Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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VERN THIESSEN, GOVERNOR GENERAL AWARD WINNING PLAYWRIGHT, ON SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT, WHY THEATRE BEATS NEW MEDIA, AND REVISION STRATEGIES FOR WINNERS (MF GALAXY 073)



LINK BETWEEN IMMERSIVE THEATRE AND VIDEO GAMES, EFFECT OF EDMONTON INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL ON THEATRE ACROSS CANADA, WHY THIESSEN IS A DEVOTED PANTSER

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Vern Thiessen’s plays are among the most produced theatre in Canada, and his work has delighted audiences across the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His many dramas include Lenin’s Embalmers, Apple, and Vimy. He’s written for young audiences, worked on a commission for the late Leonard Nimoy, and created an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. He’s won the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award, the Alberta Playwrights' Network Competition, and Canada’s highest literary honour, the Governor General’s Award.

Despite coming from a Mennonite family in Winnipeg, Thiessen spent seventeen years in E-Town and won the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition for Einstein’s Gift.

For seven years he also directed youth and community engagement theatre education in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. He’s since returned to the Big E where he’s the Artistic Director of Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre.

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Vern Thiessen discusses:
  • His experience of community-social theatre engagement in New York
  • How, despite competition from other media, theatre endures and in some ways triumphs over those other forms
  • The link between immersive theatre and video games
  • The effect of the Edmonton International Fringe Festival on theatre across Canada
  • Why Thiessen is a devoted pantser
  • Why he wants to leave audiences inconsolable
  • The imperative of revision and his dynamic strategies for it, and
  • Why writing plays is easier than writing novels
Vern Thiessen spoke with me in November, 2014 at Workshop West about his aesthetics and writing strategies that have made him one of North America’s most celebrated theatrical voices.

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