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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Banff Playwrights Lab

Posted on April 25, 2023
Playwrights 2022

Banff Playwrights Lab in 2022: Standing (left to right, back row): Vickie Ramirez, Marlene Ginader, Marcus Youssef, Mary Vingo, Garry Williams, Devin Mackenzie, Hiro Kanagawa, Matt Miwa, Jonathan Mourant, Michael Caldwell, Nathan Medd (Managing Director, Performing Arts), and Colin Wolf (Métis Creator in Residence). Standing (second row from back): Eden Middleton, Anika Johnson, Jenna Rodgers (Lab dramaturg), and Marie Beath Badian. Sitting (second row from front): Davinder Malhi, Tom Hill, Adjani Poirier, Monice Peters, Cecil Castellucci, and Brian Quirt (Lab Director). Sitting (front row): Kodie Rollan (Lab Assistant Dramaturg), Tara Beagan (Senior Playwright in Residence), and Beth Kates. Photo by Jim Olver.

Banff Centre is celebrating its 50th edition of the Banff Playwrights Lab. Since its inception in 1974, the Lab has sustained its founding principles of focusing on playwrights and developing new works away from the pressures of a producing theatre. Over the past 50 years, more than 800 plays have been written, created, and workshopped at Banff Centre by leading playwrights from across the country and beyond. One of the longest continuously operating writing programs at Banff Centre, Lab alumni include 500 playwrights plus dramaturgs, actors, and directors.  

In 2013, Artistic Director of Nightswimming and dramaturg/director Brian Quirt became Lab Director. In collaboration with current Lab Dramaturg Jenna Rodgers, he has since made inclusion and equity central to Lab curation, programming, participants, and projects. 

“It’s fitting that the Playwrights Lab marks its 50th edition with a focus on plays and artists engaging with land / sky / water, exploring their stories through Indigenous lenses and issues such as climate, migration, ecology, borders, refugee crises, and environmental justice. With thanks to the artists and leaders that have come before us, we’re committed to sustaining and amplifying the legacy of 50 years of creating new plays for Canadian stages by telling new stories, in new ways, to new audiences.” - Lab Director Brian Quirt

Plays workshopped during the Lab are performed across Canada and around the globe. During the 2018/19 season, for example, the last full year prior to the pandemic, 37 plays developed at the Lab between 2013-2018 were on stage and on tour across Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the United States, England, and Denmark, for a total of more than 50 runs.

“Our Banff Playwrights Lab residency allowed our team of collaborators from across the country to put aside the demands of their busy lives and focus on our play. In such an inspiring natural environment, where our daily needs were so well taken care of, it seemed almost effortless to build connection and trust with each other. We got more done in those two weeks than in the previous year.” - 2022 Lab participants Leanna Brodie & Jovanni Sy

To mark the Lab’s 50th edition, Banff Centre will be hosting the 2023 LMDA International Dramaturgy Conference convened by the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. Also new this year is the introduction of an Apprentice Dramaturg position to help nurture the next generation of Canadian dramaturgs.  

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