Monday, May 5, 2014

THE OUT VIGIL: the Playwright

Last week, we started dramaturgy on the current draft of The Out Vigil, and on my way to join Sabrina, Peter, and the other members of the team, I heard a radio ad for the new season of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch... Given that my watching a random episode of the show – eight years ago! – is what first inspired me to write this play, I couldn’t help thinking: Coincidence? Or... some greater synchronicity?

If we were to ask Lizzie and Danny – the two young Newfoundlanders who find themselves in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, for the opening of the winter crab-fishing season – they’d each provide a very different answer. Superstition and pragmatism are at odds throughout the piece, and I wanted to see what would happen when these people – who are deeply connected in many ways – are confronted with a threatening situation, one that reveals their essentially different worldviews, and forces them to come to an understanding, a compromise of some kind.

I have always been fascinated by the water, by the sea; by those who choose to make their living out there, and by all the accompanying stories, myths, and rituals. I love boats, I love swimming, and I only like to live in places where I can see the water. But in truth, it also scares me, a lot. Because there’s an essential contradiction there... It’s beautiful, necessary, sustaining. And yet, there are its dark, unknown depths, its sinister, strange creatures – and the fact that it can kill, so very quickly.

In the 1988 fishing season up in Alaska, 42 men died.

I wanted to know: who are these people, who readily put themselves in harm’s way? And what makes that sacrifice, that risk, worth it? But I was also curious about this question – is there such thing as safety, really? Is there any way to truly protect those we love?

And I knew there would have to be music. Music as a way of life, not something the characters simply do, but something that is very much connected to who they are. And, unquestionably, I wanted to tell a Canadian story; a story with a deep sense of place and time, one that would speak to those of us from small, tight-knit communities.

As a contemporary female playwright, I was also keen to call into question our modern propensity to negatively judge and dismiss ‘traditional’ relationship dynamics as old-fashioned or – (gasp!) – regressive… Because, I have to tell you: there is a dynamic here that feels very true, very real, and very powerful to me. But as an independent, educated, opinionated young woman, I feel that it’s problematic for me to admit that.

What do you think? Come see our show, and find out.

~Julie McIsaac
Playwright, The Out Vigil


Julie is graduate of Carleton University and the Canadian College of Performing Arts. She has appeared on stages throughout Western Canada, including the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, the Belfry Theatre, the Citadel Theatre, Pacific Theatre, Carousel Theatre, and the Chemainus Theatre Festival – and she is a two-time Jessie award nominee, for Ophelia in Hamlet (Honest Fishmongers) and Jane in Mother Teresa is Dead (Bleeding Heart/Pacific Theatre). Other projects this past year: music-making in Caravan Farm's Head Over Heels, directing Lend Me a Tenor (Company C) and Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Dancing Monkey Presents), reuniting with the Honest Fishmongers for Measure for Measure (Pacific Theatre), performing as Léa in Des fraises en janvier (Théâtre la Seizième), and Sister James in Doubt (TheatreOne). Julie is also an Associate Artist with Relephant Theatre, where past directing projects include Ordinary Days and The Exquisite Hour. Other credits: directing the premiere of Countryside Christmas (Chemainus), two seasons as an apprentice director at Bard on the Beach, Associate Director of Sum Theatre’s My Rabbi, (heading to the Edinburgh Festival in August 2014), and also this summer, Assistant Stage Director of L’Incoronazione di Poppea in Sulmona, Italy. The Out Vigil is Julie's first full-length play, and she is grateful for the support of Twenty Something Theatre, and PTC’s Write Space program. For Jacques.

Catch Julie's play, The Out Vigil, on stage at the Havana Theatre from May 28 - 31st. More information and tickets at Brown Paper Tickets. Click here.

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