Resurgence, or How I Got into Paprika and Love the Theatre Even More

Hello everyone. My name is Romina and I'm a third year student at York University, doing a double-major in Communication Studies and Sociology. When I'm not pursuing a liberal arts degree, I spend my time surfing the web, obsessing over shows like Doctor Who, Simpsons, and Parks and Rec, and write whatever's on my mind. This is my first year at Paprika and I'm a playwright under the Mini-Mentorships program.

"Say what? There's a Mini-Mentorships program? But I never heard of that before," is what you're thinking right now. I had that same reaction too when I found out I got in the program. For those wanting to know what it is, the Mini-Mentorships program was created this year for young and up-and-coming playwrights. Think of it as the little sibling to the Playwrights-in-Residence program. While people always go "what's that?" and "huh?" every time I mention the program, it is still a great program for young playwrights to create their works in an environment offered by Paprika.

Before I entered the program, I had limited experience working in theatre. I was an active member in my high school drama club and the school newspaper. I wanted to pursue a writing career and all I wanted to do was to write scripts for the stage and screen. My parents thought I should get a degree that's reliable in the real world, so I gave in (hence why I'm not in a fine arts program). The only education I got for playwriting was by reading plays and a book called "Screenwriting For Dummies". But I continued my love for theatre thanks to a theatre group at York that is open to students of all programs.

I first heard of Paprika at the Fringe Festival. I was reading a program for a show and it was mentioned in someone's bio that one of the actors used to work for the Paprika Festival. When I researched it, I soon applied after reading about their program for young playwrights. I was ecstatic when I found out I got in, I wanted to threw my hat up in the air like Mary Tyler Moore and say "I'm gonna make it after all." I did that a few days later.

My experience at Paprika shouldn't be described as overwhelming, but rather invigorating. I have met a number of people with diverse backgrounds and are participating at the festival as actors, directors, stage managers, and writers. I have even met people who are younger than me and have more experience in theatre than I do. But the fact that I have a lack of a theatre background did not affect my time at Paprika. I was immediately welcomed and treated like family. I always get anxious the week heading up to the Sunday training days, because you never know what fun we're gonna have and what memories will we cherish forever.

One of things I like about Paprika was getting the chance to connect with professional artists.  I have sat through the panels where professional artists shared stories on how they got to where they are now and such.They are all supportive for the participants and they are also wonderful people to talk to. My mentor, Mel, is the resident dramaturge at the Obsidian Theatre. We found out a few things we have in common, such as that we both went to York. Prior to meeting Mel, I was scared of having my play read by a professional artist. The fact that someone who works in theatre reading my play really freaked me out. In my mind, I was going “will she like it?”, or “I knew I shouldn’t wrote that in the script”. Instead, she had positive feedback for me. She was very supportive and encouraged me to get more involved in theatre. What I thought would be a scary meeting turned into a hour-long words of encouragement over coffee and hot chocolate.

Participating at Paprika is the best decision I've made in my life so far. I had fun taking part in my school drama clubs, but soon I felt like living under a bubble and I wanted to get out. I had to do something fast before my interest in theatre waned down. Going to training days, chatting with Mel, and all the other experiences I had at Paprika made me appreciate the theatre even more. It's a great way for young artists to get a kickstart in working in theatre and you get a hands-on experience in creating a show and knowing what it takes to be an artist in Toronto. With Paprika, you are in a supportive environment and there are people who all share a similar goal, but have gone through different paths.

For me, Paprika allowed me to get out of the bubble and explore what theatre has to offer. It renewed my love for theatre and I haven't been this active than before. I could use a Doctor Who reference to describe my experience here as a regeneration of some sort, but that's too much to explain. Paprika may be considered as my breakthrough, but who knows what's gonna happen to me next? Maybe someday, I'll have a show at Fringe and inspire some future young artist to join Paprika, just as how I got here in the first place. But we'll see what happens next.