My longtime partner in life, Jovanni Sy, and I took a self-directed writing retreat in Squamish, BC to work on our first-ever artistic collaboration: the play Salesman in China, inspired by Arthur Miller's 1983 effort to direct his masterpiece Death of a Salesman in Communist Beijing. It was rainy and gross the whole time and we caught horrible colds and argued and ate curries out of the freezer for two weeks and also were incredibly productive. We researched and brainstormed and hashed out a massive portion of the building blocks of our play, including characters, themes, theatrical images, and a detailed outline. Nothing about this project so far is anything like the way either of us normally writes. That's what's so exciting about it.
As part of our residency as Associates of the Playwrights Theatre Centre, Jovanni and I co-curated UNSCRIPTED: Salesman in China for PTC and the Gateway Theatre. The UNSCRIPTED series is PTC's way of helping us, the PTC Associates, to further our research while also introducing us to communities likely to connect to the projects we are working on together for the next three years. Unlike Jovanni, I am not a producer, and I found this unfamiliar sort of public outreach extremely nerve-wracking. ("Will I blather through my onstage interview with respected translator Fang Zhang? Will people be remotely interested in the subject of our play? Will our guest speakers resent coming all the way from Toronto and Boston? Will anyone show up?") Before and on the day, however, we were expertly supported by the teams from both Gateway and PTC; delicious Beijing snacks and museum-quality historical displays appeared as if magicked into existence by little bicultural house elves; our speakers Fang Zhang and Dr. Claire Conceison were dynamic and gracious; actors BC Lee and Johnny Wu did an astonishing job presenting a scene from Death of a Salesman in English and in Mandarin; and the crowd was large and diverse and thoughtful and enthusiastic. Jovanni and I came away feeling great about our project and about our partnerships... with PTC, with Gateway, and most of all, with each other.
Meanwhile, two Québec productions went on tour with my surtitled translations helping to introduce them to English-speaking audiences:
• Joe, Jack, and John's Dis merci [Say Thank You], about Canadian attifudes toward refugees, came to Toronto's Progress Festival; and
• Les Éternels Pigistes brought the valedictory production of their 20-year collaboration, Christian Bégin's Pourquoi tu pleures...? [Why are you crying?], to Vancouver's Théâtre la Seizième.
• I translated 9 children's stories – some by well-known Québec playwrights – for a new online subscription service called Miniminus, which looks poised to become the Netflix of children's literature.... except with much more Canadian content.
• I finished the first draft of I Am William, my translation of Rébecca Déraspe's delightful new musical Je suis William, which imagines Shakespeare as a dim but sweet actor whose ghost-writer is his brilliant sister. (Workshop by Théâtre le Clou TBA).
• The Humanity Bureau held two cast and crew screenings in the Okanagan
• Ruby Slippers Theatre and Gateway Theatre produced the world premiere of my translation of Catherine Léger's I Lost My Husband!... a wickedly funny, woman-powered, beautifully constructed and staged four-hander, which sold out every ticket even before it opened. Who is going to be smart enough to nab the remount, I wonder?