply for VACT's MSG Lab. After being fortunate enough to be accepted into the MSG Lab, I've spent the last three or so months expanding upon my previous script with dramaturg Heidi Taylor.

My first spark of inspiration actually came from an episode of The Simpsons in which they parodied 24. I realized how much tension that a timer counting down could induce, and wondered what effect it would have in a staged play. I've always ruminated on the use of time and how we often don't realize just how much of it we've spent, or have yet to use. Those thoughts drove forward the thematic elements into this play, and the story between my protagonists grew from there.

As part of our MSG Lab series, we will also be holding a public discussion for Tetsuro Shigematsu's next play in the works.

1 Hour Photo by Tetsuro Shigematsu
Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm at PTC

"In some ways, 1 Hour Photo is the spiritual sequel to Empire of the Son. The characters are completely different of course, because it's about a different family, but its beginnings very much overlap with the endings of Empire of the Son.

The last story to be cut from Empire was called a Room to Die In. In the style of the old CBC children's TV show The Friendly Giant, I would arrange doll furniture within an aquarium that was a scale model of the actual room my father would die in. And as it happens, that's exactly what happened. It's funny to rehearse and choreograph a death within the rehearsal studio, and then watch it unfold within real life.

This house where my father died belongs to a friend, good friend, a very good friend. Well, what do you call someone who gives your family her own house to live in to weather a season of death? I don't know. Maybe there isn't a word for that. But when you move into someone's house, even though you think you know this person, it's filled with keepsakes and clues of a life far more fascinating and epic than even Empire of the Son. So this ending, my father's last breath, contained a new beginning."

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