The Playwright’s Workshop. Interview with Charles Tidler.

The Playwright’s Workshop. Interview with Charles Tidler.

The next Playwright’s Workshop begins in early October.

This user-friendly, project-oriented ten-week workshop is designed for beginning and emerging playwrights. Many of shows you’ve come to know and love started here. If you too would like to nurture your inner playwright, contact

You’ve been teaching playwriting for over 2 decades at the college and university level. How did you come to start the Playwright’s Workshop? 

Stephen White was offering a playwriting workshop through Intrepid Theatre in the early 90s. When he became the artistic producer there, he invited me to take on the workshop. I agreed as long as there would be a playwright’s cabaret of readings for the final meeting, and he was delighted to accommodate. In 1997, with support from Roy Surette (former Belfry Theatre artistic director), I moved the workshop to the Belfry. They’ve been a great sponsor ever since; in fact, it wouldn’t have survived for twenty years otherwise.

Who is the ideal candidate to attend?

Anyone who is interested in writing a text-based, English language script for live theatre. Writers have ranged from 17 to 85 years and, of course, from incredibly diverse backgrounds. They all want to challenge themselves to write to a deadline and to share their writing with like-minded people in a safe and sharing environment. One caveat: we don’t do screenplays!

What are your hopes for your students? 

That they’re further along with the development of their scripts than they ever thought possible in a ten-week timeframe. And that they keep writing afterwards.

If someone has never written a play before—what will they come away with? 

That despite how bloody hard it is to write a play — or a scene from a play — they did it!

Do you remember any particular “success” stories? People who have had their plays performed? Or published? 

Some very fine writers in other genres have taken the workshop: people like Audrey Thomas, Rona Murray, Jill Swartz, Joe Wiebe, and Sid Tafler. The playwright Matthew Payne (of Theatre SKAM) has developed two or three of his successfully-produced scripts in the workshop over the years. Sonya deWit has won the BC Playwriting Award and also won Best New Play at the Victoria Fringe. Alexis Diamond, who grew up in Victoria, has established herself as a respected playwright and librettist based now in Montreal. Plays originating in the workshop have had productions and/or staged readings in Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and abroad, including the US and Mexico. None of this success however is because of me. These are all writers who wanted to do some work and kept at it despite incredible odds.

You are also a dramaturge. Can you explain the importance of this role in the play-producing/playwriting continuum? 

Making new theatre for the stage is something like a potlatch. The playwright gives the script away to the actor who gives it away to the audience, and the audience of course gives it all back again.So the simplest definition of a dramaturge is “a playwright’s friend,” someone who says to the designer, the director, the actor, who’s story are we trying to tell?

When will the next Playwright’s Workshop (and Cabaret) take place?

Each season I offer two workshops. The Fall session begins early October and ends in early December. The Spring session usually begins early February and ends in April. Those dates are to avoid the Christmas monster and the onset of gardening season! We meet Tuesday evenings in Studio B at The Belfry Arts Centre, 7-10 p.m. for nine weeks, then the following Monday we turn the workshop inside-out and invite an audience for short readings from the scripts writers have been developing.

Charles Tidler is a poet, novelist, librettist, spoken jazz artist and, playwright who has written scripts for stage, radio, TV and film. Recent stage plays include Tortoise Boy (Belfry Festival .04) and Rappaccini’s Daughter(Phoenix Theatre, U of Victoria, 2003). Red Mango, a blues play, was a box office and critical hit at the Belfry Theatre in 2000 and has been published by Anvil Press.

Honors include National Radio Awards, a Chalmers Outstanding Play Award (1982 Straight Ahead Blind Dancers), Canada Council and B.C. Arts Council awards, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama (1981 Straight Ahead Blind Dancers). A novel Going to New Orleans was published to critical acclaim in 2004. A second novel, Hard Hed was published by Anvil in 2012.

Charles has worked for 20 years as a dramaturge and teacher of creative writing at North Island College, The University of Victoria, Camosun College, Canadian College of Film & Acting, The Banff School of Fine Arts, The Kootenay College of Arts, Playwrights Theatre Centre, Intrepid Theatre, Theatre BC, and The Belfry Theatre.

Charles grew up in Indiana, studying literature and philosophy at Purdue University. He has lived on the west coast of Canada since 1969 and is the father of two sons. He makes his home in Victoria, BC

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