Image: Cole Alvis, Robin Luckwaldt, Gabe Maharjan, Heath V. Salazar (Connie Tsang)

Rhiannon Collett

WASP – Year 1 Commission

Wasp’s town is being colonized by a swarm of angels who impregnate women on their 21st birthdays. Isaac thinks he’s solved the epidemic with his homemade CocaCola abortions, but Wasp isn’t so sure. When the angels rape a young woman on the side of the highway, Isaac and Wasp are unable to save her. Coke abortions aren’t fool-proof and it’s Wasp’s birthday at midnight. The angels are coming for them next.

On the other side of town, their partners are worried. Jayne, Wasp’s trans girl lover, is an auto-mechanic who flies incognito at the local garage. In a town where your womanhood is defined by the ability to bear angelic children, she’s quietly transitioning using an illegal cocktail of hormone blockers and birth control pills. Her childhood best friend Caroline is Jayne’s polar opposite. She’s Isaac’s true believer cis girlfriend, and the daughter of two prominent cult leaders. Caroline has prepared her whole life to be taken by the angels. When she is passed over, her identity is shattered. Why would the angels have skipped her? Does it have something to do with Isaac?

When Jayne and Caroline crash Isaac and Wasp’s secret meeting, the four of them are left to fight out the truth about the colonial trauma that’s plaguing their community. They’ll need to unite if they want to survive, as the clock counts down to the angels’ inevitable arrival.

Wasp was commissioned in 2016 in the first year of Nightswimming’s 5×25 initiative. In 2023 the script has been published and presented as an online audio drama by safeword.

Headshot of Rhiannon Collett, with a white background
Rhiannon Collett (Yuula Benivolski)

Rhiannon Collett (they/them) is an award-winning non-binary playwright, performer, director and translator based in Vancouver and Toronto. Their work explores the ritualization of grief, gender performativity, queer/trans identity and sexual labour. Their play The Kissing Game received Montreal’s Meta Award for Outstanding New Text. Playwriting credits include Miranda & Dave Begin Again (2016 Playwrights Guild of Canada RBC Emerging Playwright Award/Festival du Jamais Lu); Wasp (Nightswimming/Rhubarb Festival); The Kissing Game (Youtheatre/Young People’s Theatre/Banff Playwrights Lab); Tragic Queens (CABAL/Wildside Festival); La Somnambule (co-written with Joseph Shragge/CABAL); The Revolutions (Spiderwebshow), There are No Rats in Alberta with musician T. Thomason (Buddies in Bad Times Emerging Creators Unit/Rhubarb Festival), and the English language translation of Chienne(s) by Marie-Eve Milot and Marie-Claude St-Laurent (BoucheWHACKED! Theatre Collective). Rhiannon’s work is funded by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Dramaturgy and process

Nightswimming’s dramaturigcal and financial support through 5×25 has helped Rhiannon conduct readings and a workshop production of an early draft at Buddies in Bad Times’ Rhubarb Festival in 2019. Throughout the writing process, Rhiannon has shared text and drafts of the script, carefully growing it from a wild one act play in 2018 to a devastating and dangerous full length, two act play in 2020.

During the pandemic, Rhiannon conducted several online workshop processes to further develop the story and structure of Wasp. In 2023, the script was published by Playwrights Canada Press and is now available for purchase and performance. Moreover, an exciting new extended version of Wasp will premiere in the form of an audio drama, presented by safeword.

Nightswimming’s support through 5×25 has allowed me to develop as an artist at my own pace, on my own terms. I have grown profoundly over the past five years – not exponentially or quickly, but in a way that grounds and strengthens a career.