In our "Meet The Writers" series, we're learning more about the participants of the CMTWC Writer's Workshop. The Writer's Workshop meets every two weeks in Toronto where, under the guidance of head teacher Leslie Arden, participants learn and practice the craft of composition and lyric-writing. Check back every Monday to meet a new writer!
What was your introduction to the theatre?
My sister took me to see the Mirvish production of The Lion King when I was 8. I still remember 'The Circle of Life' with the actors entering through the aisles, wielding their puppets with zebras and flocks of birds. A gazelle almost brushed past me. My 8-year-old mind was completely blown.
When was the moment you decided to write for the theatre?
When I was in undergrad, I got cast in a small role in a student production of As You Like It, and the director asked me, "Hey, can you write music?" And I replied, "I, uh, ...nyyyaahh-sure?!"
Who is someone's work you admire, and why do you admire it?
The composer Caroline Shaw, because of the way she reimagines sound. Also the poet Warsan Shire, because she's ballsy, unapologetic, and frighteningly beautiful.
How do you like to write? What is your process? Where do you find inspiration?
I like writing around 8PM in my PJs, with a glass of wine, fuelled by a lot of tears.
In all seriousness though, I try to find inspiration from different places. The news, artwork in a gallery, a short story... Once I wrote a closing number after biking home at night hearing the deafening sound of a bunch of helicopters converging in downtown Toronto.
What do you want to see more of on stage?
Cilantro. I love cilantro. (Inspired by the ballet Cacti by Dutch choreographer Alexander Ekman).
If you had to pick one musical cast recording to be your "desert island record" which would it be?
Bat Boy the Musical
Complete this sentence: "I write because..."
...this is all a cover and in reality I'm training to be a vampire slayer.
What's a tip you have about collaboration?
Bring lots of snacks and tea because this meeting is going to take a lot longer than you'd anticipated.
Why did you join the Writers Workshop?
It's a pretty unique opportunity. There are very few places to get mentorship and feedback outside a post-secondary program (especially from such treasures like Leslie Arden), and since I didn't major in music or theatre, this course is filling in many of the gaps in my training. Amazingly, it caters to a whole range of experience levels - some people have been writing for less than a year, some for 15 years, and yet it seems that everyone finds something to take away from each class.
What is your favourite thing about the Writers Workshop?
The faculty, the guest lecturers... and the environment where you're given full licence to fail. You're allowed - even encouraged - to fall flat on your face each time without judgment, because it's the only way to learn.
Deanna Choi is a performer, sound designer, and composer with a degree in behavioural neuroscience. She co-founded the Badass Brahms Chamber Collective, and completed residencies with the National Youth Orchestra, the Banff Centre, the NAC, and Stanford. Design credits include Laurier (TNB/Confederation Centre for the Arts), Paradise Comics (Filament Incubator), Osia (SummerWorks), This Is How We Got Here (SummerWorks), Tiger Bamboo (Soulpepper). Her work combines live performance, improvisation, electronic soundscapes, and principles of psychological research. She received the national gold medal in violin performance upon her graduation from the Royal Conservatory of Music and was a Chancellor’s scholar at Queen’s University. Her life goal is to have as much Zen as a three-toed Bradypus sloth. Upcoming: Alien Creature (TPM). www.deannahchoi.com