Taking risks: Victoria theatre expert and author gains traction for his new model of tragedy

Edwin Wong releases Risk Theatre book, hosts successful global playwriting competition

By Rae Porter

Monday Magazine contributor

There’s something of a theatrical revolution happening within the quiet, shady streets of the Rockland neighbourhood.

Plumber by day, award-winning classicist by night, Edwin Wong has brought the ancient art of tragic theatre smack-bang into the 21st century with his self-published book, The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected (Friesen Press 2019).

The Risk Theatre model re-brands and re-frames tragedy as a high stakes game of chance where protagonists place high-risk bets; be they essential human values, friendships and relationships, or their own dignity and integrity, against unexpected outcomes.

Shrugging off any misconceptions that this is purely an academic tome, Wong keeps the pace trotting forward at a smart clip; laying out his ideas clearly and concisely, while providing a detailed lens by which to interpret classic tragedy (think Macbeth and Oedipus of yore) and a template by which new works can be created for a modern audience. The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy is currently sitting on library shelves, from the University of Victoria all the way to the Russian National Library in Moscow, with plans to be in 50 more by the end of the year.

In celebration of the publication, Wong teamed up with Langham Court Theatre, Canada’s oldest community theatre company, and launched a global search for the next great tragedy.

“A lot of people are afraid to write tragedy,” Wong says. “It’s old, it’s mysterious, it’s about kings and queens; the one-per-centers, and for today’s audience that’s not very popular.”

READ ALSO: 250th Free Little Library installed in Victoria

He enlisted the help of Langham general manager Michelle Buck; Keith Digby, an accomplished playwright and screenwriter, and playwright/director Michael Armstrong to run the competition. Wong believed there would be interest from Canadian playwrights and expected “about 50 entries or so. We got 182 playwrights from 11 countries entering.”

The eventual winner was New York/Austin based playwright Gabriel Jason Dean with his piece In Bloom. Set to the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan, In Bloom follows Aaron, a documentary filmmaker, and his journey to tell the truth, precariously balancing between altruism and imperialism.

As part of his competition prize, Dean will be flown out to Victoria to take part in a professionally led workshop, culminating in the staged reading of his winning play before a live audience at Langham Court Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 20 (watch for more details later).

Already, the call is out for submissions for the 2020 competition, with an increased prize package.

Wong hopes the competition continues to grow; providing a platform for playwrights, be they new or established, and all while keeping the dramatic spotlight directly on Victoria.

“We punch above our weight when it comes to arts and culture,” he says “As for the competition, with a fantastic theatre behind you and a playwriting blueprint to follow – well, it is a great reason to bring the world here!”

As far as risks go, this is one seems to have paid off.



editor@mondaymag.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Province’s oldest lawyer shares advice for living well at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Swimmers, advocates plead to Victoria council for new Crystal Pool facility

Many swimmers dependant on the pool are afraid to be without any athletic resources

Saanich swaps last propane-powered Zamboni for electric model

Pearkes arena’s all-electric ice resurfacing fleet to reduce carbon emissions by six tonnes

PHOTOS: New BC Ferries hybrid vessels arrive in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

The ferries will run two gulf island routes in upcoming months

Victoria police seek to pilot blue-lighted vehicles for increased visibility

Police have already purchased the lights and are awaiting provincial approval

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Dashcam records driver’s near-miss near Sooke

Driver crossed four lanes of traffic and back over again, barely missing three other vehicles

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

Most Read