Motivation for playwrights, comedy for readers

Collection of PTE shorts highlights some of the city’s most talented playwrights

Reviewed by Kyla Neufeld

A debate about pies, an argument about alien abductions, adolescent chess players, and a zombie asking to be remembered: all of these can be found in The Long & Short of It: A selection of short plays written by the Prairie Theatre Exchange Playwrights Unit, a new collection of “Short Shots” written by the Prairie Theatre Exchange Playwrights Unit and edited by Brian Drader, the executive director of the Manitoba Association of Playwrights.

Every year, the Playwrights Unit showcases new plays during the Carol Shields Festival of New Works. The Long & Short of It represents the best of those 50-plus plays by playwrights such as Sharon Bajer, Joseph Aragon, Rick Chafe, Debbie Patterson, James Durham, and Alix Sobler.

“There was such a cohesive voice to all of these. It ended up, I think, fitting together really well,” says Collins, adding that most of the plays have a comedic slant. “I like, too, that it feels like a snapshot of what that experience [of writing for the Carol Shields Festival] has been like,” adds Trish Cooper, author of the play “Life of Pie.”

“I actually think for anyone else it would be fun to read,” says Cooper. “There’s a lot going on.”

The Long & Short of It is dedicated to Bob Metcalfe, artistic director of PTE for 15 years, who founded both the Playwrights Unit and the Carol Shields Festival. Metcalfe has commissioned, nurtured, and produced 19 plays through the Playwrights Unit and has been a source of constant support and encouragement for local playwrights.

“When we found out that Bob Metcalfe would be leaving Prairie TheatreExchange, we thought it would be a loving parting gift to give him, to publish this book and dedicate it to him,” Collins says. “We presented it to him at the last Carol Shields Festival where he was the artistic director.”

For Brian Drader, who recently returned to Winnipeg to head MAP after being the director of playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal from 2004 to 2017, editing The Long & Short of It was like catching up with old friends.

“The PTE Unit represents many of this city’s most talented and active playwrights,” he says. “And what a pleasure to dig into their plays! To experience how my old colleagues have grown as artists and storytellers, to experience the work of two former students who have come fully into their own, and to discover the work of new playwrights who I didn’t
know except by reputation.”

Drader concludes, “To be able to so quickly get reacquainted with old colleagues and meet new ones was a blessing.”

https://prairiebooksnow.ca/pdf/PBN-73.pdf