04/05/2015 12:39 EDT | Updated 06/05/2015 05:59 EDT

Why an Oscar & Tony Winner Chose Toronto for His New Play

In the world of the arts, there is one word that often will kick start a new work.


But that trust needs to be triggered by a question many are apprehensive to ask.

"Do you want to do this?"

We as Canadians often get a bad rap for not being more forward to ask for things that could have "no" as the response.

But some young emerging theatre artists are showing us an important lesson.


At a once in a lifetime type meet up with Oscar, Tony, and Pulitzer winning writer John Patrick Shanley (Doubt,Moonstruck), a beautiful thing apparently happen.

Artists connected on a human level. Yes, one of them was world renowned and the others were, well... scrapping through the system to do good work.

But they had a commonality.

They were all artists. And they were human beings who believed in the power of storytelling.

Soon followed another notable action. Collaboration.

Multiple companies got together and wanted to make this happen. And so Rip Jaw Productions, The Storefront Theatre, SideMart Theatrical Grocery & Theatre Centre rose to the occasion and got it done.

Fast forward to now, and the closing weekend of A Woman is a Secret. This Shanley creation is a "soirée of new short plays about love, lust and longing" told through multiple vignettes and songs. The setting is cabaret style, and keeps the audiences attention throughout. Reviews have been quite strong.

We had the opportunity to converse with John Patrick Shanley and what follows is an eye opening look at how and why this all came together.

Collaboration is all about trust. The story goes you met these Toronto actors and you decided then and there to do a project with them. What in your gut told you to do this with them?

I saw in these actors what originally attracted me to theatre. It wasn't about money or fame. It was about a desire to communally create something heartfelt.

Top three things you liked about the process?

The process for me was minimal. I offered to give them some plays. I gave them some plays. They committed. I met with the director (Andrew Shaver) and producer/actress (Anna Hardwick) in New York, and off they went. I arrived for the opening night.

The power of women is a timely topic. What are five characteristics of a strong woman to you?

A strong woman is a woman confident enough to reveal her weakness and her need. She is willing to say what she thinks, even though she may pay a price. She is the opposite of war in human form. She is the reason for civilization. It was invented for her. And she expects it.

This has six short vignettes around the same theme. Did you structure it this way with the current audience in mind and their attention span?

I wrote these six plays as a way of circling the feminine principle. I hoped to render something three dimensional. And I suggested musical bridges I hoped would create an atmosphere in which such a sculpture could live.

In one sentence, why do you want people to see this play?

The plays invite you to revisit your innocence. See them for that.

Impression of Toronto theatre scene?

I'm very excited by the Toronto theatre scene. It's ready to pop.

This piece has a universal message. Plans to take this play to other international markets?

I had these same plays read in Paris. I want them done in small venues by people who love the magic of theatre.