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Banff Playwrights Lab

Performing Arts - Theatre

Program archived and cancelled

Program Information

Photo by Jessica Wittman.


Experience an inspiring, interdisciplinary, and inclusive environment to work on your play while surrounded by performing artists from across the country and around the world. The Lab supports challenging, multi-disciplinary, provocative approaches to telling stories. We are proud to gather on Treaty 7 territory to create, share, and explore theatrical storytelling.

In 2020, the Lab will investigate projects that incorporate multiple languages, as well as the strategies playwrights use to tell stories across language and culture. We intend to foster an international conversation about how languages are used, methods of conveying multi-lingual content to audiences, and the power of languages to uniquely capture the voices of communities less frequently seen on Canadian stages. The Lab will also be collaborating with Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre to support Indigenous creators’ work, and examining devices such as surtitles, simultaneous translation, audio description, captioning via glasses and other technologies.

We invite participants developing new works for both adults and young audiences to join us in a dynamic conversation about storytelling and contemporary performance as we push Canadian theatre into the future.

What does the program offer?

Eight Canadian writers will be offered a two-week residency at Banff Centre during the Lab period; each writer may invite a collaborator to attend for up to four days to work on their project. For example, that collaborator could be a dramaturg, director, actor, designer, musician, choreographer, or translator. We encourage writers to consider inviting a non-theatre artist or individual essential to their creation process.

In addition to the dramaturgical staff comprised of the Lab Director, Dramaturg, Assistant Dramaturg, and Senior Playwright-in-Residence, a company of actors will be on site to read scripts aloud and explore texts on their feet, available for at least one half-day session to work on each project. International writer/dramaturg teams will be in residence to work on new plays and provide their perspective on theatrical creation beyond Canada.

The 2020 Playwrights Lab has an additional component called the Retreat, a two-week winter residency in February 2020 to enable selected playwrights to focus on an intensive, individual writing process for a specific project. The Retreat includes a Leighton Artists Studios writing studio. The Lab Director and Dramaturg will be in attendance for part of the Retreat to consult with the selected writers, but this is not a dramaturgical process – the focus is on writing and creation.  

The Retreat

The Retreat is by invitation only; you may specifically request participation in this component as part of your application. Please address this in your artistic statement. The Retreat may be offered in tandem with an invitation to the Lab. 

Retreat dates: February 16 - March 1, 2020.

Who should apply?

The Lab seeks artists who are exploring theatrical form, taking risks, and asking questions about our society. We value strong storytelling, diversity (in form, culture, and community), beautiful language, bold experimentation, and collaboration. We seek artists who demand that theatre can have social and political impact, and who are writing plays that seek to challenge and change our world.

We want to support writers and plays telling stories not commonly told on Canadian stages that embrace outrage and wrestle with wild ideas, images, and individuals. We encourage artists working with Indigenous languages and those working on projects with little or no language to apply.

We invite playwrights to consider this year’s focus on multi-lingual projects when preparing their application. However, this is not mandatory as all applications will be considered by the adjudication committee regardless of whether they incorporate multiple languages. 

The Lab is conducted in English. We will have a multi-lingual acting company but cannot guarantee play readings in the language(s) being used by all applicants. All text translations are the playwrights’ responsibility.


Retreat: February 16 - March 1, 2020

*The Retreat is by invitation only but all Lab applicants will be considered. The Retreat may be offered in tandem with an invitation to the Lab.

Lab: April 14 – May 3, 2020


What's Included

Single RoomRead MoreClose

Your program fee includes a single bedroom on the Banff Centre campus for the duration of your program.

Get connected with other artists on campus and focus on your projects in a creative environment while we take care of the day-to-day essentials.

Full Flex Meal PlanRead MoreClose

Using a credit-based system to dine on campus, our flexible meal plans allow you to select meals according to your own needs during your stay.

The Full Flex meal plan includes $40 credit per day, equivalent to breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Vistas Dining Room.

100% ScholarshipRead MoreClose

You will receive a full scholarship to cover the costs of the program.

Travel Read MoreClose

A financial award towards your travel costs to and from Banff. Regional maximums apply.

Gym MembershipRead MoreClose

Your program fee includes free access to the swimming pool, climbing gym, and fitness suite as well as discounted rates for classes at the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre.

Paul D. Fleck Library and ArchivesRead MoreClose

Access a wide range of publications, books, music, and films in the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives, open six days a week.

Box Office DiscountsRead MoreClose

Enjoy special artist rates for ticketed performances or complimentary access to events.

Participant ResourcesRead MoreClose

Enrich your experience and get to know other artists on campus by taking advantage of the activities and support provided by our Participant Resources team.

Fees & Financial Assistance

Approximate program value (single room)*
$3 582.24

Application fee: $65

*Lab participants will receive 100% scholarship to cover the program cost.

In addition, the Lab will provide invited collaborators with a single room for up to four nights and a full meal plan (scheduled in consultation with the Lab Director). All Lab participants and collaborators will receive a financial award towards travel costs to and from Banff. Regional maximums apply.

Note: Playwrights do not receive a fee or honourarium to attend the Lab. The Lab is focused on providing every resource writers need to focus on their creative work, including travel support, accommodation, meals, collaborators, actors, and dramaturgy.

How to Apply

It is important to be aware of all steps included in submitting your application.
Learn more.

Artistic Statement

No more than two pages outlining:

•    Your project status, what you would like to accomplish at the Lab, what you are striving to achieve with the story, relationship to the Lab focus on scale (if any; it is not mandatory), list of readings and workshops, and relationship with play development centres and/or producing companies or collaborators (if any).
•    Whether you are available to be considered for the Retreat (February 16 – March 1, 2020)
•    Whether there is a collaborator you wish to attend the Lab, and their name, relationship to the project, and availability.

Draft Script/Text

Pages must be numbered with the title and your name clearly indicated at the top of each page.


Please include a resume or bio for playwright and collaborator (if any).

Artistic statement, script, and resume/bio must be submitted as one PDF document, in that order. If you are including any materials for which you are not the writer/creator, you must obtain the rights prior to applying, otherwise we cannot accept your project. 

Acknowledging the Banff Playwrights Lab

In recognition of the Lab’s contribution to the development of each writers’ work, writers are required to include Banff Centre’s logo and credit on the title page of all future readings, workshops, productions, recordings, and publications of their projects.


All applications will be reviewed by the Playwrights Lab Director, Dramaturg, Assistant Dramaturg and Senior Writer-in-Residence, and additional adjudicators as required. The Lab does not provide feedback on applications.

Invitations to attend the Lab will be extended by mid-December 2019, and the selected writers announced in February 2020. Final decisions are made by the Lab Director.


  • Applications are open to Canadians and Permanent Residents only.
  • We do accept plays that are commissioned by other theatres or producers; however, you must obtain written permission from the commissioning organization stating that they support your application.
  • We will consider projects that have been produced. The writer, however, must make a compelling case for a process of revising the project based on what they gleaned from the production, with the goal of making the play more prepared for future productions. A produced project is defined as a project that has been reviewed by critics. We do consider plays that have had a previous workshop, or developmental opportunities.
  • We will consider plays that are already scheduled for a production. Please include information on the production, including dates and creative team. In your artistic statement, please articulate your developmental goals for the project prior to rehearsal.
  • The Lab is unable to accept applications for projects that have been declined in previous years.

Please ensure that you have reviewed these important FAQs about Banff Centre before applying.

All programs, faculty, dates, fees, and offers of financial assistance are subject to change. Program fee is subject to applicable taxes. Non-refundable fees and deposits will be retained upon cancellation. Any other fees are refunded at the discretion of the Banff Centre. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Contact the Registrar

For questions on preparing your application, please contact the Office of the Registrar:

Toll Free Number (Canada + USA)