Playwright Project 2013: Sam Shepard

Seven theatre companies paint the town cowboy style for this year's festival of one-act plays by Sam Shepard

Kevin Ritchie, Tom Darcy McGee, Scott Clarkson, Rick Jon Egan and G. Kyle Shields in The Unseen Hand. Photo by Chris DePaul.

Get ready, Toronto. The city is about to become a wild west of roaming theatre troupes: from May 1 to 7, seven indie theatre companies will perform seven different one-act plays by American playwright Sam Shepard in seven different neighbourhoods as part of the 2013 Playwright Project. Launched as the Tennessee Project in May 2012, the ambitious festival aims to "build a tighter sense of community amongst artists and audiences," bringing exciting performances to venues outside of Toronto's downtown entertainment district.

This year's lineup includes: The Unseen Hand by Theatre Brouhaha, Fool for Love by Heart in Hand Productions, Cowboy Mouth by Pomme Grenade Productions, Saving Fats by Alex McCooeye/Jesse Griffiths, When The World Was Green by Surface/Underground Theatre, Geography of a Horse Dreamer by Red One Theatre and Angel City by Alec Toller. 

Here, the Playwright Project's Director of Marketing Angela Wright gives us a behind-the-scenes peek at what this collaborative creative festival is all about.

Theatromania: Tell us about the Playwright Project. What inspired this initiative?

AW: The Playwright Project is blood, sweat and tears, late night meetings, coffee, whiskey and an incredible adventure that draws together more than 50 Toronto artists. The idea behind the project was to bring together seven different independent theatre companies, to present seven plays by a featured playwright. Those seven productions would then rotate through seven Toronto neighbourhoods. With this model we can decentralize theatre from the downtown core and bring great live theatre to the doorsteps of Torontonians.

Theatromania: How did the team decide on Sam Shepard as this year's featured playwright?

AW: Sam Shepard is an extraordinarily evocative playwright. We like to think of him as an “urban cowboy,” and his works convey themes of alienation and the crumbling myths of the American “wild west.” All the plays in our festival are one-acts, and they really pack a lot of punch into one hour. Mostly, we just thought Sam Shepard was the coolest guy ever, I mean, he dated Patti Smith!

Theatromania: How has the festival evolved since 2012's Tennessee Project?

AW: Last year’s Tennessee Project was a huge success and taught us a lot. We’re still following the same format of one-act plays rotating through seven neighbourhoods. I think the main way that we’ve evolved is just from the new people involved in the project. It’s completely astounding how many different people have stepped up to the plate to help make this happen. When you have this many creative minds coming together it becomes this fast-paced, exciting project that could go anywhere, kind of like a runaway train, but without the imminent disaster (we hope!). So, we feel like we’re bringing Toronto together by spreading our festival across the city, and we’re collaborating with film people and musicians and venue owners and photographers. There is a palpable air of excitement surrounding the project, and now that we’re in our sophomore year and we’re seeing the amazing things that can be accomplished when you bring together so many great minds, we kind of feel unstoppable!

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from this experience?

AW: We hope that by bringing innovative theatre to communities across Toronto that we help inspire new theatre buffs. The Playwright Project, is really a celebration of the active and thrilling arts scene of this city, as well as the unique personalities of the communities we perform in. The artists and the audiences feed off of each other, and we expect each of the 49 performances will be different and special for this reason.

Theatromania: What's next for the Playwright Project?

AW: We have big plans in the works, perhaps at some venues that might surprise people! Stay tuned…

Don't miss this year's Playwright Project. Catch a show at a venue near you. Visit for more information.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2013-05-01 - Tue, 2013-05-07



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