We are thrilled to name Kirsten Kirsch as the recipient of the inaugural Realwheels Playwright-in-Residence Award.
Through an open application process, Realwheels received submissions from across Canada for new, English language, theatre-based projects at various stages of development from emerging to mid-career playwrights who live with disability. Applying a blind review process, the Selection Committee reviewed all submissions and awarded Kirsten Kirsch with the inaugural cash prize of $7000 as well as dramaturgical support towards the development of her musical, a genre Realwheels has yet to explore. GIMPY is the story of a young woman coming of age, determined to realize her lifelong dream to work as a dancer in musical theatre against pressures to choose a more stable career.
The Selection Committee is also pleased to name two finalists, who’ll each receive a $250 encouragement award: Yousef Kadoura and Mugabi Byenkya have demonstrated outstanding potential to further their playwriting endeavours.
Kirsten is working with Realwheels from February to November 2020. This residency will conclude with a public reading of her play. We congratulate Kirsten, Mugabi and Yousef, as well as all of the applicants on their participation in a successful launch of this program.
We thank Alfiya Battalova, Janet Munsil and James Sanders for serving on our Selection Committee.
After 20 years on the Albertan theatre scene, Kirsten furthered her dream of making a record and released the EP Kirsch Royale (2013), as well as a single, Firefly (2019) off the forthcoming Blue Roses. Now Toronto based, Kirsten Kirsch is working on her first original musical, Gimpy.
Artist Statement: If these past few years have taught me anything, it’s that community is invaluable to making art. Grateful is not a big enough word for what I feel toward the Realwheels team for this opportunity. I’m elated for the opportunity to learn and grow and further develop my musical, GIMPY.
Mugabi Byenkya is a writer whose work is used to teach international high school English reading comprehension. His debut experimental epistolary speculative novel, ‘Dear Philomena,’ was published in 2017 and he recently concluded a 42 city, 5 country North America/East Africa tour in support of this.
Artist Statement: I’ve been disabled since I was 9 years old. By the time I turned 18, I had been through 9 years of intensive physical therapy which conditioned me on how best to ‘pass’ as able-bodied due to internalized ableism/self–hate and the intense fear/reality that if I stood in my truth, I would not be afforded the opportunities that my able-bodied brethren were. When I turned 22, I was wracked by newfound disabilities and no longer able to ‘pass’. Being shortlisted and receiving this encouragement award is proof that writing for the angsty confused disabled little human I used to be and still am, is what I and the world need right now.
Yousef Kadoura is a Lebanese Canadian actor, writer, producer, curator and a right leg below knee amputee. A graduate of the 2017 acting class at the National Theatre School of Canada, he has worked as the curator in residence at Tangled Art + Disability co-curating the Flourishing series in 2018. he is also a founding company member of Other He/Arts a new performance collective. Yousef currently works and lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Artist Statement: I feel honoured to have received this encouragement award from RealWheels. Their support of my work means the world to me, and I am excited to continue writing with this acknowledgement of my work.