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Playwright explores new ground in return to Queen's

[Kat Sandler]
Kat Sandler

Kat Sandler, Artsci’08, unbundles her coat and grabs the same seat in Theological Hall she sat in when she took a playwrighting course a decade ago. Ms. Sandler is back at Queen’s as an artist in residence in the Dan School of Drama and Music. It’s a busy time as she prepares to direct Queen’s students in the debut performance of her play, The End of the World Club.

The venue for the play – The Isabel – might be new to Ms. Sandler, but many aspects of her Queen’s experience remain familiar.  

“It’s so crazy being back because it feels like no time has passed at all,” says Ms. Sandler, recalling her student days. “I mostly remember the feeling of community. I am still friends with people I met at Queen’s, and they’re all coming to see the show on Friday. It’s a true honour and gift to come back.”

While it’s a homecoming for Ms. Sandler, she has avoided simply reliving her Queen’s glory days. In talking with Craig Walker, Director, Dan School of Drama and Music, she proposed collaborating with current students to write and mount an entirely new play. 

“I wanted to make something with the students, because it was a much more exciting endeavour than just doing a play I had done before as a student. It’s very similar to what I would do in Toronto,” she says.

[Scene from End of the World Club]
The End of the World Club tells the story of 15 students who must create a new society in the wake of a hypothetical global apocalypse. The play is written and directed by Kat Sandler, Artsci'08, a visiting artist in residence in the Dan School of Drama and Music. (Photo by Tim Fort)

Despite the challenges that come with developing a new play in just three months, Ms. Sandler is proud of the result. The End of the World Club, which premieres tonight, tells the story of 15 university students who sign up to participate in the New World Challenge, a study commissioned by a billionaire alumnus. The characters have three days to create a new society in the wake of a hypothetical global apocalypse.

Ms. Sandler says the students inspired her throughout the writing process. She cast the play without a script back in November. The playwright, actors, and crew got together and discussed the themes and ideas they wanted to address in the play. Ms. Sandler went away from that discussion and created a framework to house those ideas. She returned and the cast has helped workshop the play through rehearsals.

“I am amazed about how open the students are and how much they were willing to share about themselves,” Ms. Sandler says. “Maybe it’s because of social media and technology, but they are so much more generous with their emotions and memories than I feel my generation was.”

The End of the World Club presented by the Dan School of Drama and Music
Written and Directed by Kat Sandler, created by the ensemble
Evening performances: Feb. 9-11 & 14-16 at 8 pm Matinee Performances: Feb. 11-12 at 2 pm
Tickets available on The Isabel website

Zach Fedora, Artsci'17, the play's production manager, says the experience pushed students out of their comfort zone and gave them a better sense of what theatre is like in the professional world.

"It has been the most challenging production I have every worked on, because of all the unknowns and constant changes throughout the process," he says. "Yet here we are on opening night, a month later, with a truly spectacular show to share with the world for the first time, and I could not be more honoured to have had this opportunity to help bring Kat's stories to reality."

Since graduating from Queen’s, Ms. Sandler has built a career as a successful theatre creator, serving as artistic director of Theatre Brouhaha, which she co-founded with her Queen’s classmate Tom McGee, Artsci’08. She received one of Canada’s top theatre honours in 2016 when her play Mustard won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play. She also recently wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Late Night, in collaboration with media mogul Moses Znaimer.

The Dan School of Drama and Music brought Ms. Sandler to Queen’s with support from the arts fund portion of the Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds. The Arts Fund aims to support artists and their contributions to the scholarly community at Queen’s and beyond.

Ms. Sandler took the artist-in-residence opportunity to push her creative boundaries and explore new approaches to storytelling.

“If you can’t try things out at the place where you learned to do things in the first place, where can you try them?”