2023 Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award Winner: Delia Barnett

Fringe interviews this year’s Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award Winner: Delia Barnett.

Fringe Theatre is committed to supporting opportunities for local playwrights to create, develop and share work through the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.  

The intent of the Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award is to encourage and support Fringe playwrights who are creating plays that will be produced at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. 

What is your Fringe story? How long have you been fringing? How did you become a Fringe playwright?

“I have been a Fringe Artist in Edmonton for 13 years and 15 total. I did my first Fringe show soon after high school at the London Fringe in a Commedia D’ell Arte-inspired show called Shovels and Sacks. I have performed in many shows, but I started producing in 2011 with Send in the Girls’ first-ever show Tudor Queens: A Burlesque.  I have long devised theatre and worked collaboratively- but this is my first foray into a traditional playwright role.  I have long wanted to perform a solo show about my hero, Canadian Burlesque Legend- Judith Stein. I felt like it was now or never, so I took the plunge. ”


Why do you tell stories? What inspires you?

“As an Artist- I am fascinated by history- specifically the stories that aren’t often represented. I like to know about the people and events often forgotten, ignored or footnoted. I think there is much to learn from those narratives that are sadly often devalued. I also love uplifting, underdog-inspiring stories.”


How has Fringe impacted your work as a playwright?

“Fringe has allowed me to see so many other people’s work for years- it’s so inspiring to see how other people craft their stories. I have seen so many shows that live rent-free in my head. I also love that it’s a chance to take risks, be vulnerable and put yourself out there. ”

Delia Barnett: Photo by Red Socks Photography Darla Woodley

What is a Fringe achievement you are most proud of? 

“2011, we debuted Tudor Queens: A Burlesque to the Fringe- it was Send in the Girls’ first show. I wasn’t sure how audiences would react, and I am so new to burlesque. We sold out the entire run and holdovers, won staff pick of the fringe, were nominated for a Sterling Award, and people started skelping our tickets on Kijiji- it was WILD. I thought- oh, I guess this is what I do now. And I have done it ever since. ”


How would you describe the Fringe community? 

“The Fringe community is wild- filled with so many amazing Artists- everyone is so inspiring. I definitely feel imposter syndrome frequently. ”


Tell us about your play that is being presented at the 2023 Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

It’s called The Grand Beaver: The Tale of Canadian Burlesque Legend Judith Stein. Judith is an incredible woman who blazed an amazing trail around the world- her stories are so incredible. She is my hero and a mama to me; I knew I wanted to share everything about her with anyone who would listen/watch. This is a true Heritage Moment- that you would never see in the mainstream.  This is the story of a burlesque dancer and stripper who followed her gut and took chances. I am lucky that Judith trusted me with her stories and spent hours telling me ones I hadn’t heard yet- the hither, thither and thong, as she’d say.  I feel the show I have created is funny, frank and beautiful; it mixes movement and text.

I also have a wild connection to Judith’s past- because she, as a young girl, saw the women who performed in the “girlie show” at the CNE lined up outside the tent, and at one time, my grandmother was one of those women. Did Judith see my grandmother? Probably not- if she did, that would truly be a small-world moment. But the fact that my family history connects with hers is amazing. I didn’t find out about my grandma in the girlie shows, and I wasn’t a showgirl at that time, so I cannot connect with her about it- I will never know the details, and I can never ask her- but I do have a wonderful friendship with Judith, and I can listen to her stories.

This show is a true labour of love. I get to honour my friend and hero while creating and performing in a show I am in love with.”


How will the Gerald Osborn Award support your work as a playwright? 

“It’s honestly such a surprise; I am so honoured that I am still processing it. It came on a day I was feeling stressed and wondering if I could do this. It already gave me such a boost. It is encouraging me to keep going, trusting my gut and going for it.  I already have ideas for future shows. ”


The Grand Beaver

Find out more about the Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award here. 

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