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Palmerston North

Blue balloon dream a winner for Massey playwright

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Associate Professor Angie Farrow

Blue balloon dream a winner for Massey playwright

A short play involving the magical, transformative qualities of a blue balloon, by Massey University’s Associate Professor Angie Farrow, has won first prize in a Canadian international playwriting competition.

Dr Farrow, who teaches drama and creative processes in the School of English and Media Studies at the Manawatu campus, took out first prize in the Toronto-based InspiraTO Theatre Contest last week.

Her 10-minute play, The Blue Balloon, was selected from among 400 entries worldwide.

The play – metaphorical and surreal – is about a relationship breakdown, and sees the grieving male protagonist releasing a blue balloon that engulfs his city and its inhabitants. The balloon is a liberating presence, prompting characters to think, say, feel and do things they hadn’t thought possible.

The story, inspired by a writer Ronald Bartlheme’s The Red Balloon and influenced by the likes of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, takes an imaginative punt on the existential notion of how to free the human psyche so it can revel in pure visionary, expressive wonder.

“The blue balloon is a metaphor and is antidote to the usual constraints, rules and conventions that prevent us being more expansive, and more truly alive,” she says.

Dr Farrow says she loves the idea of short theatre tackling bold, challenging ideas in a short space of time. And she reckons the short play might be entering its heyday, with busy lives and short attention spans demanding artistic satisfaction in smaller chunks.

Describing short plays as “haiku theatre where you say big things in small spaces,” she says her success is particularly pleasing because there are so few competitions for playwrights.

“It’s a frustrating area in that sense. There are dozens of competitions for short stories, but for theatre there are very few – they are like gold,” says Dr Farrow, who has written 10 short plays, including prize-winners such as Tango Partner, Falling and Lifetime.

The Blue Balloon will premier in New Zealand in Palmerston North’s Darkroom Theatre on April 15 as part of a showcase of six of Dr Farrow’s short plays, and the week after at Wellington’s new Bats Theatre. It will be staged in Toronto in June as part of the InspiraTO Theatre Festival.

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