Festival History

History of Brave New Play Rites
By Bryan Wade

A toilet bowl. A piano. A chair. Three pools of light.. A Volkswagen Beetle. A table. A section of rope. A ladder. A fridge. A talking tree. The outline of moonlit leaves through a window. A wheelchair. A bolt of red cloth stretching like a river.

All of the above were settings for plays produced in the Brave New Play Rites festival.

We’ve had musicals. Comedies. Sketches. Excerpts from full-length plays. Docu-dramas. One person shows. Self-indulgent rants. Dramas.

A minimum of three hundred plays produced. Possibly as many as four hundred plays in total including staged readings.

We’ve had full-frontal nudity. Foul language. Gunshots. Cigarettes being smoked. Meals being eaten. Illegal substances being inhaled. Children. Animals too. Recently we had two plays with wolves. This year we have one with a beaver, otter, muskrat and a turtle.

Some years we produced as many as twenty-four plays. Three performances for each play over the course of six days.

Venues have ranged from Studio 1398, to the Vancouver Little Theatre, to the Waterfront Theatre, to the original Dorothy Somerset Studio (a low ceiling black box theatre), to the ballroom at the Graduate Student Centre, to the Presentation House in N. Vancouver, to the Asian Centre auditorium, to the Telus Theatre at the Chan Centre, to the stage of the Frederic Wood Theatre.

Brave New alumnae who are working playwrights: Aaron Bushkowsky, Dave Deveau, C.E. Gatchalian, Sara Graefe, Jordan Hall and Dan Hershfield. Who have succeeded in the Can lit world: Stephanie Bolster (GG winner), Kevin Chong, Anne Fleming, Steven Galloway, Zzusi Gartner, and Maureen Medved. Who have become artistic directors: Tim Carlson and Richard Wolfe. Brave New plays have gone on to be produced in New York, Toronto and Scotland, as well as being produced as films.

Brave New Play Rites started out as a simple idea when I landed at the Creative Writing Department in 1986. Have playwriting students write short plays as part of their course. Find a space. Get some actors. Get some directors. Produce them. Have folks come. There is no better learning experience for a student who has written a play then to see it produced in front of a live audience. To actually have people laugh, cry or recognize a glimpse of themselves when they witness a student’s work is a transforming experience for that student and one that cannot be easily quantified. There is also a more intrinsic learning experience for a student who has written a play. He or she gets to see firsthand the process involved for the theatre artists who collaborate together in the production of their play.

Starting with the open auditions we hold each January, the playwrights get to know how an actor approaches their craft in creating a character through rehearsal, how a director translates their words into a believable world on the stage, and how a stage manager, and lighting, sound and costume designers all make significant contributions. Theatre is ultimately a collaborative art form.