Hot Out of the Oven: How A Play is Baked

We wrote last week about our preparations for the FemFest 2015 Bake-Off, so this week we’ve invited Frances Koncan to write about her experience as the winner of the challenge. Frances has an MFA in Playwriting from City University of New York Brooklyn College and she is also putting up her play How To Talk to Human Beings at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this year.


Frances Koncan

Last September, I participated in the 2014 FemFest Bake-Off, and I have to admit that I was pretty nervous. I was surrounded by actual writers, in the company of actual adult women who knew what they were doing and had actual skills. I kept thinking, ‘what am I doing here? I don’t belong here.’ I don’t have much experiencing in playwriting. I only started doing it a few years ago, to kill time at work during my job at box office at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. I have an MFA from an experimental program where we were trained to subvert ideas of structure, form, and narrative rather than how to write crowd-pleasers. I didn’t see myself as a likely candidate to win much of anything! Nervous as I was, I was still excited to get to work on a new play. I’m a fast writer and a slow editor, so my favourite part of writing is always generating new ideas and coming up with the rough draft of something. When we were given our list of ingredients, the first thing I did was pick out some ingredients of my own to give me inspiration. The one thing that helped me most was coming up with a playlist of music to listen to. I had a killer playlist of 80’s music that kept inspiring me to google John Cusack, which kept making me think of every movie ever set at a high school dance. And voila, a new play was born! The evening of the Bake-Off was a blast. The actors did a fantastic job of bringing everything to life and it was great to hear what I had written and see what worked and what didn’t, as well as watch the audience response to everything. I had a hunch who the winner might be, and I definitely didn’t think it was going to be me. And since I didn’t think it was me, I wasn’t nervous at all anymore. I am absolutely horrified by crowds and the spotlight – that’s why I’m a writer and not an actor – so while it was in retrospect very exciting to hear my play announced as the winner, it was also terrifying to realize that everyone was looking at me. Despite that, I was and am thrilled to be working on the full length version of The Dance-off of Conscious Uncoupling, to be presented at FemFest this September. Having the opportunity to workshop and develop the piece over the course of the year, with dramaturgy by the incredible Debbie Patterson and the support of Hope McIntyre, has been a truly invaluable experience. I am looking forward to seeing all the pieces at the 2015 Bake-Off. It is tons of fun to write for, and tons of fun to watch, and I hope everyone comes down to check it out!

Want more insights on what it was really like? Check out last year’s blog by the Bake-Off writers. You can check out this year’s Bake-Off on September 14th at 7pm and there is still time for writers to submit. The Dance-Off of Conscious Uncoupling will run from September 17-19.

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