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Meet The Writers: Sally Stubbs

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?

I fell in love with theatre in Victoria where I grew up when I saw the inimitable Andy Jones and the rest of the Codco folks at the Belfry Theatre. I was young and they were hysterical, and Canadian. It stuck with me.

When was the moment you decided to write for the theatre?

I was collaborating with youth to create theatre: devised and scripted. I knew I was hooked when I started going home after work and writing my own scripts.

Whose work do you admire and why?

I'm going to stick with playwrights whose work I've read and seen performed. Jez Butterworth is probably my biggest playwright hero now. The size, scope and depth of his work is remarkable. I read Jerusalem years ago and loved it. I saw his The Ferryman in London's West End last summer and... wow. Just wow. I continue to be bowled over by Colleen Murphy's audacity, her fearless passion and belief in what she's working on even in the midst of intense controversy. carried away on the crest of a wave by David Yee is a play that really intrigues me. So many more...

How do you like to write? What is your process? Where do you find inspiration?

I pace and fret, research, make notes to myself, write scraps monologues or lyrics, trying to decide how to begin. Nearly always, it's a specific image that comes to me from reading something. The image may not be directly related to what I'm working on, but it leaps off the page or screen and sparks something in me which harks back to my project and begins to breed character and action. And then I'm off. First drafts are torture, but once I've got one down I happily sink into rewrites and tweaking. I think I could rewrite forever.

What do you want to see more of on stage?

Stories and characters with strength, depth, distinct voice and a sense of humour. I want to feel, think, laugh, cry, despair, rejoice, sing, tap my feet, take action... Not always all at once. I especially want to see a wide range of strong women characters, including those of 'a certain age'.

If you had to pick one musical cast recording to be your "desert island record" which would it be?

I really don't think I can pick one. I still love Cabaret so that might work. I haven't seen Hamilton, but was pretty thrilled by some of the recordings I've heard. A few years ago I saw an off-Broadway production of Adding Machine: The Musical. My friend and I had no idea what we were going to see, but it was amazing: a hoot, moving, quirky as hell. I can't even remember most of the songs, but the first number was wild. I'd really like to hear it again. I guess I'd cheat and try to bring the cast to the island to perform the entire musical.

Complete this sentence: "I write because...”

I can't seem to help it. I worry about my mental health

What's a tip you have about collaboration?

OWNERSHIP. I go back to my time teaching for my biggest lessons in pretty much everything and especially collaboration. We all need to feel ownership to invest in what we do. These days, maybe because I work alone so much, I don't always remember that in the moment.

Why did you join the Writers Workshop?

I'm a writer, primarily of plays, and a relative newcomer to the writing of musical theatre which is really drawing me. I worked briefly with Daniel before and I knew this would be a good opportunity to learn some theory and build skills.

What is your favourite thing about the Writers Workshop?

I love hearing what my colleagues create and bring in each session.

Sally is an award-winning playwright and educator. She also directs, acts and produces. Her scripts, published by Scirocco Drama, have been presented in Canada, Sweden, India and South Africa. The Centurions Project, based on her script, Centurions, is currently in residency with Boca del Lupo. Our Golden Years, a semi-finalist for Little Black Dress INK’s 2018 ONSTAGE Project, is being presented in selected U.S. venues and is under consideration for production in Arizona. Sally’s new script, Our Ghosts, is a semi-finalist for the 2018 Ashland New Play Festival. The script was also selected for presentation at the 2018 Women Playwrights International Conference in Chile. Writing in the works: Polly and the Penthouse, a musical set in Vancouver’s legendary Penthouse Nightclub and on track to premiere there with support from the Penthouse and Fugue and Touchstone Theatres; Underbelly, a series pilot adaptation of her play And Bella Sang With Us; and a drama education text targeting post-secondary educators which Sally is co-writing.

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