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Morris Foundation/Theatre Network Fund for Commission of Plays

Theatre Network is pleased to announce a new fund for the commission of new plays with funding from the Morris Foundation.

The intent and purpose of the Morris Foundation / Theatre Network Fund for Commission of Plays is to support the creation of scripts focusing on work relating to mental health and/or addiction. This fund was started with a generous donation from the Morris Foundation; a private foundation that supports innovative, evidence-based activities addressing mental illness and addictions in the youth population. This Fund will support the commissioning of Canadian playwrights and the development of new theatrical work that helps us better understand mental health issues and experiences.

SKYLAR (working title) by Colleen Murphy

More Info on Skylar
The Author:

Colleen Murphy is a playwright, filmmaker and librettist, born in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec and raised in Northern Ontario. Her play Pig Girl (world premiere at Theatre Network) won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for English Language Drama as well as the 2014 Carol Bolt Award.  The December Man / L’homme de décembre won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for English Language Drama, the CAA/Carol Bolt Award and the Enbridge Playwrights Award.  Other plays include The Breathing Hole (shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize U.S.), The Society For The Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius (winner of six Jessie Richardson awards), Bright Burning, Armstrong’s War, The Goodnight Bird, Beating Heart Cadaver (shortlisted for a the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama), The Piper and Down in Adoration Falling. Twice she won awards in the CBC Literary Competition for Fire-Engine Red and Pumpkin Eaters. Libretti include Oksana G., composed by Aaron Gervais for Tapestry Opera, and My Mouth On Your Heart, composed by August Murphy-King for Toy Piano Composers and Bicycle Opera, as well Tapestry Briefs, including Bring Me The Head Of Our President (c. August Murphy-King), Hydrophis Expedition (c. Benton Roark), The Snow Globe (c. Ian Cusson) and My Eyes Are Bright And Sparkly (c. Rene Orth). Her distinct, award-winning films have played in festivals around the world. They include Girl with Dog, Desire, Shoemaker and The Feeler. In 2010 and 2011, Colleen was the Canadian Playwright-in-Residence at Finborough Theatre in London, U.K.  She has been Playwright-in-Residence or Writer at many theatres and universities including the Lee Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Alberta, 2014-2017. Recently Colleen was awarded a Canada Council New Chapter Grant to write a new six-hour play Geography of Fire / La Furie et sa géographie and also received the 2019 Playwright Guild of Canada’s Lifetime Membership Award for her outstanding body of work. Upcoming: Fantasma libretto (c. Ian Cusson) for the Canadian Opera Company, November 2020; feature film Armstrong’s War, release date 2021, and book for a new musical with Leslie Arden for 2020/21.

The play:


Today 17-year-old Emma is setting up her high school science experiment using saliva from the family dog, Axel. Her half-brother, Danny, turns 25 today and when he gets home from work there’ll be a family party. Violet, Emma’s mom, is making a birthday cake but she’s mad because someone ate the jam she planned to use.  Danny and Emma’s father, Winston, just bought a brand new fan but it’s not working and the June heat wave is relentless.

The Blaze family is an ordinary working class family who are happy in their own dysfunctional way… but today things are set in motion that will blow a hole through all their lives.

Skylar will be produced by Theatre Network in a future season at the New Roxy Theatre.

Theatre Network provided an early look at Skylar as part of our Works In Progress Series in spring 2021. To watch that presentation, click here.

Agnes By Eugene Stickland

More Info on Agnes
The Author:

Eugene Stickland is a playwright, novelist, journalist, poet, educator and social commentator. While he shares a provincial provenance with Agnes Martin, he has been based in Calgary since 1994 and completed an MFA in Theatre at York University (Toronto) before that. Eugene has had several plays produced at Theatre Network, including the world premiere of Excavations, an Alberta Playwriting Award recipient. His play Queen Lear, written for legendary Calgary actress the late Joyce Doolittle, received after its Calgary premiere a two year run in translation in Istanbul and throughout Turkey. Following a ten year residency at Alberta Theatre Projects, Eugene wrote a feature column on the arts in the Calgary Herald for six years. He was writer in residence at St. Mary’s University in Calgary for another five years, which culminated in the production and publication of a large cast (15) play titled First and Last.  In 2015 he wrote a novel titled The Piano Teacher which was awarded the W.O. Mitchell Award in Calgary the same year. Having had his love of Agnes Martin and her work rekindled during a trip to Taos, New Mexico in 2018, Eugene began painting as a kind of homage to Agnes and to better understand the process a visual artist must engage in. Anything he learned doing that has informed his approach to creating the play Agnes for Theatre Network.

The Play:

Agnes is a theatrical look at the life of the Canadian-born artist Agnes Martin, incorporating voice/text in the form of dialogue – a reminiscence, perhaps – between an older and a much younger version of Agnes. It incorporates as well live cello performance as well as projections of photographs, art reproductions and video.

Despite her Canadian roots, Agnes Martin remains largely unknown in Canada, outside of the visual arts community. Yet is not an exaggeration to say that she was one of the most prominent visual artists of the 20th Century. She is identified with the abstract expressionist movement in New York City during its heyday during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s and also with the genesis of the minimalist movement. At the height of her fame in 1967 she abruptly left New York, eventually settling on a remote mesa in New Mexico where, after a gap of several years, she resumed painting and extended her influence and career for another thirty years. While for much of her life she experienced incredible privation and poverty, before she died she won many prestigious awards,  exhibited in some of the world’s finest galleries and had her paintings sell for millions of dollars. And yet for all this, fame and fortune had never been motivators for Agnes. Her artistic practice was tied into something far more spiritual than fame or monetary rewards. To sum it up, she famously said “Happiness is the goal!”

This was not at all a probable outcome for a girl born in the small, remote town of Macklin, Saskatchewan shortly before the outbreak of the first world war. Making her journey even more arduous was the fact that she was schizophrenic. She endured debilitating attacks of catatonia throughout her life, some of them sending her into the streets penniless and unaware even of her name, ultimately leading to electro-shock therapy sessions at New York’s infamous (at least at the time) Bellevue Hospital. She heard and responded to voices in her head – amazingly, to a certain extent she even incorporated these voices into her artist process.

Stylistically, Martin is mainly lauded and remembered for her grid paintings done in New York in the mid 1960s. Because of the way they were created, these images don’t reproduce all that well and so may not figure too prominently in our screen projections. These have yet to be created, but they will feature landscapes that were surely influential in Agnes’s development, personal and artistic, including the Saskatchewan horizon, the ocean seen from Vancouver where she spent her teens, a swimming pool (Agnes very nearly qualified for the Canadian Olympic swim team in the late ‘20s), the East River as seen from her studio in New York and the high desert country north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The grid is composed of patterns of horizontal and vertical lines, and in my mind these can be symbolized by the cellist, through the rather flattened and elongated notes I hear as the soundscape. The cello can be more overtly melodic at times as well, picking up on themes from Agnes’s favourite composer, Beethoven, or her favourite songs of the day, such as “Blue Skies.”

While not biographically precise, the young girl represents the Agnes of Saskatchewan, pre-schizophrenic Agnes on any account. The narrative will roughly follow the episodes and chapters of her life, including Saskatchewan, west coast, New Mexico, New York City and finally New Mexico again. These changes in time and location will be embellished with appropriate projections. Poetic license will be exercised.

Agnes died in Taos, New Mexico in 2004. She was 92. It would be impossible (and undesirable) to attempt to document her journey in an episodic way, especially on stage. By the same token, we are not attempting to disguise a scholarly lecture as a piece of theatre. Rather, the play Agnes is a poetic examination of her artistic ethos and process and the effect schizophrenia had on her life and her art.  Based in fact, it is a work of fiction.

Agnes will be produced by Theatre Network in a future season at the New Roxy Theatre.

Theatre Network provided an early look at Agnes as part of our Works In Progress Series in spring 2021. To watch that presentation, click here.

You can make an impact in the future of this program by donating through the Edmonton Community Foundation. With your support The Morris Foundation, ECF and Theatre Network can continue to provide opportunities for more Canadian playwrights.

“How an innovative Edmonton theatre company hopes to change the way we view mental illness and addictions”
ARTICLE: Morris Foundation

This endowment is set up through the support of The Edmonton Community Foundation