In our "Meet The Writers" series, we're learning more about the participants of the CMTWC Writers Workshop. The Vancouver Writers Workshop meets every two weeks where, under the guidance of Daniel Maté, writers learn and practice the craft of composition and lyric-writing.
What was your introduction to the theatre?
One of my earliest memories is going to see my father perform in a community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof in my hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon. They performed in the Ice Palace (an old steel barn from WW2 they used as a community centre) in the middle of the winter. It was between -35 and -45 for the whole run, so the temperature in the audience hovered around zero. The audience had to wear parkas, cover themselves in blankets, and suck back hot drinks to keep warm... and yet I remember everybody being riveted. I think that's when I realized the power of live theatre.
When was the moment you decided to write for the theatre?
I studied acting at the Studio 58 program in Vancouver, and we had a playwriting class taught by John Lazarus. Most of the students struggled to get anything written, but I'd bring in like 10-20 new pages every class. I left in my last year at Studio to go become a writer.
Whose work do you admire and why?
I sort of lost interest in musicals for about over a decade. I was writing text plays and more interested in films and video games. Then when Hamilton came out, I kept hearing all this hype and decided to download the cast album to see what the fuss was about. I was riveted. I thought it was extraordinary. Ever since then I've been discovering all these composers and lyricists that I missed in the last 15 years. I've come to admire the power of Tom Kitt's music, the lyrical dexterity of Brian Yorkey, the simplicity of Lisa Kron's lyrics in Fun Home, Joe Iconis's catchy melodies... I could go on and on. And, of course, I admire all the greats... Sondheim, Schwartz, Mencken, Porter.
How do you like to write? What is your process? Where do you find inspiration?
I also work as a writer in the video game industry, as well as as a freelance playwright and dramaturge, so my problem usually isn't finding inspiration but finding time to work on my passion projects. I write anywhere... at home, in coffee shops, in bars, on transit. I've ducked into hotel lobbies on my walk home to write entire scenes. I usually write in short bursts... write intensively for an hour, take a break, then do another hour...
What do you want to see more of on stage?
More genre stories. In mainstream media, the silos between 'high art' and 'low art' are breaking down... but I feel like most of what are see on stage are contemporary dramas or comedies. I'd love to see more fantasy, more horror, more sci-fi (which is why me and my collaborator are working on a space opera musical).
If you had to pick one musical cast recording to be your "desert island record" which would it be?
Probably Hamilton. Or Les Mis.
Complete this sentence: "I write because...”
I have to. It's a cliche, but if I didn't have to write I probably wouldn't do it. It's a really tough way to make a living. But I'm addicted to telling stories and losing myself in fantasy worlds.
What's a tip you have about collaboration?
Be honest. And patient. You have to trust each other.
Why did you join the Writers Workshop?
To learn more about the brass tacks of writing for musical theatre - how to deploy rhymes, how to find the right musical form for a dramatic moment, how to work with composers.
What is your favourite thing about the Writers Workshop?
When my classmates present their work. I'm always blown away by what people can come up with.
Peter’s plays include Fritters in Kandahar (Lunchbox Theatre); The Campaign/L'Élection (Green Thumb Theatre/Théâtre la Seizième); Shelter from the Storm (Touchstone Theatre/PTC/Firehall Arts Centre); Fortunate Son (Vancouver & Victoria Fringe Festivals), and Jesus Freak (in development at Pacific Theatre). He also works as a writer in the video game industry, most recently on Dead Rising 4 (Capcom Vancouver). He holds an MFA from the University of Victoria where he studied under Siminovitch Award-winning playwright Joan Macleod.