Cooking in the Writing Kitchen with Marilyn Norry

One of the really exciting aspects of creating the Then and Now project – Delta Stageworks’ look at living through the pandemic this past 16 months – has been reconnecting with my colleague Marilyn Norry from my early days working in the theatre in Toronto in the 1980s. I have huge admiration for Marilyn as an actor, a writer and as a story editor. She has been fearless and mesmerizing on stage and has made enormous contributions to the growth of young playwrights in Vancouver as a dramaturge and editor. She is also the founder of an important women’s history/storytelling project: My Mother’s Story. If you’re reading this, take a detour over to her website to see the scope of this almost 2 decades- long project! This summer Marilyn and I are (with input from other company members) constructing a second draft of the Then & Now script. It’s a bit like getting into a kitchen with an old friend and making up a recipe for a one pot meal that’s going to serve a big crowd; we’re going through the ingredients we have on hand and thinking about what flavours are going to work together to get to the savoury, memorable whole. It’s not unusual for a new play to take many months and many drafts to arrive at the ready-for-production form, but it is unusual to write a play from the vantage of being in an unfolding event. It’s also unusual – for us at least – to be writing for a multi-media structure. Getting to where we are now has been a completely out-of-the-box workshop process of filtering interviews, personal stories, news stories and the whole zeitgeist of pandemic life through devised theatre workshops (often using Zoom) and writing sessions. So it’s exciting – and maybe a little daunting – to now be collectively shaping up a second draft, and with a lot of big questions still in the air: What’s our big takeaway for audiences? How do we weave together personal narratives and stories from others that we’ve gathered that resonate with us? How much of the play should be digitally mediated? And a really big unknown: how are we going to end this show? Cooking in the writing kitchen with Marilyn: working with an old colleague has some rich rewards.