Jewish playwright Oren Safdie among the big names set for Infinitheatre’s PIPELINE

By Mike Cohen (with files  from Janis Kirshner)

Every year Infinithéâtre proudly presents a selection of its newest discoveries in PIPELINE, an annual series of free public play readings where the audience takes centre stage, offering valuable feedback that furthers script development and helps choose future seasons. Guy Sprung, Infinithéâtre’s artistic director, invites the public to be part of the excitement and share their views from Thursday, December 5 to Saturday, December 7 at the Rialto Studio and Sunday, December 8 at KIN Gallery. Pipeline is four plays in four days, including the Kevin prize, first place winner from Infinithéâtre’s annual Write-On-Q! script writing competition, named in memory of the late Kevin Tierney, renowned Canadian film producer, Montreal Gazette columnist & Infinithéâtre Board Member. The playwrights will be in attendance.

This marks the 14th year for the Pipeline reading series. In its ongoing mandate, Infinithéâtre seeks innovative and challenging new works by Québec and Indigenous playwrights to bring to the stage. The Write-On-Q! competition feeds much of the series. Submitting their work are not only produced playwrights, but also unknown writers including students in writing programs at universities and theatre schools, along with plays coming from CEGEP & university professors, journalists, editors, actors, screenwriters, poets, directors, novelists and various literary award-winners. The winning and runner-up scripts are selected by an independent jury, chaired this year by playwright/actor Alexandria Haber, which included Gerry Lipnowski, Patricia Saxton and Marianne Ackerman. Juries receive their copies with the names of the playwrights redacted.

Artistic Director Guy Sprung is very pleased with the over 35 high-quality Write-On-Q! entries this year and invites audiences to hear some of Montreal’s finest actors led by talented directors read scripts that could become future local productions, adding relevant, Québécois theatre to the landscape. Over half of the submissions this year are from culturally diverse Quebeckers. Said Sprung, “I’m looking forward to the public readings of four differing, very powerful pieces of new writing. These are potent, pertinent, controversial and fabulously written pieces of theatre for audiences to dissect.”

Pipeline professional readings include the winner of Write-On-Q!’s First Place $3000 Kevin Prize— Jewish playwright Oren Safdie for Colour Blind and the Second Place prize, $1500—Divide and Rule by Vishesh Abeyratne.

Pipeline gives the public a unique opportunity to voice their opinions through lively talkback discussions following each reading—an important part of any play development. Providing invaluable input for the playwrights, talkbacks allow the audience to address questions or issues that the text generates, in a relaxed, open forum with the authors, directors and actors. Pipeline successes include Battered and Book of Bob by Arthur Holden; Oren Safdie’s Unseamly and Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv; Michael Milech’s Honesty Rents by the HourConversion, Progress! and Trench Patterns by Alyson Grant; Marianne Ackerman’s Triplex Nervosa; Michaela Di Cesare’s Successions; Alexandria Haber’s Alice and the World We Live In; and Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Playwriting Prize winner Paradise Lost by Erin Shields.

Oren Safdie

Sat. December 7, 7pm at the Rialto Studio—Write-On-Q! first place winner, Kevin prize

Colour Blind by  Oren Safdie, directed by Philip Akin Cast TBD

Colour Blind is a fictionalized account of the jury deliberations surrounding the selection of an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The Jury ultimately chose David Adjaye to design the building. The play lifts the veil that renders the process of architectural production bewildering, and invites the audience into the usually sealed-off space where critical decisions about architecture are made. The jurors consist of a racially diverse cast of characters that include the museum director and his associate, an architecture critic and starchitect, and the museum’s treasurer and a community organizer. Can they all put their personal politics aside and agree on one design?

Oren Safdie helmed the Malibu Stage Co. where his off-Broadway/London hit Private Jokes, Public Places debuted. His next play, The Last Word also moved off-Broadway, starring Daniel J. Travanti. Other productions include Unseamly, Checks & Balances, The Bilbao Effect, West Bank, UK, Jews & Jesus and La Compagnie, which he developed into a pilot for CBS. Four of his plays garnered a New York Times Critic’s Pick. As a screenwriter, Oren scripted the film You Can Thank Me Later starring Ellen Burstyn, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Newport Film Festival; and the Israeli film Bittersweet. He has taught playwriting and screenwriting at the University of Miami, Douglas College in Vancouver, and California School of the Arts. His most recent play, Gratitude, will open in New York in 2021.

“Infinithéâtre’s Write-On-Q! playwriting competition has been a great motivator to my writing,” Oren says.  “Color Blind is my 4th play set in the world of contemporary architecture, but has the least to do with architecture, dealing with issues of racial identity that have recently flared up in the United States and Canada. Things that were appropriate years ago—or even yesterday—are highly inappropriate today. There are those who would disapprove of anyone addressing issues in a culture other than their own. I believe there can be value in getting an outsider’s point of view, if done properly. If not, let the writer pay the price; if writers are restricted from imagining, society will pay the price.”

Sun. December 8, 2pm at KIN Gallery

Mazel Tov by Marc-André Thibault, directed by Ellen David

With: Alex Weiner, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, Elana Dunkelman and Howard Rosenstein

Isabelle is Jewish, Patrick isn’t. They are getting married. During the celebration, Phillip, Patrick’s best friend, makes a gesture that is perceived as anti-Semitic. Several guests are angry, in addition to Isabelle, who strikes Phillip, and seriously harms him. The wedding is not the one we hoped for. The marriage is even worse…

Since his actor’s training at the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec, Marc-André has been very active in theater as an actor, an author, translator, director and producer with the company he created, Théâtre Bistouri. He likes to tell stories that mix humor and drama, and he stands out with his frank plays and his sharp dialogue. He also wrote Tout craché, and translated from English to French, A skull in ConnemaraConversations with my PenisMadraBeing Norwegian and Straight.

On Sunday afternoon, come for the play reading, stay for the holiday party!

PIPELINE 2019, Thursday Dec. 5 to Sunday, Dec. 8, Discussion to follow each reading Thurs. to Sat. 7pm at Rialto Studio, 5711 Park Ave.; Sun. 2pm, at KIN Gallery, 397a Saint-Catherine St. W.

Tickets are free to reserve; a $10 donation at the door is suggested (limited seating).To reserve: 514 987-1774 ext. 104 or RSVP online or by email