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September 2015 Newsletter

24 Sep 2015 10:47 AM | Mona Curtis

September Spotlight:  Shirley Barrie

by Debbie Miller

Shirley Barrie is a Toronto, Ontario playwright, scriptwriter and producer. Her play, “I am Marguerite” directed by Molly Thom, played at the Alumnae Theatre from April 10 through 25, 2015. Shirley is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada. She was nominated for Best Toronto Playwright in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Best of Toronto Reader’s Choice Awards. She works as a story and script editor, and as a dramaturge for theater.  

Learn more about Shirley at her website:

Q:  How long have you been writing plays?

A:  Professionally, I first contributed lyrics and sketches for musical theatre revues that the Wakefield Tricycle Company (now the Tricycle Theatre) toured to community centres, colleges and theatres in England beginning in 1974.  The first play I wrote on my own was “The Adventures of Supergranny and the Kid” in 1978.

Q:  Do you have a writing routine?

A:  I have to get into the writing ‘frame of mind.’ I can’t just switch on a dime from the ‘business of playwriting’ for example, to the creation of the play, or from analysis and support for others to creation. I wish I had a sure fire method of switching hats and finding the right zone. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning up my desk.   Sometimes I can happily ignore the "To Do" list.  Other times I have to take a bite out of it before I can settle into writing. Sometimes reading over what I’ve done is enough to get me back into the work.

Q:  Do you develop character first or plot first or something else?

A:  In the past I’ve often been asked to write a play about a particular subject:  garment workers, women and violence, history of mental health treatment. In these cases, the subject comes first. If I start with the subject I have to work through that until I find the characters.

For the most part, when I initiate a project myself the driver for the play is a character—although I am often attracted to the character(s) because of issues, ideas, and concerns that have been floating around in my mind. Most of my plays for adults have featured characters from history.

Q:  When you start a play, do you use any of the following to generate character: improvisation, free writing, monologue writing?

A:  Probably the closest thing to what I use is free writing. I keep notebooks for each play. They used to include a lot of research, but now since a lot of that is done on-line, the notebooks contain reminder research, character notes, bits of dialogue, behavior rationale, options for action, character descriptions, crazy ideas, outlines of scenes, and/or notes to myself.

Q:  What’s the hardest thing about playwriting?

A:  Getting it right. I marvel now at how much I wrote, how quickly and in what pressure cooker circumstances in my early days as a playwright. But for me, it doesn’t get easier. It gets harder, largely because I expect more of myself now. 

I have two quotes on my bulletin board. One (I can’t remember where I found it) is “Great goddess of creativity, I will take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.” The other is from a keynote address David Henry Hwang gave at the 2013 AGM of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, “If you never fail, you’re not working hard enough.”

Welcome New Members

Tasha Partee , New York, USA

TASHA NICOLE PARTEE is a New York City-based playwright and Virginia native. Since 2011, Tasha has worked with the Off-Broadway Hudson Guild Theatre Company, teaching literacy through drama and dance, as well as performing as an actor and dancer in company productions. She has numerous choreography and stage management credits with the Off-Off Broadway Onomatopoeia Theatre Company, as well as thirteen years experience as a middle and high school theatre director. Her writing has been featured by the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, the Hudson Guild Theatre Company, and on numerous middle, high school, and college stages. Tasha was a founding member of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Women’s Project, providing opportunities for women in theatre since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Educational Theatre (New York University) and a BFA in Theatre Education (VCU). 

Violet O'Valle, Fort Worth, USA

I have enjoyed a long career in educational and semi-professional theatre, having begun my career as a Drama Director at Houston area high schools. I hold a B. A. from the Department of Drama And Dance at the University of Houston, and M. A. and Ph. D. degrees in British Literature, with an emphasis on Irish drama, from Texas A&M University. I am the founding Producer/Director of Pantagleize Theatre Co in Fort Worth, Texas, which produces plays from international cultures, especially those represented in our home state. I divide my year between Texas and Ireland, and my own play writing has been heavily influenced by both cultures. I am also an enthusiastic poet, a college instructor, and a student of all literary genres and all facets of theatre.

Rachana Pandey, Varanasi, India

I belong to Varanasi, the city of Ghats. Varanasi is an ancient city of the state Uttar Pradesh in India. My research area is Indian English drama, theatre and feminism. I have been engaging classes at Centre for Women’s Studies and Development (CWSD), Faculty of Social Sciences at Banaras Hindu University for three years (2012-2015). Feminism is a cause, a social duty, I believe. During research I have written a few poems and engaged in translating plays from English to Hindi but these are not yet published. I have joined the forum of 300 playwrights to explore the new voices, to interact, to grow, to contribute and to search my own voice among all.

Khai Dattoli, Los Angeles, USA

Originally from Wisconsin, Khai Dattoli has spent the past twelve years in Los Angeles writing and performing comedy. The USC graduate has worked in film, webseries, and stand-up, but her greatest passion has been bringing original comedies to the theatre. Dattoli has had four of her plays successfully produced in Los Angeles. The latest, "Off Book," is currently playing at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywod, and this summer also brings her writing debut in NYC with Theatre 68's production of "Off White," the first in her series of "Off Comedies."

2015 50/50 Applause Award

This year ICWP has honored 60 theaters in nine countries, including Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Scotland, Sweden and the United States. Our recipients range from small or new theaters to well-established larger theaters. We are thrilled that one third of the list are repeat recipients who have demonstrated gender parity in two or more seasons, indicating an increased awareness and commitment to women playwrights from the larger theater community. 

See the entire list and the bilingual video on our website.   

ICWP Officers

President:  Karen Marijke Jeynes, South Africa

Vice President:  Lucia Verona, Romania

Vice President:  Sophia Romma, USA

Secretary:  Sharon Wallace, USA

Treasurer:  Rita Kniess Barkey, USA

First Annual DC Women's Voices Theater Festival

Launched on International Literacy Day, September 8, over 50 theaters in Washington, DC are currently participating in the first ever Women's Voices Theater Festival.  Jointly they are producing more than 55 world premiers by female playwrights, along with dozens of other special events including workshops, readings and discussions. The Festival will run through the month of October and into November.  The theaters involved include the Kennedy Center, the Shakespeare Theatre and the Arena Stage, some of the most prestigious in the country.  It's the first time in history that so many theatres have worked together to produce a festival of original works by female writers and a major milestone in gender parity in theater.

The Festival official site

Women's Voices Theater Festival home page.

New York Times article

You Tube

Articles of Interest

The Golden Age for Women in TV is Actually a Rerun

"Comedies created by women came into vogue in the late 1980s, exploded in the early ’90s, went mainstream in the mid-90s and were shoved into the back of the closet around 1997. It took another decade before the next show solely created by a woman — Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” — made it back into the elite Emmy inner circle….."    

Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,

Mona Curtis
Newsletter Editor

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