Out on a Limb

Out on a Limb



About the book

What is the new generation of Canadian playwrights writing about? What makes them turn to theatre as the medium of choice? As they graduate from writing programs and intensives across the country, as they produce their work and take it to the festivals, what stories are they telling us?  

This exciting anthology answers those questions. The writers come from theatre and creative writing schools across Canada, and the settings of their plays take us from large urban centres to small rural communities. Many of these new writers are young, some are not so young.  These 12 short works by Canada’s newest playwrights focuses on one-act plays that feature a small cast (one to three actors) and can be performed in under an hour.

The characters range from sweet to unsettling, and all stops in between. The plays are witty and wise, they are often hilarious. They offer fresh perspectives on universal problems: how do I find love?  How should evil be dealt with?  What do I do about loss? What makes a good person? 

This anthology will be of particular interest to students and teachers looking for current, challenging scene work for young actors.


Almost, Again — Briana Brown

Kiss Me Outside the Box — Carmen Cartterfield

Mature Young Adults — Wesley J. Colford

The Stillbirth — Kara Crabb

Waterfront: The Blessing — Leah Jane Esau

The Kharkiv Letters — Alexa Gilker

Red — Jordan Hall

Bathsheba — Jennifer Kearney

The Motherhouse — Tamara Lagrandeur

Mrs. Ferguson's Bed — Sherryl Melnyk

Crazy Love — David Sklar

Third Person — Brandon Wicke

About the authors

Brown, Briana

Originally from rural Ontario, Briana spent several years in Toronto after graduating from York University (B.A. Honours, Theatre Studies). Her plays have been workshopped through Factory Theatre’s LabCab Festival, Tarragon Theatre’s Spring Arts Fair, Nightwood Theatre’s Write from the Hip program, and the TheatreKairos writers’ circle, where she subsequently took on the role of Program Director. She was commissioned by SeriousFUN! Theatre Company in 2009 to develop a script based on the experiences of the ten young women in their Going Pro program, entitled The Line. Also a theatre director, she directed her most recent play, Almost, Again (Toronto Fringe, Best of Fringe, 2010) which was included in the anthology Out on a Limb, edited by Kit Brennan (Signature Editions). She has directed productions at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Buzz Festival, the Next Stage Festival, as well as the Paprika Festival’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration (2010), The Vagina Monologues (V-Day Toronto, 2009) and assisted Brad Fraser on the Canadian premiere of True Love Lies (Factory Theatre).

Carmen Cartterfield is a first-time playwright from Cambridge, MA, who received her B.F.A. in theatre and development from Concordia University. Despite acting and directing in a variety of productions over the years, Carmen’s passion lies in teaching, and she has spent the last three summers working with theatre and youth in Upstate New York. Carmen hopes to continue teaching and writing in the future.

Wesley J. Colford is an actor/playwright from Sydney, Nova Scotia. Having recently graduated from Sheridan College, he is currently studying acting at George Brown College in Toronto. In the past three years, Wesley has written four full-length plays (including two musicals), nine one-acts, and eight short plays for children. His most successful script to date, Excuse Me, Would You Like to Buy a Bar?, was the 2010 winner of Tarragon Theatre’s “Under 20 by Under 20’s Playwriting Competition,” and received a brief workshop at Tarragon under the direction of Andrew Lamb. From there the play was expanded and later produced as part of the Paprika Festival at Tarragon, the success of which led to further expansion and a sold-out run at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival. Wesley’s first full-length play, Pizza Passion, was produced in 2010 as part of the Cape Breton Stage Company’s summer season to great artistic and financial acclaim. He has since had several plays produced by the CBSC, including Too Too Sullied, The Collector, The Wakowski Brothers, and his most recent one-act, Shadowplay.

Kara Crabb is from Windsor, Ontario. She is a writer at Vice magazine. She lives in Montreal. The Stillbirth premiered in March 2010, at Concordia University’s Winter SIPA/Short Works Festival (Student Initiated Production Assignments).

Leah Jane Esau was born in Winnipeg and currently lives in Montreal, where she attends the National Theatre School of Canada. Her plays include Calvin (Festival of Innovative and New Drama, 2006), Shed (SummerWorks 2010), and The Death of Ashley Smith (National Theatre School, 2011). She holds a B.A. honours in theatre history from the University of Victoria, an M.A. in drama from the University of Toronto, and a M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Guelph. Waterfront: The Blessing was performed at SummerWorks 2011

Alexa Gilker works as a freelance writer based out of Victoria, BC, where she lives in a big orange house with four of her favourite women and a cat that isn’t really theirs. She will soon be graduating with a B.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Victoria with a focus on poetry and playwriting. The story of The Kharkiv Letters was sparked from research on the many faces of human trafficking.

Jordan Hall is an emerging artist whose work has been dubbed “stellar, insightful” by Plank Magazine, “thoughtful” by CBC Radio, and “vivid, memorable” by NOW. Her writing for the stage includes her short works Annie & Izzy, The Second Last Man on Earth, Asleep at the Wheel, and The Possible Lives of Dolores Garcia Rodriguez, as well as her full-length play, Kayak, which won Samuel French’s 2010 Canadian Playwright’s competition. Jordan’s plays have been produced across the country, most recently at the 2011 Vancouver Fringe and 2010 SummerWorks Festival. She is developing her newest work, Travelling Light, as an Associate with the Playwrights’ Theatre Centre. Her first short film, Love Sucks, is currently in post-production in Toronto, and her second, Run Dry, is one of the winners of the 2011 Crazy8s short film competition. As a dramaturg, Jordan recently worked on the Dora-nominated Belle of Winnipeg with Keystone Theatre, sits on the Board of Foundry Theatre, and is a mentor for UBC’s Booming Ground program.

Ottawa-born performer and playwright Jennifer Kearney is a recent graduate of Concordia University’s B.F.A. program in theatre and development. During her studies in Montreal, Jenn developed a passion for teaching theatre in university classrooms, high schools, and community centres. She has also been a performer with both Echo Playback Theatre and Promito Playback Theatre in Montreal. Jenn has performed in various theatres in Ottawa and Montreal and her recent performing credits include: Differences/The Clash (L’Aquarium et le Globe), The Skriker (The Skriker Collective), The Vagina Monologues (Concordia University), and The Dictatorship of Debt (SJC Loud Justice Theatre).

Tamara Lagrandeur is a Montreal-based writer who studied playwriting at Concordia University. Originally from Knowlton, Quebec, Tamara’s interests include sketch-comedy, travelling with the smallest piece of luggage while maintaining a high number of outfit options, and yelling at the Brome Lake ducks…for therapeutic reasons. Achievements include co-writing and acting in Post-Modern Family: A Sketch-Comedy Show, being bilingual (although her parents should receive some of the credit for this) and running the 10k marathon (this may have been a dream). The Motherhouse was originally presented in November 2010 for Concordia’s Winter SIPA/Short Works Festival (Student Initiated Production Assignments).

Sherryl Melnyk’s play Millicent’s Pothole has recently taken first place in the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada’s Post-Secondary Playwriting Competition. Millicent’s Pothole was also a finalist in the 2009 BC National Playwriting Competition and will be produced by the Revelstoke Theatre Company in 2012. Even The Walls Have Eyes was a co-winner in the From The Cradle to Stage playwriting competition and was produced by the Walterdale Playhouse in Edmonton. Her play Mrs. Ferguson’s Bed was produced at FemFest in Winnipeg by Sarasvati Productions and Outnumbered was produced by Soulocentric Productions in Calgary. She has also published an essay entitled “Landscape My Body,” and a documentary for CBC radio called “Mom Leaves Home.” She has an M.A. in English literature and is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. Sherryl grew up on a farm in Manitoba with an eclectic family which has unwittingly provided much fodder for her writing. She lives with her poorly trained but greatly loved pug Sasha.

David Sklar is an actor/playwright who currently resides in Montreal. He is a graduate from Dawson College Professional Theatre Program and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. He is also a graduate from Concordia University in the playwriting program. David has toured with The Montreal Shakespeare Theatre Company in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet as well as their mainstage production of Titus Andronicus. His plays include Crazy Love and Dance with Desire.

Brandon Wicke is a Canadian Playwright and Theatre-Maker, currently residing in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Brandon’s plays have received productions by Phoenix Theatre in Arizona, Cro Magnon Theatre in London UK as well as by University of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack British Columbia and Brebeuf College School in Toronto Ontario.

About the editor

Editor Kit Brennan is an award-winning playwright whose work has been seen across the country. She is a faculty member at Concordia University’s Theatre Department in Montreal, where she coordinates the undergraduate playwriting specialization.


from Foreword

One of the pleasures of editing an anthology is finding a narrative for the book as a whole. This one speaks of love in its many guises. The dozen plays that lie within these pages are a kind of theatrical chocolate box: often funny, with dark centres.

The plays are more often than not about love, friendship, attraction, commitment — and about fear of these things. The characters range from the very young to the very old. They are witty, hilarious, loyal, and bewildered; they can also be devastatingly cruel or treacherous. They do what they do because they are searching — wishing to find perfect love, or the answer to life’s profound mystery; to find release from a poisonous relationship, or a moment of transcendence through letting someone go. The point of view is youthful. Even the very oldest character is where she is because of a decision made in her twenties.

I coordinate the Major in Playwriting program at Concordia University, and a number of years ago, decided to fund a yearly playwriting award for work that comes out of the Theatre Department’s writing courses. I enjoy discussions with the jurors later, and have found that comedy is hard but may seem deceptively easy, and it can be underestimated. Most of the plays in this volume exhibit a lively sense of humour, often with a sting or a dark slant or a quiet tragedy at their core, which makes them moving and memorable.

Twelve short scripts, twelve complete worlds. Cast size ranges from one to four actors. There are three one-woman plays, two plays for two men, one play for two women, four plays for one man and one woman, one play for one woman and one man and one other, and one play for two women and two men. Playing time in performance, for each of the scripts, is under one hour.

The book is organized in such a way that the plays might be chronological. The first has characters who are fifteen and sixteen; the final one features a feisty ninety-one-year-old nun. Several scripts in the centre of the volume are explorations of unexpected pregnancy and what happens to a relationship when under that pressure. There is new love which is afraid of itself, and old love that is opening the door to something new. There are brothers and jealousy, a mother and daughter trying to change their lives, and the reworking of an old warning tale about little girls and temptation.

I’ve taught playwriting for many years, and often new writers choose cynicism and despair to augment their dramas. The writers in this volume, while still acknowledging that life is hard, make use of more complex observations. Life can be confusing, yes, but in moments such as those you’ll encounter in these plays, it is very much worthwhile.

This anthology will interest those seeking short plays or scenes for young actors — whether you are a teacher, a young professional actor or director, or anyone else who is interested in new and exciting work by emerging writers.

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