The Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award was created to encourage and support Fringe playwrights who are creating or have written a play that will be produced at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. Each year, this award will go to one recipient to support their writing process, artistic activities, and/or career development.
The first ever Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award recipient is… Rebecca Merkley. This award celebrates the achievements and future of Rebecca’s work.
She is currently performing Jesus Teaches Us Things at the 41st Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, so we chatted with Rebecca between performances about all things Fringe, playwrighting, and the journey ahead.
Congratulations on being the first recipient of the Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award! We have to start with the classic question: how long have you been fringing?
Rebecca (R): I first entered Fringe as a performer, performing in 2013 in Coraline the Musical. Then in 2015, I performed in Jessy Ardern’s Harold and Vivian Entertains Guests.
So, you started your Fringe journey as a performer! When and why did you dive into playwrighting?
R: I decided to write and produce my own work because I wanted to be in charge of my career. I don’t like waiting for permission to do the things I want to do. So, I made it happen. Fringe has been an excellent platform for creating, workshopping, and bringing to life the things I imagine.
The Unsyncables was my playwriting/directorial debut in 2016. It got nominated for an Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for Outstanding Fringe Production. I continued to write and produce at the Fringe from then on. Not because of the nomination, but because I found a deep love for writing and directing. It’s very fun and incredibly rewarding.
My second production, Rivercity the Musical, also received a Sterling nod (Best Fringe New Work). And my solo show, 5 South, received two nominations: Outstanding Performance by an Actor and Best Fringe New Work. I’ve written and produced several other shows, and each one holds a special place in my heart!
What inspires you to tell stories?
R: I tell stories because it makes me feel like I’m contributing something to the world. I’m inspired by my vast life experience and current affairs. I’m passionate about feminist themes, mental health, and just ridiculous, hilarious camp that celebrates life.
I also love music. There is always a musical element in my work.
Considering your growth as an artist over the past decade, how would you say that Fringe impacted your work as a playwright?
R: I want to bring joy and hope to the world. Fringe has given me this opportunity. I’ve grown so much as a playwright/director/performer by producing at the Festival.
A major part of Fringe is the community that gathers within and around it. How would you describe the Fringe community?
R: The Fringe community are folks who love theatre and love supporting artists. The artists have a sense of comradery, and it’s fun to gather once a year and celebrate each other! I love it!
If you had to choose, what Fringe achievement you are the proudest of?
R: My biggest accomplishment was selling out 5 South and Merk Deux Soliel in the same year with only one review for 5 South (and none for Merk. Classic).
Tell us about your play that is being presented at the 2022 Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.
R: My play this year is called Jesus Teaches Us Things and it’s basically a kid’s show for adults.
Jesus teaches the Christian Bible Assembly’s 2nd grade Sunday School class. They do Arts and Crafts, lesson time, singing time, and even a Q&A! People are loving it, and I’m so happy! I used to be highly involved in the ministry and have vast knowledge of Theology.
I attended Bible College and even worked as a Pastor. I made my exit from the church and eventually found the Arts. This play is a fun and therapeutic way to share my thoughts and experiences on religion in a non-threatening, non-polarizing way. It’s been successful and lovingly received!
Now it’s time to look forward: How will the Gerald Osborn Award support your work as a playwright?
R: The Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award will help me in my grant applications and also just remind me to continue down this path. It was a boost of validation. It’s a great honor, and I’m thrilled to receive this recognition!
Want to read the whole story of the Gerald Osborn Playwriting Award?
Or to learn more about Fringe Theatre Awards and funding opportunities for artists (and how to apply)?