When Camille Intson first met James Cavanaugh two years ago, even she had no idea how far he might take her.
An English and Theatre and Performance Studies student, Intson submitted a piece to Western’s one-act short play festival, Purple Shorts, under her Cavanaugh pseudonym. She knew the producers and didn’t want them to know she was behind the show – “a diary entry, a rant on life, word vomit on paper.”
When Cavanaugh’s rant was selected for production, she had to come forward and claim her work.
“It was my first thing in front of an audience, the first ‘play’ I had written. I’ve been writing music since I was in middle school and that was always my writing outlet. The first time I did it for theatre, it was so rewarding. I started wanting to tell other stories,” she explained.
Already a published poet, ex-harpist and Hamilton Music Award-winning singer/songwriter, Intson, 20, is now an accomplished playwright whose works have been produced professionally across the country. She was recently named the winner of a National Playwriting Contest for a show she wrote and developed at the Grand Theatre in London.
Following the production of her first foray into theatre, Inston wrote Road, an experimental, “expressionist-esque” show featuring four strangers on a train who flow in and out of each other’s consciousness. On a whim, she submitted the piece to the Grand Theatre, which annually invites submissions from professional and amateur writers in southwestern Ontario, selecting choice pieces for professional staging showcases.
“By some miracle, it was chosen. It was my first experience in a professional setting, which was bizarre because I had only done this one short play before. I was in a whole other pond,” Intson said. “But I was shown a lot of love for the piece and got to do a lot with it.”
Earlier this year, Road was selected out of 300 plays worldwide to be staged in a professional setting at a festival in Vancouver. It also won the Newmarket National Play Festival competition in which 24 Canadian plays are performed over a weekend in July.
Intson is also the co-founder and director of ArtLaunch Theatre Company, a theatre collective based out of Winnipeg, aiming to create new theatrical spaces for emerging voices and stories. Launched last year, the group has already seen success with its debut production, The Stock, which depicts “four friends with toxic relationships coming together for one night to finish a project.”
The Winnipeg Free Press gave the play four stars, saying, “It’s a bit like if the detention in The Breakfast Club just kept going until it curdled into the ‘Hell is other people’ existential nightmare of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. Friendship can be dangerous when the line between intimacy and inspiration becomes blurred.”
Intson is currently working on fleshing out new ideas and productions with ArtLaunch. She is in talks with festivals and companies playing the “submission and waiting game.”
“We’re pro strong female characters. One of the reasons I started writing plays was because I grew up acting, and a lot of the roles for women are demeaning, horrible. I’ve played a prostitute or the stereotypical dumb blonde so many times, and I was like, ‘Screw this, I’m writing my own stories,’” she said.
Intson is always writing, often in inopportune places and at inopportune times. Writing a piece can take her days (Road was written in two days) or months, as is the case with The Stock, which took eight or nine months to complete. She continues to write but is also preparing to take the LSAT exam, with hopes of going to law school in the future. Intson has many interests, and juggling everything keeps her busy. Balance is hard, “overwhelming” and worthwhile.
A former Playwright in Residence with Toronto’s Paprika Festival – a youth-led performing arts organization – Intson created a show called Bloodlines, workshopping and staging a reading of the play. She was accepted into the Playwrights Guild of Canada this year and hopes to direct in the future.
“It’s been a wild ride since I got into it. I fell into it. It felt like I fell in a puddle, and the rain was in my pants, and I was like, ‘What do I do now?’ It’s been a what-comes-next kind of thing.”