Playwright Louise Casemore received an early Christmas gift that will go a long way in relieving financial stress. The former Paul Kane High alumna was one of 20 recipients to receive the 2022 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund Award.
Announced on Dec. 14 by the Edmonton Arts Council, City of Edmonton and Edmonton Community Foundation, each award is $15,000 for a total of $300,000.
“It’s truly remarkable. I feel so truly honoured especially after seeing the other names,” said Casemore. She is a two-time Sterling Award winning playwright. Her original works include OCD, GEMINI and Undressed which recently premiered with Alberta Theatre Projects.
Several other high-profile names on the award list are Adrian Louden, a Jamaican-Canadian street-based artist; Ann Vriend, a multiple songwriting recipient; Dylan Toymaker, a light design and installation artist; Gail Sidonie Sobat, an author, journalist and broadcaster; Katrina Beatty, a filmmaker, and Reckie Lloyd, a visual artist and founder of Sangea Academy.
“Our diverse arts community is one of the forces that brings our city together and makes the Edmonton region a vibrant and exciting place to live. The 2022 recipients demonstrate commitment and excellence in their respective disciplines, helping to foster an exciting ecology of creation and expression,” said Sanjay Shahani, executive director of the Edmonton Arts Council in an email to the Gazette.
Currently living in Edmonton, Casemore is pursuing an MFA in theatre practice with the University of Alberta’s Department of Drama. In 2021-22, she was also part of Punctuate Theatre’s playwrights’ cohort developing her own work and supporting others in the unit.
In fact, it was Punctuate’s artistic director Matthew MacKenzie who submitted Casemore’s name to the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund judging committee.
A current project she is working on is Blow Your House Down, a play with a cast of eight.
“This represents a big levelling up for me. In the past I’ve written mostly solo shows. This is a big jump and I wanted to try out new voices,” she explained.
In Blow Your House Down, eight co-workers in the real estate industry gather at a dinner party. Awards presentations were to be held that night, however a scandal cancels the event. Since everything is already planned, “they decide to go ahead with a mock living room event of the show,” Casemore said.
“It’s a high-level real estate dinner party. But I’ve left the nature of the scandal up to interpretation quite intentionally.”
Interestingly, the seed for this script was planted from the Harvey Weinstein scandal. As the scandal intensified, large numbers of people outside Weinstein’s immediate circle were affected with serious repercussions — actors, agents, directors and film crews. The scandal also affected assorted businesses often working on contract such as animators, prop makers, makeup artists and even caterers.
“In the entertainment or media field, what happens in one company has a ripple effect on others. I wanted to find a comparable business and settled on real estate.”
Casemore is also participating in Citadel Theatre’s play development program. In another daring creation, Put Your Lips Together brings together four women, all strangers who meet at a vigil for a woman who was killed by a coworker.
The story is based on a true story that shocked the British public. Molly McLaren, a student at the University of Kent was quite literally butchered by her boyfriend a short while after she broke off their relationship.
However, the idea for Put Your Lips Together germinated after Casemore saw a statistic that Canada ranks at the bottom internationally for whistle-blower protections.
“I started to think. Here you have four women who are strangers. Could four strangers help each other blow the whistle on each other's toxic workplace. It’s deeply complicated.”
Not only is Casemore working to develop mystery. She’s also layering the play in a dark, gritty noir style.
“The vigil introduces the style and the stakes.”
However, the playwright has a knack for injecting comedy into some of the angriest or saddest moments of her characters’ lives.
“Ultimately, I’m interested in creating an atmosphere that is heavy. But the women sit in a diner café and they talk about mundane things, and that’s where the comedy spaces connect. The four women are bonding together. They find camaraderie and understanding in each other. It’s the heart of the play.”
As for the $15,000 windfall award. “What’s extraordinary is that it’s not project specific. It’s intended to support the artist. I’m so grateful it gives me the freedom to do what is necessary. It allows me to complete my masters and find my footing. I get to take a breath.”