Prairie Theatre Exchange has always been, and continues to strive to be, a “home” for theatre artists – a place where new ideas can be explored, and creativity can be supported and encouraged. In 2007, PTE formed a Playwrights Unit and invited local playwrights to apply to join. The successful applications were chosen by a committee comprised of several members of the theatre community, headed by then-PTE Artistic Director Bob Metcalfe, and are a mix of new and established playwrights who encompass a broad range of personal experience.
Beginning March 2007, these artists have been be actively engaged in writing scripts (not necessarily one that would be suitable for PTE) and acting as a support group, supplying feedback on each others’ work. Prairie Theatre Exchange has set aside a newly-decorated (just for them) office where members can find a quiet place to work, or to think. PTE also hosts the feedback meetings, provides readings and workshops when appropriate, acts as an advocate for the members’ work, and, most importantly, provides access to all the resources at PTE, from printing and photocopying to advice from the General Manager on grant-writing.
In November of 2018, current PTE artistic director Thomas Morgan Jones announced the creation of the PTE Emerging Playwrights Unit, in partnership with Manitoba Association of Playwrights. Over the course of two years, PTE and MAP will provide support and resources as the members develop a new work for the stage and a public reading of their work-in-progress in 2020.
Since the original Unit began, PTE has issued commissions to many of the works-in-progress and has produced a new Playwrights Unit play every season since 2010-11. We produced Burnin' Love by Sharon Bajer in March, 2011, The Secret Mask by Rick Chafe in November, 2012 and The Brink by Ellen Peterson opened the 2012-2013 season as the 140th new play in our 40 year history. Social Studies by Tricia Cooper was produced as part of PTE's 2013-14 season in November, 2013. Rick Chafe's Marriage: A Demolition in Two Acts was on the PTE stage in March 2016, Ginny Collins's The Flats in January/February 2017, and Joseph Aragon's How the Heavens Go in February 2018.
Because our playwrights are not confined to writing just for PTE, they have seen a number of plays produced on other stages, including Alix Sobler's The Annex at the RMTC Warehouse and Joseph Aragon's Bloodless in Toronto and Winnipeg. Both The Secret Mask and Social Studies have seen additional productions across the country since premiering at PTE.
PTE feels that this is a win-win situation – the lifeblood of theatre in this community (the playwrights) are given the opportunity to pursue their craft with encouragement and support, and PTE is able to more fully realize our goal to foster the creation of theatre and to nurture theatre artists. And having artists around the
Members of the PTE Playwrights Unit:
Joseph Aragon | Sharon Bajer | Rick Chafe | Ginny Collins | Tricia Cooper | James Durham | Debbie Patterson | Ellen Peterson | Ian Ross.
Members of the PTE Emerging Playwrights Unit:
Wren Brian | Kristian Jordan | Jo MacDonald | Alissa Watson | Liam Zarrillo