Announcing 2017 MSG Lab dates

by: Derek Chan on

The MSG Lab, VACT’s new play development program, is underway!  The dates for the free public readings are:

Sunday, February 26 (Leslie Lum, Geomancer);
Tuesday, February 28 (Loretta Seto, The Ones We Leave Behind); and
Wednesday, March 1 (Manami Hara, With Courage and Humility).

All readings begin at 7:30pm at
Playwrights Theatre Centre (#202 - 739 Gore Avenue, Vancouver BC V6A 2Z9) (Google Maps Link).

No tickets required - come early for a good seat!

Read on for updates from our wonderful playwrights:

Manami Hara
Last fall I was very fortunate to be part of the Wet Ink Writers Intensive Workshop when I began re-creating With Courage and Humility.  It was a perfect timing and gave me a boost I needed to kick start this journey.  I truly am thankful for my group of talented, fearless, articulate, and supportive female artists for giving me an incredibly enriching and creative experience.

Sempo Sugihara, a Japanese play I translated and adapted, sat on my shelf for 2 years.  Finally embarking on a journey to recreate the play has been a liberating, intimidating and addictive process.  I did ask myself occasionally though, "What possessed me to do this?"  Writing about real historical figures and creating characters based on real people come with a huge responsibility that weighs on me every step of the way.  Constant discoveries about these people and the world they lived in through research have been overwhelming and inspiring.  Working with my dramaturge Jane Heyman has been a lifeline for me.  I owe it to her investment in my writing and our creative process that began to build our true partnership in this project.

Thank you VACT for giving me the opportunity to birth With Courage and Humility.  I'm totally enjoying the ride.

*Chiune Sugihara and Yukiko Sugihara are both real historical figures.  All the other characters are compilations of many living people whose stories have been shared publicly.

Leslie Lum
I started this journey being addicted to three fascinating figures from recent history: Iris Chang (a human rights activist who committed suicide), Qian Xuesen (the Chinese rocket scientist who was driven back to China by McCarthyism and became instrumental to the military ascent of China), and Theodore Von Karman (the father of aerodynamics who mentored Qian).  It was a story of persecution, ambition, identity, and truth against a backdrop of politics and science.  It had to be told.

To put it all together, I had to weave a tangle of threads into a strong tightrope of a play, writing at altitudes I had never experienced before.  Heidi Taylor started working with me at the end of October, patiently leading me through a master class in high-wire playwriting.  Heidi's advice to face what scares me the most, head on, was difficult but crucial to finding the heart of the play.  She suggested ways of illuminating character and story that I had not thought of before.  I learned to be ruthless in cutting scenes that didn't work (many didn't).

We just went through our first read of Geomancer with Jovanni Sy directing and actors David Bloom, Derek Chan and Laara Ong.  Iris, Qian and Von Karman are beginning to take shape and breathe.  I know I have a great team.

Loretta Seto
When I first found out last September that I'd been selected as one of the participants for VACT's MSG Lab, my first thought was, How fantastic!, followed quickly by, Oh jeez, am I up to the task?  I had started on my new play The Ones We Leave Behind not long before, and I realized that to participate in the Lab would require having a reasonably decent full-length draft of the play by the end of February 2017.  Self-doubt flooded me.  Could I do it?  But the opportunity to be part of the VACT family again, not to mention getting to work with the incredible Kathleen Flaherty of PTC, was too good to pass up.  I jumped at the chance.

Five months and a hundred pages later, I've had a wondrous journey discovering my characters and the world they inhabit.  My feelings have run the gamut from the heady exhilaration of a sudden revelation about my story, to extreme self-loathing over a poorly written passage of dialogue.  And through it all, I've had the support of VACT behind me.  It's an enormous privilege for a writer to have somebody there who not only understands the creation process, with all its missteps and triumphs, but also encourages and champions it.  VACT really is that somebody.

The journey isn't over yet- there's still a lot of work to be done (four-hour stints at the local café have become a regular occurrence these last few months!).  But the great leaps I've taken with my play since starting with the MSG Lab have been invaluable.  Onwards and upwards!

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