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New Play Development Program

Researching and Writing

4th Line Theatre supports a 5-phase New Play Development Program which supports the research, creation and workshopping of theatrical projects destined for production. The company recognizes the need for participating playwrights to connect with community in the various phases of play creation and helps to facilitate this unique interaction. Play development also includes audience feedback at preview readings of new work. 4th Line Theatre audiences generally have a strong investment in the projects we create since the majority of them are based on regional stories.

Commitment to local culture and history, artistic excellence, authenticity of presentation, innovative staging, community involvement, development of Canadian theatre artists, and the exploration of an environmental theatre aesthetic are the guiding artistic principles of 4th Line Theatre. We strive to cultivate playwrights and projects in line with these principles. The phases of our play development program are as follows:


PHASE 1: Seeding

Through a widely advertised bi-annual new play competition, themes and ideas for plays are gathered. Playwrights who have had at least one dramatic work professionally produced may have a project selected for seed funding. A modest honorarium is given to each writer to conduct research, develop a play structure, and draft scenes of a play script that could be developed and produced at 4th Line Theatre. Seeded writers meet regularly with the company's Artistic Director or a designated company artistic associate, who monitors and supports the work, clearly communicating the special requirements for plays produced at 4th Line Theatre (e.g. commitment to historical, archival, social, oral research). Each year, seeded projects are reviewed by the Artistic Director in consultation with company artistic associates to consider whether to proceed to the next phase, Breaking Ground. The purpose of this seeding program is to develop potential play scripts for production by 4th Line, as well as to encourage the artistic development of Canadian playwrights.


PHASE 2: Breaking Ground

4th Line Theatre’s seeded writers who have produced scenes or a draft may be invited to further analyze, test, research, study, prepare, and/or develop their work through Breaking Ground. This program consists of three components: a period of dramaturgical consultation; a 2-day script laboratory with a supervising dramaturge/director; and a public reading/audience feedback session. The seeded playwright is given the opportunity to revise his or her script while working with a professional and experienced dramaturge. Next, writers are provided with an opportunity to study, analyze, and test their work with actors in a script workshop laboratory setting, and then with an audience. Audience feedback provides useful information for the playwright in the play development process.


PHASE 3: Commissions

Once a playwright has been successfully seeded and passed through Breaking Ground, his/her project may be considered for commission funding by the Artistic Director in consultation with the company artistic associates. A fee is then given to the playwright to create a first or second play draft. During the commission phase, the Artistic Director or a designated company artistic associate meets with the playwright regularly to monitor the work’s progress and to suggest possible improvements or changes. The company may also choose to match a dramaturge with the playwright during this phase to monitor the work’s progress and provide helpful feedback to the playwright.


PHASE 4: Intensive Development and Production Workshops

Each year, commissioned first drafts are selected by the Artistic Director in consultation with company artistic associates for development and production workshops leading to production at the 4th Line Theatre. The fall development workshop is geared toward identifying the play's strengths and weaknesses, and to suggesting improvements in the areas of character, story, dramatic structure and style. The winter production workshop is for polishing and fine-tuning the draft resulting from the development workshop. As well, the production workshop provides an opportunity for the company artistic team to address aesthetic issues relevant to the upcoming production. The playwright is paid to attend the workshops and is given additional remuneration for script re-writes between and subsequent to the workshops. The nature and duration of the workshops will be determined by the needs of the playwright and 4th Line Theatre.


PHASE 5: First Look

Workshopped scripts are given a public reading as part of 4th Line Theatre’s summer season in selected years. The goals of First Look are to give the playwright a final chance to hear his or her play read with audience feedback prior to production and to have audiences continue to take an active role in the new play development process by introducing them to future seasons’ playbills. The form of each First Look presentation is left to the discretion of its director in consultation with the Artistic Director and the playwright, but typically consists of a public reading of a section of the play. First Look is generally held at the 4th Line Theatre’s performance venue located at The Winslow Farm towards the end of the summer season. Playwrights are expected to participate in this final phase of our new play development program and carry out final script revisions prior to production rehearsals.


One of the most unique aspects of our new play development program is the reminiscence component which involves a well-publicized community meeting to begin many of our projects.  Interested community members who have some knowledge of a topic, as well as members of the public, gather together with a playwright and ‘reminisce’ about their memories.  This is an amazing first connection between people with important stories and audiences.  New play development is critical to the success of 4th Line Theatre.  There are few “off the shelf” scripts that are production-ready for our distinctive venue.  There are equally few playwrights with the community experience and knowledge to produce a script for 4th Line Theatre on their own.  The main aim of this program, then, is to match professional playwrights to our theatre and its particular aesthetic, thereby providing Canadian artists with a challenging, supportive and exciting creative experience and in the process promoting regional cultural development and the creation of high-quality scripts for our audience.


Our play creation activities fit squarely within our mission, mandate and artistic vision as we develop primarily plays based on local history and/or local stories.

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