Rural Rogues raises the curtain on playwrighting workshops

By James Matthews (Local Journalism Initiative)
Local scribblers will get a chance to peer behind the curtains of playwrighting with one of Canada’s masters of writing for the stage.
Rural Rogues Theatre Productions will host a series of six workshops to be instructed by none other than Dan Needles.
Needles has brought to life the stories and characters of his mythical Persephone Township, a fictional rural Canadian community. His Wingfield Farm series of stage plays have appeared in virtually every English-speaking theatre in Canada, including the Stratford Festival and Royal Alex in Toronto. They became a popular television series aired on CBC, Bravo, and the PBS networks.
Nominated three times for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Needles won in 2003 book, With Axe and Flask: The History of Persephone Township from Pre-Cambrian Times to the Present Day. He is the author of 12 plays, four books and hundreds of magazine columns.
“We felt we were ready and the community was ready to bring in somebody of Dan Needles’ calibre to lead these workshops,” said Jennifer Rieger, chairperson of Rural Rogues. “He fits exactly what we’re trying to do in telling local stories.”

The local theatre company has in the past put off similar workshops. Rural Rogues was founded in 2017 to produce plays that tell the stories of the history, people, and places of Haliburton County.
“We want to work with our local community, people who are interested in doing this to learn how to do it,” Rieger said.
This round of six sessions is made possible by a grant from the Haliburton County Development Corporation. The workshops begin Oct. 29 and will run until April.
There will be three in-person workshops at the Haliburton Highlands Museum and three online workshops. Class is limited to 10 participants and the cost is $90.
Needles has participated in similar workshops in Collingwood and they’ve proven to be quite popular, he said.
A popular phrase among writers: “Show, don’t tell.”
But Needles said aspiring scribes are rarely instructed on how to show the story without telling it. And that’s exactly what he hopes to achieve with the workshops in Haliburton.
A scene is a moment where something changes. If we can learn to write in moments where something changes, that gives your writing forward momentum and keeps the audience engaged.
“The theory is if you can write in scenes, you can write anything,” Needles said. “Don’t try to write a play. Try to tell a story through scenes. It’s a real trick.”
The workshops will delve into the history of writing for the stage that goes all the way back to Greek theatre. Participants will get a true sense of playwriting’s evolution.

Needles said participants will learn how to apply the nuts and bolts of writing to the stage. How and when the writer should build the protagonist’s conflict.
“I think the reason the workshops have become so popular in Collingwood and people come back year after year is because they do answer the question of how to show and not tell,” he said.
To register, contact Kate Butler at
See for updates about other dates and information.