The Arts Club LEAF program mentors young playwrights in creating original dramatic works. Photo by Mark Halliday.
The Arts Club LEAF program mentors young playwrights in creating original dramatic works. Photo by Mark Halliday.

Over the past year, Ashleigh Giffen found herself commuting between Squamish and Vancouver to participate in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s LEAP (Learning Early About Playwriting) program. While the year-long course usually concludes with the reading of completed works, Giffen’s play, Still Waters, is getting a second life.

The script, centered on missing and murdered Aboriginal women, struck such a chord with LEAP leader Shawn Macdonald and Arts Club education coordinator Kevan Ellis, that the two continued to seek ways to support its development.

“Each year, LEAP scripts are given public readings by professional actors here at the Arts Club, but following the Vancouver presentation in April of this year, Ashleigh really wanted to keep working on a new draft and have a reading of it in her own community,” says Ellis. “Typically, our involvement on LEAP scripts ends once classes are complete, but once she brought the idea forward, it was amazing to see the momentum of support from both the Arts Club and by her local Squamish Band council.”

Now moving in its tenth season, LEAP has seen over 150 students mentored through the creation of original dramatic works since the program’s inception in 2006.

“As LEAP approaches its tenth anniversary, we are thrilled with the impressive growth under the direction of Shawn Macdonald,” says Arts Club artistic director, Bill Millerd. “The reading of Ashleigh’s play is an important step in our commitment to encouraging playwrights from diverse communities to share their stories.”

For Giffen, it is an opportunity to bring a greater focus on some of the issues facing the First Nations communities.

“The Squamish people mean a lot to me, and through them I have met many incredible, powerful leaders, who have been an inspiration to me in writing a play about our murdered and missing women,” says Giffen. “I want to go beyond the mold of how people perceive Aboriginal people, but I feel it’s important to bring focus to the issues that are still happening today. Doing this locally, for me, is just the beginning.”

Still Waters will receive a public reading in Squamish on September 10. Email [email protected] for more information.

For more information on the Arts Club Theatre Company’s LEAP program visit Applications for the 2016 program are being accepted until October 31.