Chicken Paprika Sundaes: Training Day Discussions

Paprika’s last training day was in the cold of January12. We, the Advisory Board (or as I like to think of us, The Paprika Prom Committee), gathered the participants into groups and brought up questions such as “How can paprika improve?” How can we be not just “hot” but  “hotter”. Not be only in Toronto, but spread across the nation and globe, across the boundaries of age groups and even professions.

After listening to the wisdom of a panel of professionals and their advice we sat down together to pitch to each other ideas that could help Paprika become the spice of choice in the theatre community.

Our more creative answers came when we asked about the age group above 25 to which we heard the suggestion of “Senior Theatre”, where the seniors of the community would come together and act, under mentorship, and create their own plays, cookies, and scarves. The closing night could possibly be accompanied by a Bingo session. If this is to be put into place, then personally I can see a lot of seniors signing up to join, and a lot of us waiting to become seniors in order to be admitted to the closing night festivities.  The only thing stopping this idea is that it doesn’t really make any sense or have much to do with what Paprika is really about: young people and their excellent work.  But it’s great to think about, isn’t it?

In our discussion groups there was a great deal of interest in incorporating visual arts into the program by having a program for graphic designers who would create original posters for each play. The possibility of having a “Designers in Residence” program was discussed, where the aspects of art and production in theatre (such as lighting, set, and costume design) would be practiced. These designers would later be assigned to each Paprika production and aid them in their technical endeavours.

Another interesting idea was the use of short films to advertise the programing and stream them live onto the internet. We chatted about incorporating film into our program by having a “Film Director in Residence” who would make short movies about the Festival’s productions. This would also give the playwrights, theatre directors and performers an idea of the differences that exist between the media of theatre and film, and an idea of the freedoms that each offer. On a career front for actors, it would be pretty good for demo reels as well.

There is also a need for many groups to find rehearsal spaces.  We spent some of our time in the group talking about the difficulty of finding space in the city, and how we’d love to have something like what the FRINGEfest has in its programming here: http://fringetoronto.com/artists/rehearsal-spaces-list/

Lastly in our discussion groups we heard a suggestion to have Chicken Paprika Sundaes on our sunday meetings. Sounds delicious. Or… Petit-Paprika-Pizza-Pockets… or….Chicken Paprika soup.  When finally someone asked “how can parents be involved in the Festival?” I had the perfect idea: they should make the food.

You’re welcome for the genius suggestions Paprika.

The Cast of Genesis: (from left to right) Nawi Moreno, Wesley Colford, Katie Housley, Tess Dingman and Hayden Finkelschain
The Cast of Genesis: (from left to right) Nawi Moreno, Wesley Colford, Katie Housley, Tess Dingman and Hayden Finkelschain

WHO: The Paprika Production ‘Genesis’ written by Rosamund Small and directed by Vivien Endicott-Douglas

WHAT: The First Staged Reading of the (almost) final draft of the play.

WHEN: January 8th, 2013 @ 8:00pm

WHERE: Videofag in Kensington Market ( http://www.videofag.com/#!about/c10fk )

If you were broke, and in need of a laugh on January 8th, 2013, I hope you headed over to Jordan Tannahill’s and William Ellis’s performance space/apartment, Videofag! It was a fun time in the cosy, warm space that was also the space for the Paprika Fall Clothing Sale. The room was mostly empty when the production trooped in at 3pm to read the latest draft of Rosamund Small’s revisited highschool script – Genesis. The play is about an evalangelical man a small town in Ontario, who directs christian morality play. The play, despite his best attempts, has a disastrous opening night due to the personal problems of the show’s actors.

When I first read this play in October, I could not stop laughing. I have read the play countless times by now and am trying not to laugh at my own lines so it was nice to hear the laughter again from a fresh group!! The cast was talking at dinner before the show about what we hoped would happen, and I’m glad to say that we all walked away very pleased at the amount of laughter we recieved!

So thankyou if you came out! It was real fun to chill out and have a beer with everyone.

If you didn’t catch this show, it just won the “Pitch Challenge” at the last Paprika Training Day, so it’s sure to have some juicy timeslots during the Festival!

Hope all the other productions are feeling as positive as we are! Can’t wait for the Festival!

ps. Nobody did cry, so nobody, in fact, was fined.

My name is Paige and I’m in my second year at the University of Toronto, doing a double major in drama studies and cinema studies. In my spare time, I’m an intern at Theatre 20. In my spare spare time, I work an exhausting retail job selling handbags. In my spare spare spare time, I’m a member of the Paprika. To say that I am busy is an understatement. I’m a Libra, so my life is all about balance.

How to I balance all my jobs and commitments? To be honest, I have no idea. My life is scheduled to the letter. I would probably die without my calendar. Sometimes it means I have days where I go to Theatre 20 in the morning, class in the afternoon, a Paprika event in the evening and work at night. Sometimes it means I sleep in class so I can be ready for work at night and T20 the next morning. Sometimes it means that due to lack of sleep I stay up until three in the morning crying over Miss Saigon (let’s be real – it happens to the best of us). Sometimes it means the blog post I said I would write two weeks ago comes in super, super late (mea culpa)! It sounds exhausting, and it is. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Because I got my internship and my retail job this summer, I was positive that I wouldn’t be able to commit to Paprika this year. It takes up the better part of a year, which I knew having gone through the festival over the last two years, both in the Creator’s Unit and the Resident Company. I was so delighted that the Advisory Board has been created this year so that with a smaller time commitment I am still able to participate in the festival.
It’s been so much fun being on the Advisory Board. For some members, it is their first time being involved in the festival and they have so many cool ideas and opinions. For others, like me, it is our third or fourth year, and we know what makes Paprika run. There’s no cooler feeling than being in a room with people who are as passionate about young artists as I am. It’s completely awesome.

It’s hard at times to juggle my many commitments but at the end of the day I’m doing what I love and that’s what fuels me. I love being a student, I love being an intern, I love being an Advisory Board member. The fact that I even get to have so many wonderful commitments really is just the best. So when I feel tired, or I want to pass out on the floor of the library I just remember that I get to live one of the luckiest lives out there.

My involvement with the Paprika Festival was spurred on by a desire to be a part of something different. I wanted to learn more about the world of theater and I wanted to get an inside look at the administrative side of running a festival. Most of all, I wanted to show my support for this community. Prior to my interest in the festival, I had no interaction with the theater community of any kind. Luckily for me, the theater enthusiast is a personable and extroverted breed of artist. At every board meeting or training day, I find that it takes no time at all to be approached by the friendly face of someone I’ve never met before.
Although I’ve come to Paprika with a certain air of naivety, I am certainly no stranger to the world of the arts. I have been a musician for as long as I can remember and I have been professionally performing for two years. My experience in music certainly brings me closer to those involved with theater because we are all constantly obsessing over the same questions:

These questions are inextricable from the process of making your private creations public. Artists are defined by how they approach these questions. Personally, I dream of what it will be like to have the weight of these questions lifted off of my chest. The future is a precarious destination for a young artist.

At our last training day, we were treated to a panel discussion that was comprised of four people who have managed to build a life around their passion for theater. The panelists were Heather Marie Annis, Martha Ross, Adam Paolozza and Sterling Jarvis. They spoke of their personal experiences with the world of theater and they provided some insight into what young artists might be up against. It was certainly a welcome change of pace to have adults encouraging young people to get involved with the arts. An encouraging word is hard to come by when you’re trying to become an artist. So naturally, we were all riveted to hear what they had to say.
The subject matter of the discussion was based specifically in the world of theater. However, there were some very important pieces of advice that proved to relate with any artistic endeavor. Ideas that transcend any one practice are the strongest lessons to take into consideration.

1. There’s no one way to do it.

When looking at the four panelists, I realized that I was looking at four people who had succeeded in four different ways. They had each made their own path to success, and they each had their own definitions of what it meant to be successful. The thing about being an artist is that there’s nowhere to hand in your resume for some internship program. You don’t apply to be a playwright and you don’t go through an interview process. You write the play, and if you care enough about it you’ll find a way to put it on. Creativity is not limited to the artwork itself. You have to be creative when it comes to putting it out into the world. A word of warning should come with this tip. Since everyone is producing their work in a different way, this means that everyone around you will have something to say about how you’re doing it. These opinions will not always be supportive. This brings me to the second lesson of the day.

2. Stop caring

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should stop caring about your work or that you should aimlessly wander through this world with some sort of existential irreverence. It just means that when it comes to your work, you should only take your inspiration seriously. Stay true to it and don’t let other people’s opinions slow you down. People will have all sorts of reasons to say negative things about what you might be trying to do, and in most instances those reasons are tied into things that are out of your control. Criticism can be helpful but be wary of the things that are resentful. Have the wherewithal to understand the difference between what’s constructive and what’s malicious.

3. If you make your own work, you never have to audition

If you’re going to be an artist, this is one of the luxuries that you have to look forward to. If you can learn to create your own opportunity, then you will always be your own boss. It should be noted that success in the arts has a lot to do with luck. However, a lot of hard work goes into being in the right place at the right time. A lot of talent helps out when it come to taking advantage of those situations too. It takes persistence and dedication to turn luck into your favour. That’s what making your own work is all about.

These three lessons really struck me on a personal level. I have been thinking a lot about these issues and it was the kind of advice that I needed to hear from someone with more experience than myself. The Paprika Festival has done a great thing for young artists. They have provided them with a platform to prove their initiative and their talent. They have also connected them to community that fosters this type of creativity. That is a true gift.

Paprika Training Day Panel December 9, 2012

Graham Nicholas is a musician and a member of Paprika’s Advisory Board.  Find him at https://www.facebook.com/grahamnicholasmusic.  

“The shadow puppets are eating me alive. But in a good way.”

So begins my conversation with Glenys Robinson, Playwright and Director of the production, This Play is Like _____, which blends the seemingly innocuous elements of high school, allergies, and anime obsession with original folklore, stand-up comedy, and the above mentioned carnivorous shadow puppets.

“I’ve never worked with anything like them before and sometimes I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. We want to make them very folktale/fairytale-esque. But culturally universal. How does a person design shadow puppets that stem from a culturally universal collective consciousness?”

Despite her natural humility, Glenys has assembled an impressive creative team, populated primarily by fellow seniors of Alexander Mackenzie High School in Richmond Hill. The completion of the puppets (designed by Robinson with her Shadow Puppet Co-ordinator, Ana Ghookassian) will mark an exciting benchmark for a play that has been in development since last spring.

“This play began when I was sitting in anthropology class trying to understand the ridiculous influx of anaphylactic allergies in North America. One of our friends is severely allergic to basically every kind of nut and seed and had previously performed a stand-up comedy routine on the realities of having an allergy in our drama class. I told her I wanted to write a play about allergies, incorporating her experiences, and she said she would help. I spent the entire summer reading folktales, writing down my experiences in high school (and stories of the experiences my friends have had), and letting it percolate. When I sat down to write it, it had morphed into something beyond allergies. It became a play about being incompatible with an environment; be it a public space that someone might have smeared peanut better all over, a high school where nobody is interested in the same things as you, a remote village smothering you with its traditions, or a home with a communication barrier. I took it to school originally planning on performing it at the Sears Drama Festival. Its only because everybody else – my teachers, my friends who are now the actors and the production team – cares about it as much as I do that it ever made it as far as Paprika.”

In addition to the support of her teachers and peers, Glenys will have the benefit of professional mentorship, provided by the Paprika Festival, in the form of Tarragon Theatre’s Assistant Artistic Director: the effervescent Andrea Donaldson.

“I’m really excited to be working with her; I feel like she’s the exact right person to be working with for this project.”

When asked to elaborate about the somewhat elusive meaning behind the title (This Play is Like ____), Glenys admitted to a personal Achilles Heel; one that, in this case, she has found a way to turn into a strength.

“I have a hard time with specifics like titles and names. They always feel very false to me – very intentional and contrived and inorganic. I think I’m probably just being silly, but by making the title something so vague it feels like I’m getting around that. It’s really a question. It begs to be filled in. It demands that each member of the audience reflects on what the play really meant to them. It forces you to make it personal.”

Abby Weisbrot, who officially joined the team in early September, agreed that the ambiguity of the title is also its greatest strength.

“To me, it represents all the different ways a person can describe something that is important to them. We all connect to it in different ways.”

For the team, especially the actors, the title has also become part of the process. “At the end of each rehearsal we ‘fill in the blank’ and each individual reflects on what the show means to them at that particular moment in time. We also have a little photography project where each team member takes a watercolour painting of the words ‘This Play Is Like ____’ home for two weeks and capture images exploring the themes of the play, as well as documenting their personal/artistic relationship to the play.”

While the show is still in early stages of rehearsal, this creative side-project has already borne some exciting results. You can follow their inspiring photo-journal here.

Arden Dunlop and Abby Weisbrot

Abby, who is also in grade 12 at Alexander Mackenzie, has the added challenge of playing a variety of roles (as well as a variety of genders).

“I play characters far different from myself, so I have to put in the extra effort to make sure that pieces of me (or most pieces of me) don’t come out in my characters. It is also difficult, because I can’t focus all my attention on one character and polishing my choices, but rather four characters. Playing the male love interest is probably the most challenging, because, well, I’m a girl! Glenys has told me that it is more important that I distinguish the fact that I am not a girl, rather than that I am playing a boy (if that makes any sense). I have to pay more attention to how boys walk and talk, etc., which is a challenge.  But I love being challenged in theatre and am really enjoying digging deeper into the crazy world of men!”

For Abby, the play is really about human connection, a theme which she hopes will suck the audience in, making them complicit with its full fruition.

“I hope the audience is able to relate and connect to the play. I, personally, was able to relate to most the situations in the play, which is why I feel so connected to it. I would love for the audience to also feel a connection to the show on a personal level, and really appreciate what the characters have to say.”

Glenys echoed Abby’s sentiments regarding audience connection and added this hope for her peers who come to see the play:

“For people my age, who are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives, I just want them to walk away thinking that it’s all going to be okay. For parents, and people who haven’t been in that position in a while, I want them to remember what it’s like to be 17 and excited and terrified. As high school students, we often hear people say ‘Just wait until you finish high school and you start real life.’ But, this is our real life. We exist. Right now.”

The Paprika Festival runs March 28 – April 6, 2013. Check back soon for a full schedule, including the dates and times you can see This Play is Like ____ and watch this blog for another exciting “Spotlight On: Paprika Production: coming soon!

The creative team of young artists behind “This Play is Like ____”

Wesley J. Colford is an emerging actor and playwright, originally from Sydney, NS but currently based in Toronto. He has been a Paprika Participant for three years, and is currently serving as a member of the Paprika Advisory Board, and pill perform in the upcoming Paprika Production “Genesis and Other Stories” by Rosamund Small.

On Saturday, November 24th, we had yet another successful $2 Clothing Sale to raise money for the Paprika Festival! In the weeks leading up to the event, participants and staff of the festival, Youth Advisory Board members, and anyone else who wanted to help out ran around the city collecting clothing and piling it all up at the Clothing Sale Headquarters. Helpful friends of friends left garbage bags full of goodies on the porch and bit by bit, a mountain of goodwill in garbage bags grew.

The night before the sale, more volunteers gathered at the Headquarters to sort through the madness and prepare all the merchandise for the next day. I was one of these volunteers and man oh man, did I ever come prepared… I brought the most important and helpful thing you can bring to a group of people who are giving up their Friday night to unpack / go through / sort into piles / try on / be amazed by / be terrified by / and fold old clothes… candy. I picked up a serious amount of candy, and trust me, it was necessary. I walked up the stairs and into Clothing Sale Headquarters, A.K.A. the apartment of Kate Hanford (a Youth Advisory Board member, who graciously donated her entire apartment to the sale), to find piles upon piles of stuff. I swear there was a volunteer trapped under the men’s jeans for at least half an hour, like a skier trapped in the snow after an avalanche. People donated not only clothes, but shoes, and books, and a questionable amount of lingerie… all for the love of theatre! I scored a sweet unopened Travel Scrabble set that night, and lord knows I did not need those five new sweaters… but hey, that’s what happens when you volunteer – you end up with nifty things like Travel Scrabble, for only $2!

Early morning set up with Rosamund Small and Kate Handford

We sorted and folded into the wee hours of the morning and then I headed home, only to realize that earlier that week, I had volunteered myself to bake some sweet things for the sale the next day. Classic Raven move. But that didn’t discourage me! Late night baking is totally my thing and by 3:30am, I had 42 cupcakes, a batch of brownies and a chocolate cake. I slept for a few hours and was up again at 7:30 to head over to Videofag (a great art space that was kindly donated to us for the sale). I met Rob and a couple other volunteers and we decided a coffee run was necessary to get the ball rolling. After a quadruple americano I was READY FOR ANYTHING – and so the day began!

Kate dresses the model a bit more appropriately. It’s an edgy festival, but not THAT edgy.

The style team (Rob and Kate) dressed up the mannequins in the most hip outfits we could find and we started working the floor. The beauty of a sale like this is that unlike a regular store, both the nice designer leather jacket and the silly 90s “My first Mustache Ride” (????) tshirt are both $2! With everything at such a low price, a person’s ability to rationally weigh their options and make the sensible decision goes out the window and they just end up buying both.

Sugar encourages a healthy amount of youth-theatre-festival-supporting

We offered cupcakes and other baked goodies to those who donated $2 or more to the festival. It was a crisp, sunny day and lots of people happily stumbled upon the sale by accident (I think it also had something to do with Rosamund’s undeniable charm as she ushered people in off the street, out of the cold and into a lovely community event). I did the cash for most of the day and I got a chance to talk to some lovely people about the festival they were supporting with their purchases. It isn’t hard to sell a cause like this one. The Paprika Festival is unique because of the way it supports its young artists. It provides fantastic resources, intelligent and constructive feedback, and a professional environment.  It also expects a very high caliber of work from its participants. It is unique because it recognizes that just because a person is young, does not mean their work should be taken less seriously than the work of an adult. Not once that day did I feel like I was just reciting a speech. Each time I explained the festival to a customer I only got more excited about the whole thing! And that kind of excitement was positively received time and time again throughout the day as I talked to more and more people.

By 4pm, we had sold almost all of the clothing. A tired but satisfied bunch of volunteers gathered at the end of the day to take stock of our hard work. We ate the last brownies and we packed the remaining clothing into bags. The bags were driven to the nearest Value Village and thus concluded the latest Paprika Festival $2 Clothing Sale.  In just one day, we had raised a record-high amount of money for Paprika (we beat the last clothing sale by hundreds of dollars)!  It was a pleasure to work with such lovely people, all working to support such a lovely festival.

My name is Katherine and I am a theatre artist. I recently started working for Paprika as a co-facilitator for the Creator’s Unit, only a year after moving to my new home, Toronto.  I have lived in many Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton. I have, in equal measure, both loved and despised all the cities I have lived in, much like many of my romantic relationships (too much info?) but have broken up with with them for the cooler, older, dreamy-er Toronto. And I gotta say, so far things between me and this city are going really well. My parents have visited and they approve, which is great. And I think Toronto just really loves me for me. Toronto is not embarrassed to be seen with me. Ever. There is never a time when it’s all, “sorry, but I’m busy. I need to be alone”. I really think we’re ready to commit to a long term relationship.  But as an actor and a writer,  I need to know my city will be there for me, inspiring, challenging and supporting me in my work.

Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago.

         Perhaps that is why I have moved around so much. I love seeing what different cities have to offer. I love noticing the differences between artistic communities, what they are trying to communicate and how general aesthetic of a community helps define the art that is made.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot as i start work with Paprika’s Creator’s Unit.  This group, which meets weekly to create a piece that eventually ends up in the Paprika Festival, has a particular emphasis on ensemble work and collective creation. This focus on young artists coming together to create in an non-hierarchical atmosphere is vitally important to the future of our theatre community. I am so excited to see how these artists will shape and influence the Toronto theatre scene in the years to come. I’m so impressed by what the Creator’s Unit does that I have to wonder about the participants: Where will they find their artistic home after turning the Paprika-non-eligible age of 22?  What kind of models can Toronto follow for nurturing them into their next decade of creativity?        That’s why I’m so happy to share what I learned recently on my trip to Chicago, another artistic community that shares a lot with Toronto and never ceases to inspire and amaze me.        I really like Chicago. They call it the Windy City which confused me because I have not experienced any more wind there than other North American cities I’ve had the privilege of visiting. Then my Friend’s dad told me it was because of its ‘windy politicians’ (BE-dum-CHING!). But seriously, seriously. It’s a wonderful place to visit and my particular love affair with it has largely to do with its theatre scene. Chicago’s theatre is innovative, and very exciting for any theatre artist looking to be inspired. I visit Chicago and its theatre community on a somewhat frequent bases because one of my very best friends lives there. She is also a theatre artist and has shown me some of the best that Chicago has to offer. I have never ever been disappointed: Red Moon Theatre with its breathtaking puppetry, The Hypocrites and their innovative re-working of the classics, and of course Steppenwolf and the phenomenal acting talent that comes from there.  These have been some of the most incredible theatrical experiences of my life.    

Poster for SALONATHON in Chicago

I think it would be interesting to have more of an artistic exchange between Toronto and Chicago. I am not sure what that would look like, but I think we could learn so much from each other. And in this spirit, I recently performed in Chicago and it was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

At a weekly event called “Salonathon” I shared some new work I have been experimenting.  I was somewhat apprehensive about showing it, but the event is catered to artists who want to try out new work, so it was naturally a good fit. I was slated at the end of the night and had the privlege of watching many of Chicago’s young artists try out new ideas and take creative risks. The audience was very supportive but not in a lame “I’m your mom and I’m proud of everything you do” kind of way. They were just very present, perhaps because many of them were artists themselves.  I got up nervously to do my piece. It’s a series of songs for a faux-musical I am writing about dyslexia (finally! a musical about dyslexia, AMIRIGHT!?). By the second song people where clapping their hands and stomping their feet to the songs (which were unaccompanied so maybe people just thought I needed some help). The support and excitement and sense of community was exhilarating. I mentioned to the crowd that I was from Toronto and immediately afterwards two other Toronto actors who were visiting Chicago came up to me to chat.          It was exciting to see that intermingling is going on between the two cities and that artists are sharing with each other. I would love to see it happen more because I think the two cities, and their respective artists, have a lot to bring to the table. And the possibilities for learning are limitless.  Can we take the joy and support that creates such wonderful results for our young Paprika Participants, and bring it further, into our whole professional community?  Chicago is doing it. We can do it too.  

There are mini dinos in Chicago. This is proof!

Katherine Cullen is a Toronto-based theatre artist and associate artist/company dramaturge for Outside The March. She works for the Paprika Festival Creator’s Unit, and otherwise can be found writing theatre, creating theatre, and talking ’bout theatre. She is friendly and loves to connect with other artists so feel free to contact her. 

(Month 2 of  Rosamund being Associate Director…)

Now I finally know what goes on behind the very exciting closed doors of Paprika Executive meetings. The answer is scheduling, scheduling, scheduling, and then sometimes we schedule things.  We also meet the roommates/partners/families of whomever’s living room we have taken over as office space on any given day.

Our brand new General Manager Katherine Devlin hosted our meeting this week, and her dog proved distractingly adorable (see below).  I may lobby for non-human entries to be considered next year. Try to ignore the genius of a puppy-based collective creation.  You can’t.  That is an amazing idea.

The year’s just been about planning, budgeting, flyers, applications, staffing, spaces, and media (“HEY ROS- You blog, right?”), and other essential steps (“HEY ROS- You Tweet, right?”).  Nothing got exciting until interviews, which we wrapped up a few weeks ago after DOUBLE last year’s application numbers.

Some of the coolest people I’ve met in a very long time travelled from as far away as Ottawa (that’s FAR), to spend ten minutes telling Paprika Exec about their plays, their plans, and their reasons for applying to the Festival. Quality was high, competition was fierce.  As a result, our Festival is STRONG like an OX that likes to create and perform works of theatre.

Ottawa applicants Skyped their interview.  We don’t demand six hours of driving, especially as many participants are too young for licenses.  Also soon some will be dogs and unlikely to drive.  Or rather they will be puppies 21 and under (63 and under in dog years).

However the Ottawa group is coming all the way to Toronto for tomorrow’s training day. Rob Kempson’s game of real-life Guess Who is worth the travel time (It’s like the board game Guess Who…but instead of using a board…we use Paprika Participants).  It is taken very seriously.

Photos will be posted. Stay tuned.

– Rosamund Small

Rosamund is the Associate Director of The Paprika Festival and  a Paprika Participant

P.S. I do Tweet (@PaprikaFest).  Follow us.

10/28/12:  14 days until our first Training Day, when all participants will gather for the first time.  We will have discussions, panels, workshops, and mad games of Simon Says.  Until then, the Executive bides its time, preparing for the coming influx of young-artist energy and talent.  Until then, we wait…and we plan.

Now I finally know what goes on behind the very exciting closed doors of Paprika Executive meetings. The answer, by the way, is scheduling, scheduling, scheduling, and then sometimes we schedule things.  We also meet the roommates/partners/families of whomever’s living room we have taken over as office space on any given day.

Our brand new General Manager Katherine Devlin hosted our meeting this week, and her dog proved distractingly adorable.  I may lobby for non-human entries to be considered next year. Try to ignore the genius of a puppy-based collective creation.  You can’t.  That is an amazing idea.  For puppies 21 and under (63 and under in dog years).

This is Sadie and just-look-at-that-precious-face.  I’m in love.  Welcome to the team Katherine and pup.

The year so far is about budgeting, flyers, applications, staffing, spaces, and media (“HEY ROS- You blog, right?”), and other essential steps (“HEY ROS- You Tweet, right?”).  Nothing got exciting until interviews, which we wrapped up last week  with DOUBLE last year’s application numbers.  Some of the coolest people I’ve met in a very long time travelled from as far away as Ottawa (THAT IS FAR), to spend ten minutes telling Paprika Exec about their plays, their plans, and their reasons for being involved in the Festival this year. Quality was high, competition was fierce.  As a result, our Festival is STRONG like an OX that likes to create and perform meaningful  and excellent works of theatre.

Stay alert for more updates on our newly cross-Ontario Festival!  Though to be honest the Ottawa group Skyped in their interview.  It was only ten minutes.  We don’t demand that much driving from our applicants, especially as many are too young for licenses.  Also soon some will be dogs, and dogs cannot drive.  Though I bet Sadie could.

– Rosamund Small, Associate Director

Oh, PS I do Tweet (@PaprikaFest).  Follow us.

I feel energized and old at the same time.  Energized by the talent, drive, and enthusiasm of so many young artists.  And old when I realize I’m a decade older than them.  But I just want to be their friend because they’re so cool.

This week marks the start of the 11th annual Paprika Festival, ‘Toronto’s only theatre festival celebrating the work of young and emerging artists, primarily those who are 21 and under.’

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of working with the Playwrights in Residence.  I’m not sure if “working” is the right term (although scheduling busy young pro-stars is pretty work-y).

My job mostly consisted of getting the group together over tea, stew, or ice cream and having them discuss, explain, and help each other through their writing challenges and successes on their path towards a new script.  They are all much more eloquent and insightful than I have ever been.

This week, their creations are being read at the Tarragon Theatre, along with all the other amazing works and productions by young Paprika artists.

If you’re in Toronto and want to see and hear outstanding new work, come check it out.

It’s in the Tarragon’s awesome Extra Space, it’s only $5, and, in a few years, you could very well end up saying “I knew them when…”

And you will be humbled by the amazing talent of this group of young emerging artists, there is no question.

The Paprika Festival runs March 1st-10th at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.  For the schedule of shows and events, check out www.paprikafestival.com

This post originally appeared on in80plays.wordpress.com