Playwright-in-Residence Kirsten Kirsch (Blog # 1)
We’re excited to support development of GIMPY: THE MUSICAL!
We had the pleasure of hosting our first Playwright-in-Resident Kirsten Kirsch for a week in February. Back in Toronto shortly afterward, Kirsten wrote her first blog about this experience. We’ve been saving it ’til now. You finally get to ‘meet’ Kirsten and read her short blog today!
Sigh . . .Doesn’t it already feel like a message from a simpler time?
Yes! I’m the lucky recipient of Realwheels’ inaugural Playwright-in-Residence.
I’ll admit it, I’m pretty green as a playwright. I come from performing in community shows, making my grandmother take me to every Broadway touring show that ever came to Edmonton, and writing pop songs. Heck, my play GIMPY began with a song! I started writing lyrics on an overnight Greyhound bus to NYC, and the words that poured out on that ride were definitely show tunes.
I’d moved to Toronto six years earlier to pursue acting but in that time I’d only had five auditions, none of which panned out. So I made an album of my own and worked on music projects with friends while holding a regular job. It was during a writing program offered by Cahoots Theatre that folks drew my attention to Realwheels, a Vancouver-based theatre company with a mandate around disability. Performers with disabilities? Writers with disabilities? Woah! I restarted my application several times. I sat on it. Surely I didn’t have the kind of resume they’d be looking for? I left it half finished. Okay, finally I submitted and two months later . . . amazing! As Crutchie, my favourite musical theatre character of all time would say, “Feature me! Riding in style!”
Reality crashed in pretty quickly in the form of overwhelming anxiety. What did I know about playwriting? Was I disabled enough for this? I froze.
But lucky for me, that first morning at Realwheels — as I was welcomed for who I am — my terror melted away. Heck, even just walking into an accessible building was so affirming!
The work itself is a process and not always easy. There are logistical things I wasn’t aware of and most of my first trip was about letting go of things I had worked on for a long time. With love and support from incredible dramaturgs — Lynna Goldhar, Susinn McFarlan, Rena Cohen — I became reinvigorated by the vision of people with disabilities having representation and seeing themselves on stage through my story. On top of this incredibly eye-opening process, I got to participate in the launch of Realwheels’ Wheel Voices community project, and re-acquaint myself with devised theatre, choral warm ups, and theatre games. I got to meet members of this incredible community you’ve built in Vancouver.
My dream is for GIMPY to reflect all the things I adore about traditional musical theatre, by which I mean flash, sass, heart, a dash of outlandish, and a love story. It’s also important for me to tell this story through the lens of my disability, cerebral palsy (specifically hemiplegic if you too are a member of the fam).
I got to press “restart” on my first trip as Realwheels’ Playwright in Residence. I’m beginning anew with an incredible support system, a new foundation of knowledge, and resources. I’m so happy I get to experience this journey this year! Welcome to the ride.