In House: Playwrights Canada Press

Playwrights Canada Press (PLCN) is our only publisher who exclusively publishes outstanding plays and criticism. They could not have chosen a better credo: “Being Dramatic since 1984” describes to a stagehand’s black tee their bold, award-winning publishing program, replete with a slick book design aesthetic and an incredible sense of what and how to give to the drama community they’ve helped foster in Canada.

Or should that read, communities: Playwrights succeeds at giving voice to minority groups in the dramatic arts both through the plays they publish and through their critical essay series. Both the 21-volume Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English series (ended in 2011), and the new, New Essays on Canadian Theatre series are specifically mandated to draw attention to underrepresented groups in the genre, and do so through titles like Latina/o Canadian Theatre and Performance and the newly released Daniel MacIvor, a collection of essays about the famed gay playwright. The series set out to make the best critical and scholarly work in theatre available to teachers, students, and academics, and provide insight and research to scholars and teachers working in the field.

New Essays releases a book a year, meaning the other 30 or so annual titles from Playwrights are – how did you guess? – plays. In addition to providing tangible objects – texts of stage performances – plays are great reading in their own right. Playwrights playwright Colleen Murphy said in her recent World Theatre Day piece on All Lit Up that: “Reading a play is similar to dreaming in that the words act as conjuring sticks, conjuring up characters and feelings in your imagination, awakening impulses and creating images. Like dreaming, reading is a malleable and personal experience. Sometimes the best production of a play is the one in my head.”

And some of the best plays to read come right from this very press, beginning with their very first publication, 1984's Governor General’s Award for Drama-winning White Biting Dog by Judith Thompson. Thirty years later, they published the most recent winner of that same prize, Jordan Tannahill’s Age of Minority. In fact, PLCN has won the GG 19 times in its 30 years of operation (you can see more winners in this All Lit Up list).

PLCN also makes a point to take chances on new talent – young playwrights that consistently redefine and challenge our preconceptions of what theatre means. Some of the writers who got their start with Playwrights include Ravi Jain, David Yee, Jordan Tannahill, Anusree Roy, Hannah Moscovitch, Meg Braem, Arun Lakra, Jordi Mand, Erin Shields, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Joseph Jomo Pierre, Nicole Moeller, and Daniel Karasik. They also strive to be where theatre people are, all over Canada.

When its staff is not travelling to events, conferences, and (of course!) plays, Playwrights Canada Press spends time in their quaint Toronto office (just a stone’s throw from our own HQ), an open-concept space with makeshift cubicles out of bookshelves. The team gets along swimmingly, “especially on days when someone brings in cookies.”

Start some drama. Run some dialogue with Playwrights Canada Press.

Playwrights author David Yee reading from  paper SERIES at the 2014 launch of All Lit Up, in Toronto.