________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 10 . . . . November 6, 2009


Uth Ink: Word from the Street.

Robin Sokoiowski, ed.
Toronto, ON: Playwrights Canada Press, 2008.
115 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-88754-837-6.

Subject Headings:
Canadian drama (English)-Ontario.
Youths' writing, Canadian (English)-Ontario.           
Canadian drama (English)-21st century.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*1/2 /4


Tim Hortons

Jake Thompson

Site-Specific Location

Tim Hortons, 265 Atherley Road


(dry, thickened vocal cords) Ahhh food. I, I need food (with obvious pain) I must get to Orillia, home of the Tim Hortons...


(overly optimistic voice) Well my friend, you're in luck. You're already in Orillia. Just turn around this here corner and whoaoaahaahooo, Tim Hortons.


Wow, that's weird. I've heard of things like this happening in Orillia before. Well, I'm going to order something. Hello, Tim Hortons. Yes, thank you. One Timbit. Yep, glazed with sugar. All right, I...(with mounting horror) Oh my God. There's no sugar on the thing.


(shocked tone) Oh my God, really?


(sarcastically) Of course not. How could such an amazing place hold such a flaw. (sighs)


Ah, how true you are, my friend. What a place. It holds such memories for me... (fades off)


Oh no, you're not going to launch into one of those daydream recollections that sound like advertisements for Tim Hortons, are you?


It all started long ago when I was very young...


The chain of causality in the proverb that begins, "For want of a nail the shoe was lost," ultimately leads to a kingdom's being lost. Unfortunately, a parallel situation exists with Uth Ink, one which leads to my final "Not recommended" statement. In this case, the missing "nail" is Sokoloski's opening two-page "Introduction" which simply doesn't provide enough information to allow a reader who is not already familiar with the Uth Ink program to make an informed decision about the worth of the anthology's contents.

     So, what do we learn from Sokoloski's two-page "Introduction"? In September 2008, Uth Ink embarked on its "first year of programming in five different communities throughout Ontario." According to Sokoloski, "The philosophy behind Uth Ink is to give young people a voice in their community." Sokoloski goes on to explain that "Uth Ink has many points of inspiration, one of which is the internationally acclaimed [murmur] program. [murmur] is an oral history documentary project...that records stories and memories told about specific geographic locations.... Uth Ink complies with [murmur]'s mandate by asking each young participant to select a particular physical location within their community and weave it into their own three-minute play." In each of the five communities in which the program was offered, it was carried out in cooperation with one or more community organizations and had the facilitative support of a professional playwright.  

     Now, what does Sokoloski not say? Firstly, she never identifies the age span of Uth Ink's participants. Words like "young people" and "youth" are simply too vague. Additionally, the length of the program remains undefined as was the role of the playwright facilitator. Such details are important if one of Sokoloski's unstated goals was to inspire the expansion of the Uth Ink program to other Canadian locales.

     Uth Ink's contents are divided into five sections, with each being identified by the community in which the program was held: Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Orillia, Etobicoke and Sudbury. Of the anthology's 40 plays, only two are co-authored, and assuming that the published plays accurately represent the number of participants in each Uth Ink locale, then the number of participants ranged from a low of four in Orillia to a high of 13 in Thunder Bay. Each section is introduced with a hand drawn "map" showing the locations of the plays connected with that community. Unfortunately, in most instances, the maps are much too small to be useful.

     Given that the "young" playwrights were to write something that would not take longer than three minutes to perform, the "plays" are short, with most being either monologues or scenes that rarely call for more than two characters. Because the ages of the participants are unknown, it would be unfair to be overly critical of what they have produced, other than to simply say that, with a few exceptions, the plays' contents are not reader engaging.

     Since Uth Ink only provides the products and not the details of the creative process which led to the plays' creation, the anthology will not likely have much, if any, appeal beyond those who participated in the project or perhaps some residents of the five communities who might be curious to see which locales these "young people" decided to focus upon. As Uth Ink is more a souvenir of a learning experience than it is a contribution to literature for juveniles, perhaps simply posting the plays to a website would have been a more appropriate "publication" choice.

Not recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who is CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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