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Will Keith Barker, Marcia Johnson, and Lisa O’Connell read past the first scene?

Find out what directors and dramaturgs look for in play submissions. 


In Celebration of PGC’s 50th Anniversary, The Stratford Festival is hosting The First Scene Challenge. The first scenes of 5 submitted plays will be read by actors, Dean Gabourie and Alexandra Lainfiesta. Come out to this encouraging and fun event to hear Keith, Marcia, and Lisa discuss what makes an enticing first scene for the reader. This event will include a Question & Answer period between audience and panel as well! Don’t miss this opportunity to get some sweet tips that could give you an idea or two on how to elevate your new play. 


This is a free event to members and non-members.


Register now to attend The First Challenge!


October 24th, 2022 @ 1pm EST

Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford Festival

***Please note, all audience members will be required to wear a mask inside during the event.***

About the Panelists

 Keith Barker is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario. He is a playwright, actor, and director from Northwestern Ontario. Keith is the Director of the Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program at the Stratford Festival, and the former Artistic Director at Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto. He is the winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award and the Playwrights Guild’s Carol Bolt Award for best new play. Keith was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for English Drama in 2018 for his play, This Is How We Got Here. He received a Saskatchewan and Area Theatre Award for Excellence in Playwriting for his play, The Hours That Remain, as well as a Yukon Arts Award for Best Art for Social Change. His new short zoom play, in a little plastic bag, in a tiny little jar, on a mantel in the house will premiere as part of the Stratford Festival’s Viral Transmissions Series that will be found on the stratfest@home site. His audio play, Every Minute of Every Day premiered as part of Factory Theatre’s You Can’t Get There From Here podcast play series in March 2021. 

Marcia Johnson  is a theatre artist based in Toronto. Serving Elizabeth, in which she also acted, had its world premiere at Western Canada Theatre (co-produced with Thousand Islands Playhouse) in February 2020 and published by Scirocco Drama. The TIP production was pandemic-delayed by a full year in October, 2021. It had productions at the Stratford Festival and Belfry Theatre. Its US premiere was in July 2022 at Peterborough Players in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The play is currently running at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton until November 5. 

Marcia Johnson is honoured to be a recipient of the Pat and Tony Adams Freedom Fund Prize winner, the 2022 Cayle Chernin Woman of the Year and the 2021 Playwrights Guild of Canada Life Membership Award. 

Lisa O’Connell, Artistic Director A fierce advocate for regional theatre artists and their audience, Lisa O’Connell (she/her) is the founding Artistic Director of Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, a catalyst for New Works of Contemporary Canadian Theatre. It produces annually the PlaySmelter Northern New Works Festival (Sudbury) and Femme Folks Fest (Waterloo Region). Artists work created at Pat the Dog, and receiving dramaturgy by O’Connell have received and/or been nominated for the RBC Tarragon Playwright Award, the Carol Bolt Award, Governor-Generals Award (Drama), RBC Directors Award, among others. Work created at PTD has been presented at Canadian Stage, Tarragon, MT Space, Magnetic North Theatre Festival, SummerWorks, Various Fringe Festivals, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Theatre Aquarius, The Grand Theatre, among others. O’Connell is the recipient of numerous awards for Pat the Dog, most recently Sector Development for Regional Artists/Presenters (OAC), Digital NOW (CCA) for digital placemaking and New Conversation Award (British Council/Canadian High Commission UK) for The Women’s Room with Lyth Centre, Scotland. She is a two-time recipient of the Waterloo Arts Award and most recently was awarded an Award of Excellence by the Creative City Network of Canada for her work building creative ecologies. O’Connell divides her time between her artistic homes in Waterloo, ON and Sudbury, ON. 

About the Actors

Alexandra Lainfiesta: Born and raised in Guatemala, Alexandra is a multiple awards winning Latina actor and writer. She immigrated to Canada in 2010. Most recently Alexandra was selected as one of eleven recipients for the BC Lieutenant Governor General Arts and Music Award. She has worked with Theatre Gargantua (Toronto), Neworld Theatre, Bard on The Beach, Electric Company Theatre, Rice&Beans, The Frank Theatre (Vancouver), Puente Theatre (Victoria) and has been a member of the acting company at The Stratford Festival since 2017 where she is currently performing in The Miser. As a writer, Alexandra has been developing her first full length play Bella Luz with The Arts Club Theatre under their prestigious Silver Commission. A graduate of Studio 58 and The Canadian College of Performing Arts, Alexandra is the recipient of two Jessie Richardson Awards for Best Actor in a lead role, two Dora Mavor Moore Awards as part of the ensemble that created “A Tonic For Desperate Times” and the Most Promising Emerging Playwright Award from her alma mater. She is a co-founder and member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition and also serves as a BC/YUKON councillor for Canadian Actor’s Equity Association. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria.

Dean Gabourie has been creating provocative theatre in Canada and abroad for over thirty years. Gabourie is a director, actor, writer, teacher, and founding artistic director of the award-winning ACME Theatre Co. Stratford Festival Assistant/Associate Artistic Director 2008-2012. During his 10 seasons at Stratford Dean received the Tyrone Guthrie; Jean Gascon directors award and Artistic Director Richard Monette personally nominated Gabourie’s body of work for the John Hirsch directors award. Gabourie holds a master’s degree in Theatre Studies from the University of Guelph and is an alumnus of the Theatre School, Toronto Metropolitan University (highlighted as one of the top graduates of the first forty years, 2014; Chairman’s Award, 1989).

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