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Local writer places third in competition

Local writer-actress-singer-songwriter’s 10-minute play tied for third in the Ryga Festival contest
Keyanna Burgher takes the Powerhouse Theatre stage as Velma Kelly in Valley Vocal Arts production of Chicago recently. Burgher, who grew up in theatre, tied for third in the Ryga Festival 10-Minute Play Contest. (Joshua Jerrid Photography)

The orange-soaked tendrils of an Okanagan sunset cascade through the window, dimly illuminating a dark-haired woman sitting at a small, wooden desk.

A grey cat naps on the edge of the desk, its tail falling lazily over the corner as she types on the computer. As her fingers strike the last key, she leans back in her chair, her dark hair reaching over the backrest, and a feeling of relief washes over her. The cat stirs as she pets it before hitting send on the keyboard. She had finished tuning up her script, and it was time to submit it for the Ryga Festival 10-Minute Play Contest.

Local writer-actress-singer-songwriter Keyanna Burgher’s 10-minute play Snow Globe tied for third with Linda Beaven’s Growing Up Vernon.

“It was awesome. I wasn’t really expecting anything,” Burgher said of placing third in the competition. “It was just really nice for someone else to think it has potential. I’m just super stoked.”

Burgher wrote Snow Globe while studying creative writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Snow Globe is the story of two characters and their life inside a snow globe. One day, while enjoying life inside their little bubble, one snow globe citizen falls in love with someone from the outside world.

“In our culture, it’s a lot of us looking for something else, something outside, and it’s kind of fun to explore these ideas,” Burgher said. “It’s sort of a cute little thing I thought would work for submitting.”

The whole story revolves around two characters, and for good reason.

“I really, really like small plays,” Burgher said. “When you have more going on, you can’t go too far into it. With two people, you can really get into it.”

Despite Snow Globe being no more than a 10-minute production with the writing itself taking roughly one hour, the editing and rewriting process was far more cumbersome than one would imagine.

“It was difficult to know how much of the world they would be able to know inside a snow globe,” Burgher laughed.

Originally from Moose Jaw, Sask., Burgher has written several plays that have been produced in Vancouver and Regina, with some winning best play originals. While her script length and subject matter varies, the creative process remains largely the same.

“I think any play or story I write I’ve been thinking about it for a while before I start,” she said.

Burgher writes everything from scripts to fiction. But for her, the idea of a 10-minute or less play is intriguing.

“I really love fiction, that’s probably my favourite to write, but I’m a really lazy writer, hence the 10-minute plays,” she laughed. “I love poetry as well, but I don’t think I’d ever pursue that.”

Poetry is a tool Burgher uses to combat writer’s block, she said, because of the free-flowing and rule-breaking nature of the poetry world. And when the writer’s block is broken down, theatre and playwriting is where Burgher’s proverbial pen is most at home.

“I’ve been writing plays since I was a kid,” Burgher said. “My mom is a director so I grew up around theatre.”

Her first performance, at least the first she can perhaps not-so-fondly remember, was when she played a mouse in Hansel and Gretel.

“My first time on stage, I was terrified and I ran off stage the wrong way. It wasn’t the best introduction to theatre,” Burgher laughed.

That didn’t stop her, though. Every Saturday night, Burgher and a friend would get together to write a play, which was then performed for the enjoyment of Burgher’s friends and family.

Her hard work and dedication paid off, and before she knew it, her life began to revolve around the stage

“Pretty much every year of my life I was performing,” Burgher said. “I wouldn’t have that any other way.”

The love of theatre carried on, and when Burgher isn’t writing, she’s likely performing. In a recent performance of Valley Vocal Arts and Big Apple Production’s Chicago, Burgher played a lead role in the form of Velma Kelly — a murderer in a head-to-head battle for vaudevillian limelight.

“I like to think I’m always working on something,” Burgher said.

But with the obligations of day-to-day life and a full-time job, Burgher admitted that art often gets pushed to the sides, though she doesn’t plan on putting the pen down yet.

During the Goodwill Shakespeare Festival, an annual drama festival focused on getting youth involved in the performing arts, Burgher led a workshop on creative writing.

“I think I would like to teach creative writing and acting. I just felt so happy. It gives me so much more joy to impart what little wisdom I have.”