Studio headshot of Nick Green and Andrea Scott.

Co-Playwriting with Andrea Scott and Nick Green – Nightwood Theatre’s Conversation Series

Award-winning playwrights Andrea Scott and Nick Green discuss how they came to co-write Every Day She Rose together, what they’ve learned in the process and the importance of allyship in this second episode of Nightwood Theatre’s Conversation Series.

Click here to listen to the first episode!

A huge thank you to Paper Bag Records artist Laura Barrett for permission to use her song Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests for this project.

Catch Every Day She Rose at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until December 8th!


Photo of Nick Green and Andrea Scott by Tanja-Tiziana.

Please continue reading for a full transcript of the conversation:

Nightwood Theatre Conversation Series
Co-Playwriting with Andrea Scott and Nick Green
TRANSCRIPT

[Laura Barrett’s Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. 1 plays]

TAYLOR: Thank you for joining us for the second episode of Nightwood Theatre’s Conversation Series, my name is Taylor Trowbridge. Today we’re speaking with award-winning playwrights Andrea Scott and Nick Green. They’ve joined creative forces and co-written Every Day She Rose, an examination of a Black Lives Matter protest at the 2016 Pride Parade. Nightwood Theatre is currently producing this show’s world premiere at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, on now until December 8th. At the start of our conversation, I asked them to each share how they got their start as playwrights.

NICK: So I—It’s a funny story about how I came to write. I trained as an actor at [University of Alberta] in their acting program and… I spent three years trying to learn how to pass as straight, which never sat well with me, and so I embarked into this career of acting but always felt like I probably was gonna need to find my own opportunities to act. And so that’s what first piqued my interest around writing was seeing those other people who perform their own works and find their own opportunities to, you know, get to express themselves from their point of identity without having to actually pretend to be something totally different.

So I tried writing a piece for the Loud and Queer Cabaret in Edmonton, and the sort of Queen Mother of Edmonton Queer Theatre, Darrin Hagen, and an Artistic Director there, Trevor Schmidt, who worked together a lot sort of took me under their wings and taught me a lot about writing and process, and that led to me then taking on my own project in Edmonton. I was working at Fort Edmonton Park, which is like a historical theme park, and I was working in a restaurant there, in this 1920s themed restaurant, and I came up with the idea of creating dinner theatre events in Fort Edmonton Park, where I’d write a show from the era that a building was in in the park, and the play would take place in that building, and they’d have dinner in this 1920s themed hotel. And it was such a hit that within a year I found myself writing four new plays and musicals a year [laughter] to address this, like, demand for this event. So that was sort of how I taught myself how to write and I got into it, both as an opportunity to sort of find roles for myself as well as I just fell for like the love of storytelling and the love of like creating something from the beginning that even just my friends could be in, for something fun, and then I caught the bug, and here I am still writing.

[Laura Barrett’s Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. 1 plays]

ANDREA: My story is sort of similar to Nick’s except that—well, in that I went to University of Toronto for theatre and my plan had been to become a university professor afterwards, but then decided that before I could be a prof I should actually work professionally as an actor to see if I could teach a class on how to do this professionally, so I ended up working as an actor for several years in Toronto but then started to get bored of the roles that I was being offered. Didn’t like a lot of the things that I had to audition for, felt that some of the roles were very two-dimensional, and so I remember having a moment where I said, “I feel like I could write better characters than what I’m auditioning for,” so I decided to write a one-person show that I didn’t end up performing, but it was something that was supported by b current in their rock.paper.sistahz festival, and the person who performed it was Miranda Edwards, and Philip Akin ended up directing that, and it was just like a one-night thing, but I really enjoyed the process of that, and also Jon Kaplan talked about my work from that moment and he gave me kind of a visibility, and then I ended up writing another play called “Eating Pomegranates Naked,” and “Eating Pomegranates Naked” ended up being in SummerWorks and it like got a lot of attention for me, and I realized that, okay, it looks like I do actually know how to write for an audience that would enjoy it, and I was told that I should apply for grants to maybe help support my writing while I did temp work.

Applying for grants also helped me get into playwright units, and so I ended up being in the playwright unit at Obsidian and Cahoots and Theatre Direct, and so that’s how my plays ended up getting exposure, I started producing the plays myself, because even though I had ideas for plays it didn’t mean that any theatre company was necessarily able to produce my work or develop it, so I started to produce it myself, which then gave me visibility, which then got me to this point.

[Laura Barrett’s Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. 1 plays]

TAYLOR: How did you two approach co-writing and what did that look like for you?

ANDREA: Well what was interesting about how this partnership began was I had seen a play Nick had written several years before, I’d seen a workshop of “Body Politic” at the Helen Gardiner Theatre, and then when it was produced I saw it at Buddies, so I knew I already liked Nick’s work, and then Nick went to see a play that I had written that was at SummerWorks called “Don’t Talk to me Like I’m Your Wife,” and then followed up with me, because we became friends on Facebook, a few months later and said, “Would you like to go for dinner? I’d like to talk to you about something,” so went out and then he pitched the idea, and that was in 2016, and I believe it was in October.

NICK: At Sambucas on Church.

ANDREA: At Sambuccas on Church. [laughter]

NICK: Which has treated us very well and has been a site of many meetings / and—

ANDREA: Yes. Boozy meetings. / Mhmm.

NICK: Boozy meetings. Um, yeah. We had also connected and created a fictional literary agency—

ANDREA: Yes, it’s called Beringer Candle, or—

NICK: It was wine and / something that was sitting on the table—

ANDREA: Yes, yes, yes, because we felt like it was really difficult to get anyone to represent us as Talent Agents. We needed a Talent Agent-Literary Manager, so we thought we would create our own, and it was called—

BOTH: Beringer Candle—[laughter]

NICK: Yeah and I created a Facebook page for it. The letterhead is still / in the works. [laughter]

ANDREA: Yes, well, you know, ironically enough now, we are actually represented by the same talent agent.

NICK: Yeah. So I guess it all worked / out.

ANDREA: Yes. It’s Marquis Entertainment.

TAYLOR: Oh wow!

ANDREA: Yeah!

TAYLOR: And so it was some dinner meetings, and then how did the writing process—how was that back and forth—what did that look like?

NICK: So we started with a Recommender Grant—

ANDREA: From—

NICK: And an opportunity to present through Cabaret Company—

ANDREA: Yes, that’s it—Cabaret Company.

NICK: And I think as we started we were both just sort of thinking, “what’s this gonna be,” and a lot of sort of working independently and sending each other the work and then getting together to discuss. When it came to that first presentation, we had Andy Cheng come and do a little bit of dramaturgy and direction with us—

ANDREA: Yes.

NICK: And in doing so, you know, the deadline was like a beautiful thing of us getting together and being like, “we have to piece together what we’ve kind of been working on independently—”

ANDREA: What year was that?

NICK: 20… I wanna say 2018?

ANDREA: Yeah, because I was in Stratford.

NICK: Yeah, and we then subsequently, that Fall, started in the Write From the Hip unit.

ANDREA: Right.

NICK: So, you know co-writing has, it was the first time for both of us.

ANDREA: Yes.

NICK: And so what’s interesting is how much of it is online and how much—because, you know we were doing this really as an exploration, not initially with any end goal of a production or anything like that in sight, and us both being involved in a lot of other projects and a lot of other jobs and careers—pursuing film, or you know, work in other fields, a lot of this had to be kind of in our spare time, which led to the creation of things like Google Drive documents—

ANDREA: Yeah—

NICK:—and a lot of emailing back and forth with ideas, thoughts, and scenes.

ANDREA: Like, I’m having a hard time with the dates here, because I do remember… I remember something about you saying, “we really need to start working on this,” and I was like, “Yeah you’re right,” we—’cause we would talk about it and be like, “Yeah, we’ll do it, we’ll do it.”

NICK: The life of writers, you know, like it’s all about what’s the deadline that’s in front of you ‘cause it kind of has to be. And we—I remember us really enjoying like just the exploration with zero pressure, that’s probably some of like the most creatively inspiring time on a project like this, but there does come a point where we’re like, “okay, we’ve created a bunch of puzzle pieces, now we have to stick this together into something that we’re proud to present.”

ANDREA: Mhmm. Now there has to be a story. What is the story? Two friends who go to Pride and then, what happens after that? I mean, but what is the arc?

[Laura Barrett’s Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. 1 plays]

TAYLOR: How do you feel the work is stronger because of the co-writing?

ANDREA: Well I don’t think that—I mean I think if the story was told from the perspective of Cathy-Ann, that would be a very, very different story, and if it was just told from the perspective of Mark, it would also be a very different story. And it has to be united, it has to be an integrated story in order for it to work to understand what happened in 2016 and what’s currently still happening when it comes to friendships and growing apart or growing together—how would you…?

NICK: I will just speak from my own experience of working with Andrea in that I think that she’s an artist with a huge amount of integrity and a really, really strong voice, and like, personally, in terms of process, as well as challenging questions about stories and themes, like, I don’t think I would be capable of writing this even if it was sort of appropriate for me to do so. Like, I’ve learned and continue to learn like a huge amount from this creative relationship and it’s one—it’s something that’s going to serve me moving forward as I work individually as well. So like, I can say the play has benefited from it, sure, it def—it could have only been created with the two of us, but selfishly I’m also going to mention that I’ve also just really benefited from it a lot?

ANDREA: What I have loved about it is the repetition of duos. So there’s, it started with this, I should say, it started with Andrea and Nick, and then we brought it into the playwrights unit, and then it ended up being something that Nightwood liked and thought it would have an audience, which it does, and now we’re in a room with the two actors who are playing the roles, and then also working with two directors. Which I can’t imagine is a very common occurrence of two people directing a play about two people who wrote a play about two people, and I just kinda love the symmetry of that, I think it’s very poetic.

[Laura Barrett’s Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. 1 plays]

TAYLOR: What has co-writing taught you about bigger picture communicating and allyship?

NICK: I think communication is super key in the context of creating a play where you know, you have to work in pockets, and things have to move quickly, as well as your own—speaking personally—battling your own insecurities and second guesses and worries about, like, your artistic ability. I think that what is the most important thing that someone can keep in mind, again, speaking personally, is like, slow down, think things through, and communicate clearly. You have to, have to look at your own process and your own thought processes and then remember that those aren’t the only ones that are at play here, that there has to always be room for two processes.

I’d say being present at the parade aside, like, I don’t know about—I mean, I witnessed a lot of responses to the protest in people—white, gay men in particular. And they really—the response really stuck with me. That Pride, I was in a lot of circles with large groups of white gay men, not necessarily people I was super familiar with personally, but I heard a lot of responses that were very disturbing to me. A lot of very uninformed and impulsive responses that automatically painted the protest as something that was bad and stupid, or useless, or an invasion on the Pride—what Pride stands for. And I also witnessed these people not being willing to be reasoned with, or to debate the matter, or learn more about it. I remember it vividly.

ANDREA: Which really does speak to what was happening—which was happening across the country in Canada and the United States on a lot of issues. Like, that is something that I feel like we have moved towards, unfortunately, which is there is no middle ground anymore, there’s no nuance, it’s either, “I’m on this side,” or, “I’m on that side,” and there’s no—you cannot compromise it, and it’s been exhausting to actually witness. And, you know, we can’t forget, and I remember very clearly that [the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando] happened two weeks / before?

NICK: Yeah. Yes.

ANDREA: Two weeks before. And I remember just being like, “I don’t know, I can’t, I just can’t,” and it was awful. It was just so, so awful. And there was a conversation that was opened up about the danger of being out and gay in this country and the United States, so there was a conversation happening, but unfortuantely it wasn’t always very nuanced, or kind, or charitable.

NICK: Yeah. Tensions were very high that Pride. And people were on high alert, I think because of Pulse, but what was interesting is that in certain circles, Pulse wasn’t even a discussion about race. Like it wasn’t even on the radar, I think, yet, in some circles, particularly of white gay men. So when—or it was maybe just starting to come up, and that was being felt as an afront to some white gay men who were feeling like, “What are you talking about? This is a homophobic / attack, period—”

ANDREA: Yeah. “How dare you racialize / it?” [laughter] Yeah.

NICK: “What’s the point in racializing it? What does that do? This is about hatred of gay people.” And so you know, that was the given circumstances of then this protest, and maybe informed the knee-jerk reactions to just say, like, “Black Lives Matter has nothing to do with Pride.”

So I think that it’s interesting in terms of what you’re talking about Andrea, with like, issues become immediately polarized without, in some cases, much information on usually one side more than the other, and it’s in this day and age where news articles are posted with a little note saying how long they take to read them. And if you’re gonna talk about intersectionality or the experience of being racialized and queer / that’s—

ANDREA: It’s an eight-minute read. [laughter]

NICK:—That is not two minutes, yeah. [laughter] That’s an eight-minute read, so people check the headline that says, you know, “So and so talks about racism in the gay community,” eight-minute read, and I think it’s become routine practice for someone to say, “oh, not this again.”

ANDREA: We are now living in a time where we are swimming in so much information, and you can get the opinion of anybody and hear the perspective of any marginalized group, but you choose not to, and that’s confirmation bias. Like, you will read whatever will confirm what you already believe in the first place, and we have to—it would be nice if we could step away from that, but my guess is it’s easier not to be challenged and be made uncomfortable.

NICK: Yeah. And also I just wanna bring in the concept of shame and the impact that shame has on people’s responses to difficult discussions about being oppressive. One of our directors Sedina [Fiati] brought in what she calls the Shame Circle, which looks at initial responses to being confronted about oppressive behaviour, and how those shut down conversations, and the work that needs to be done to stretch yourself to come to a point of comfort, and being able to be productive in discussions.

So one of the reasons we have this sort of meta-layer on top of this story of, you know, the story of two friends who go to Toronto Pride the year that Black Lives Matter stops the parade, that’s one layer where we can see sort of the overt racism that exists. But then our second layer of these two playwrights trying to write a play about it is—I think that’s what really calls people to look at that pattern of shame and deflection rather than sitting in the stretching area, because oppression and racism manifests in really, really insidious ways that need to be looked—that needs to be looked at as well. And that’s an ongoing process and one that goes beyond just like, “Oh, aren’t those people awful who said ‘Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be here,’ the rest of us are in great shape,” you know? That other level asks you to look at it. That’s the 25-minute read. [laughter]

ANDREA: Yeah.

[Laura Barrett’s Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. 1 plays]

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