Camille Intson, is a young woman, from Hamilton, with a real gift for narrative storytelling, writing songs, and plays. Her newest script, We All Got Lost, won the 2019 Hamilton Fringe Play Contest, and will have its world premiere at the Westdale Theatre, as part of this year’s festival, in a few weeks time. I had the chance, to have a fascinating discussion with Intson, who gave thoughtful and articulate responses to my questions.
She explained to me that of, “All the mediums in which I work, contribute to the same expressions — of desire, of melancholia, of love, of longing to be other — whose final form is nonverbal. Everything bleeds into everything. I am in constant conversation with myself.”
Theatre, is often described as a dying art form, something antiquated that cannot compete, with the modern technology of narrative story telling to be found in film or television. Something that I find so compelling about Camille’s work, is that it is inherently theatrical. She is focused, on the intimate and interactive nature, of live performance.
“There is something so present, so immediate, about live theatre that is practically endangered in our digitally driven world. When I was a kid, I was read to every night before bed. Now most of my acts of reading exist in silence — I read a novel or a book of poetry or theory to myself. I read a text, and I text back. Communication is so fickle now. Theatre is one of the mediums that allow us to be read to. And we need that. It’s vital.”
In addition to writing an award winning play, Intson is also directing, and her own theatre company Pink Pantheon Projects, is the one staging it. While her earlier plays have appeared at other festivals across the country, such as the Fringes in Winnipeg, London, and Toronto, this play is her first one, to be included in the Hamilton Fringe. The cast, for her new play includes, Jessica Pellicciotta, Kaitlin Race, Emily Meadows, Evelyn Barber, and Miranda Cooper, who are all strong and committed actors.
“I’ve been self–producing theatre, since I was eighteen, but I’ve refused to direct, or solely produce my own work until right now. My head is heavy from all the hats, that I have to wear on this production. It’s stressful, but rewarding.”
I first encountered her writing, as part of the HamilTEN Festival last year. Her play, Road, about four strangers on a GO train, who share their innermost thoughts with an audience, was full of clever imagery and frank honesty. Although a short play, it dealt with large themes, such as love and loss, and was, I felt, so beautifully written, to the point of it being poetry. She is a wonderfully prolific writer, with ten completed plays to date.
This exposure to her work, made me curious to learn more about Camille Intson, and about her other creative pursuits. She has just finished a four year Honours degree, in English and Theatre, at Western, has released a new CD of original folk music, and in the fall is off to London, England, to the prestigious, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, to do a Masters in Performance Studies.
“My play, We All Got Lost actually started as a verbatim piece. I conducted a series of interviews with young women around the GTA who were raised strictly Catholic. Before I knew it, I had this weird and wacky play about what happens when stories go too far, take on lives of their own, become lethal... because that's how ideology works. The first person to ever see pages from it was Daniel MacIvor, believe it or not. He told me there “was really something there”, that I “had a healthy process” and “knew where the story was taking me.” I met him during a writing residency in London (Ontario), where I lived for four years. I’ve never forgotten that meeting (although he probably has) — I was so nervous.”
Make no mistake, this is a young Hamilton artist, that is about to step onto the world stage. I asked Camille, about the other writers who inspired her work.
“I love Sarah Ruhl’s plays. I have a flair for the surreal. Speaking locally, I also love the work of Jordan Tannahill, Erin Shields, Daniel MacIvor, and The Independent Aunties. But, I am influenced by anyone, who has ever said anything about anything. Novelists, poets, philosophers, scientists, behaviourists, friends, family members, weird strangers at the bar. We’re all a part of the same canon. My influences are infinite.”
Erin Shields, is a fascinating influence on Intson’s writing, and makes for an apt comparison of the two. Both emerged out of the drama classes at Westdale Secondary, both got English degrees, and then both went on, (or will go on), to study at conservatory drama schools in the UK. Shields, has impressive achievements in the world of Canadian theatre, she won the 2011 Governor General’s Award for Drama for her play If We Were Birds, which premiered at Tarragon Theatre, and her work has been seen at Stratford, the Shaw Festival and other large stages across Canada. Shields, also began her playwriting career at Summerworks, and on the Fringe Festival circuit, but fifteen years ago.
I wonder, if perhaps twenty years from now, Camille Intson’s plays will be as well known, as Erin Shield’s work is currently, given that both writers are feminist and spring from a common source. For Camille, growing up in Hamilton, has certainly, had an impact on her writing.
“I knew I was an artist, but I let everyone around me tell me otherwise. It wasn’t until I actually left Hamilton, that I connected with that integral part of myself. So returning to my hometown with this play feels quasi–triumphant. I have fond memories of my time at Westdale Secondary School, doing the Sears Drama Festival, (which is now the NTS Festival); it was there I learned the importance of community.”
The Hamilton Fringe, has run its new play contest since 2007, as a key way to focus playwrights on submitting to the festival. The winner of it, gets a free production slot and three hundred dollars cash. I note, that over the years, the vast majority of the winners, have been from out of town, and have been male. Although, Rex Emerson Jackson, a transgendered playwright, won the contest last year, it is still rare for someone who is young, female and local, to take the top honour. Scripts are read blind, by a jury of local theatre professionals.
“Listen — the Hamilton Fringe Play Contest has only been won by two women in its history. The first was Lesley Strutt in 2012. Then along I came. I’m twenty–two, and scrappy. Young artists don’t usually win contests like this, and this company is comprised of emerging female artists, breaking into the professional world.”
With 58 productions, in the 2019 Hamilton Fringe, Camille is confident about why an audience should come and see her play,
“We are part of a new generation of queer/feminist theatre makers. We have a cast of five kick–ass, talented women. It’s a chance to support young artists — (all proceeds go back to us!). It’s a story about a band of girls, forming a sacrilegious storyteller’s cult in the woods. You will laugh and cry and love and feel. That is a promise. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.”
I for one, am keen to see this new production. Hopefully, other Fringe audience members, will join me, in the line–up to get in. V
WE ALL GOT LOST
by Camille Intson
Presented by Pink Pantheon Projects
At the Westdale Theatre, King Street West,
As part of the 2019 Hamilton Fringe Festival