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Banff Playwrights Lab

Performing Arts - Theatre
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Program Information

Banff Playwrights Lab


The Banff Playwrights Lab offers Canadian playwrights an inspiring, interdisciplinary, and inclusive environment to work on their plays while surrounded by performing artists from across the country and around the world. The Lab is designed to support challenging, multi-disciplinary, provocative approaches to telling stories. 

Each year the program addresses an area of focus. In 2019, the Lab will investigate approaches to creating ‘large scale projects’. By this, we mean plays and projects that engage with ideas and issues of scale that exist across and beyond communities, nations, and individuals. An example of this could be climate change and projects that explore its impact. We are also interested in scale in terms of projects that require larger casts, design elements, and technological requirements. This program aims to foster a conversation among playwrights and their collaborators about examining large scale ideas and the tools required to tackle large scale projects. 

The Lab is committed to hosting a dynamic conversation about storytelling and contemporary performance during each residency, and invites participants creating new works for both adults and young audiences to push Canadian theatre into the future. 

Read a short history of the Lab here.

What does the program offer?

Eight Canadian writers will be accepted into the Lab and 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 essential to their creation process. 

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 selected by the Lab Director will be in residence to work on new plays and provide their perspective on theatrical creation beyond Canada. The Lab staff includes the Director, Senior Playwright-in-Residence, and Lab Dramaturg.

The 2019 Playwrights Lab has an additional component called the Retreat, a two-week winter residency 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

In 2019 the Playwrights Retreat will take place concurrently with the Citadel Theatre / Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program. That actor training program will feature international faculty working with deaf and hearing actors who will be available during the Retreat to explore new material created by the playwrights. We encourage Deaf playwrights and writers incorporating Deaf characters to consider this unique opportunity to develop your play alongside this training program.

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 17 - March 3, 2019.

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 are writing plays that seek to challenge and change our world. We want to support writers and plays that tell stories that aren’t commonly told on Canadian stages, that embrace outrage, and wrestle with wild ideas, images, and individuals.

We invite playwrights to consider this year’s focus on large scale projects when preparing their application, though it is not necessary as all applications will be considered by the adjudication committee. Also, please note that a large cast is not a requirement for applications; a two character play exploring global warming would be equally of interest to a 20-character project examining the same topic.


Retreat: February 17 - March 3, 2019

*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 8 – April 27, 2019


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 $38 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)*
$3 334.70

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

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 17 – March 3, 2019); and whether you or your project has a particular connection to Deaf culture.
•    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, Senior Writer in Residence, and Dramaturg, and additional adjudicators as required.
The Lab does not provide feedback on applications.
Invitations to attend the Lab will be extended by mid-December 2018, and the selected writers announced in February 2019. 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)