Zee Zee Theatre spearheads creation of National Queer and Trans Playwriting Unit

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      Vancouver-based Zee Zee Theatre has long been devoted to telling stories about marginalized communities. In particular, it's focused on LGBT+ experiences.

      But according to artistic and executive director Cameron Mackenzie, it's not always easy to find queer and trans plays. So his organization led a campaign for a new National Queer and Trans Playwrighting Unit.

      "This unit came about from our own selfish needs to put shows on and find plays written by more diverse, intersectional humans," Mackenzie quipped in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. "There is certainly a dearth of plays by women, a dearth of plays by intersectional playwrights."

      Zee Zee Theatre is one of 10 groups involved. The others are Vancouver's frank Theatre, Whitehorse's Gwandaak Theatre, Lethbridge's Theatre Outré, Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre, Winnipeg's Theatre Projects Manitoba, Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Native Earth Performing Arts, Montreal's Imago Theatre, and Halifax's Neptune Theatre. 

      With funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and TD Bank, the national consortium is looking for five playwrights to participate in a 10-month process.

      Their call for submissions has a deadline of July 5 and those selected will receive $2,000 per month.

      "We really want to get across that playrights are being paid to write," Mackenzie said.

      Playwrights in the program will know that their work will be read by the heads of theatre companies across the country, enhancing the likelihood of their work reaching the production stage.

      Mackenzie contrasted that with the usual commissioning structure in Canada, which he characterized as "shocking".

      Normally, he said, a playwright might be paid $3,000 or $4,000 for a play, which could take two to three years to write while juggling several jobs to pay the bills. And only if it goes into production is there a chance of royalties.

      Mackenzie acknowledged that he loves the plays from the 1990s by gay Canadian playwrights like Michel Tremblay and Brad Fraser. 

      "But when you look at that period, you don't see the same prolific playwrighting from queer women and certainly from other intersectional identities, race, and various genders," Mackenzie added.

      For more infromation on the National Queer and Trans Playwrighting Unit, visit the Zee Zee Theatre website.