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Elena Belyea

Alumna, 2005

Elena Belyea attended the workshop in Screen & Playwriting in 2005; she then joined the residential staff as a teacher and counselor in the summers of 2008, 2009, and 2010. She is Artistic Director of Tiny Bear Jaws (a little theatre company with big teeth), former Artistic Director of the Common Ground Arts Society, and a co-founder of the Edmonton Found Festival, a showcase of multidisciplinary arts events that take place in non-traditional venues.

Where are you living and what brought you there?

I’m currently in Montreal after finishing the three-year Playwriting program at the National Theatre School of Canada. It’s one of the few institutions in the world that unites writers, actors, technicians, designers and directors all under one roof. To top it off, the majority of programs exist in English and French (ex. French & English playwriting, French & English production, etc.) so it’s a pretty loud, eclectic place to be. There are no grades. Risks and failure are encouraged. All in all, it’s pretty incredible, and I’m sad to be done. Thankfully, I have some cool projects on the horizon.

Where are you working and what do you enjoy about it?

Right now, I’m working on a solo show that I’ll be touring to Montreal, Edmonton, and hopefully Winnipeg this summer. I’m editing my graduating show Cleave, produced as part of the National Theatre School’s New Words Festival this past April. I’m working on a TV pilot, as well as a TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) play which I hope to produce as a site-specific (taking place in a non-traditional venue) show next summer, in a residential house in Edmonton. The great part about working on forty projects at once is if I get sick of one, I can pick up another until I get sick of that and move on to the next.

What do you find yourself most often reading/listening to lately and why?

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami because I haven’t had the time to dig in until now.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides because it’s worth re-reading for the fifteenth time.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, because of Geryon’s dog.

What are you working on right now and what does it represent in the larger body of your artistic accomplishments?

What I like about theatre is the intersection between text and bodies. A play doesn’t exist until you have an actor saying the lines in a space with people around to hear it. When I think about what theatre “is,” my brain kind of falls apart, but the thing I keep coming back to is this idea of how it requires “text” (could be words or movement or a million other things) and a body/bodies to convey it. Working on this solo show (that I’ll be acting in come June) is neat because I’m writing these lines, knowing that I’m going to have to be the one to find some way to wrap my mind, body, mouth around them.

In general, I enjoy creating in contexts that allow me to use my body as an exploration or jumping off point!

What are your publications, performances, albums, and/or achievements that seem most important to you at this point in time?

I co-created the Found Festival in Edmonton in 2012— a site-specific multidisciplinary event that started with a bunch of friends who wanted to make art without having to pay exorbitant amounts for gallery and rehearsal space. Now, it hosts a wide variety of artists annually, getting together to create and exhibit work in unconventional venues— garages, ravines, a funeral home, and a Dodge Caravan, to name a few. I learnt a ton about self-producing aka putting on my own work, without the support of a larger theatre company. (Less resources to play around with, but way more freedom to do what you want!) It also gave me the opportunity to meet a ton of people in my community doing amazing work I had no idea about.

How would you characterize the influence of your YWW experience in your life?

I think about YWW daily. As a camper, it was my first experience with people who saw and interacted with the world the way I did— who had too many feelings and were trying to figure out what to do with them. I met people who were serious about creating not good, but excellent work. Since then, I’ve collaborated with friends from YWW on chapbooks, plays, and short films. My time at YWW reminds me to look at every experience as an opportunity for a potential project/poem/whatever.

What’s the best advice you can give a Young Writer (in general or in your specific genre)?

The first draft will be bad. Forgive yourself and write it anyway.

The story will tell you what it wants if you listen to it.

If you’re stuck, go for a walk.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Tumblr here, or on Twitter @belyache.

Posted May 2015. Updated September 2017.