This Memorial Day weekend, I'll be one of approximately 38 million Americans traveling more than 100 miles from home. In fact, I'm traveling so far to the north that I'll be observing our national Holiday in Canada.
My journey will take me directly to that wild Manitoban hotspot of Winnipeg, where part of my weekend will center (sorry Canadians, centre) around the Carol Shields Festival of New Works at the city's Prairie Theatre Exchange.
Named for the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the festival serves as a showcase for "staged readings of new plays and works in progress." While I missed last evening's gala and won't be attending any of the free offerings tonight, I hope to take in at least a couple of tomorrow's free performances.
Among the options I find particularly intriguing for Saturday:
12:00 pm - Short Shots (Presented by Prairie Theatre Exchange in Prairie Ink Restaurant & Bakery, McNally Robinson, Portage Place) - 10 minute plays commissioned specially for the Festival from local playwrights, including Joseph Aragon, Sharon Bajer, Tricia Cooper, Rick Chafe, James Durham, Jason Neufeld & Ellen Peterson.
2:30 pm - That Elusive Spark by Janet Munsil (Presented by Prairie Theatre Exchange in the PTE Mainstage Theatre) - That Elusive Spark explores the magnificence and fragility of the human brain. The play was inspired by the true story of New England construction foreman Phineas Gage who, in 1848, survived a freak blasting accident that drove an four foot iron spike through his skull -- but suffered a complete personality change. The incident changed the course of modern medicine and still serves as a reminder of the enduring and fascinating debate about how the mind works and what it means to be human.
4:30 pm - One Night Stand - Selections of works-in-progress by Michelle Amaya-Torres, Mira Black, Joy Eidse, Hope McIntyre, Cairn Moore, Anne Nesbitt, and special guests. (Presented by Sarasvati Productions in the PTE Colin Jackson Studio Theatre) - Originally conceived by Bonnie Anderson and Lindsay Price in Toronto, One Night Stand is designed to offer playwrights the opportunity to test out their material for an audience. Excerpts from works in progress will be read by an ensemble of actors and the audience will decide if the work is worth a second date. The line-up features a variety of Manitoba playwrights at various stages in their careers, tackling a broad range of story ideas and topics. Be part of the development process and let your local playwrights know what is hot and what is not!
7:30 pm - Lucrezia Borgia by Joseph Aragon (Presented by the Canadian Musical Theatre Development Group in the PTE Mainstage) - Lucrezia Borgia is an original musical that presents a new perspective on the infamous daughter of Pope Alexander XI and her bloody legacy. While the legendary Lucrezia has been portrayed for centuries as a murderous harlot, this musical explores a side of her that history has chosen to ignore -- one that focuses on her strength, compassion and vitality for life, as well as her constant struggle between the desire to follow her own heart, and her loyalty to her family and the Borgia name.
Did I mention that each of these performances are free, offered to the public on a first-come, first served basis?
Click here for Carol Shields Festival of New Works information.