Last week, Academy members and the community alike enjoyed soaking up wisdom from Come From Away’s Irene Sankoff. Irene was a breath of fresh air and answered many of our questions. We heard about her writing journey, her tips for her success, and of course details about Come From Away.

I’ve tried to take all that she taught and, with a little help from the attendees, summarize the masterclass with Irene Sankoff into 5 Key Takeaways.

Broadway writers are people just like us.

Academy member Linda Bonadies said, “My main takeaway was the importance in de-mystifying “Broadway” writers. Irene is just a regular person like us.” Irene was real. She talked about how being a writer affected her marriage and even her parenting. Irene even said she had to look for a babysitter for when they performed in the NAMT Festival. It’s important for us to realize that these writers were once in our shoes. They also have lives outside of the theatre, just like we do.

Know what you want to get OUT of something before you get INTO something.

Academy member Michael Vezo stated that his key takeaway was to “know what you want to accomplish from a workshop before you go into it.” Set a goal, and see to it that you accomplish that from each piece of development you are doing. Irene gave advice on having a specific goal when sharing new scenes and songs with her husband and writing partner David Hein. When they share ideas, they always state their intention and how they are feeling about it. This allows the receiver to give feedback that is constructive and specific.

Don’t underestimate a college workshop.

Irene spoke highly of her time workshopping with Come From Away at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. She raved about working with the college actors. It seemed to be a very formative time for Come From Away and was a wonderful start at getting it to where it was today. Greg Bachman was affirmed that “[He’s] doing the right stuff to get my musical moving forward toward the college/university market.”

Serve your story. Nothing else.

Hans Vollrath said that the masterclass “was reinforcement of the idea that it’s all about the story. Once you get inspired by a story that you know absolutely must be told, stop at nothing to tell it!” There were so many times when Irene was told this or that wouldn’t work because it wasn’t the “normal” way of doing things. However, as the writers, they were the guardians of the story. They broke various “rules” to tell the story the way it needed to be told, and I believe we can all say Come From Away was much better for it.

There isn’t just ONE way to get there.

While my “Type A” brain would love to follow a step-by-step to-do list, the more writers you hear from, the more you find out there isn’t just one path to Broadway. Sometimes it’s straight, and sometimes it’s a winding road. Loreen Spechler added that she learned “there is no one way of getting a producer and it’s good to think outside of the box.” Irene mentioned that there was a time when her husband sent an email to every NAMT member. He got one response, but that one response was exactly what they needed. Sometimes if there isn’t a path you have to make one.

Irene had many more insights, and many more takeaways were had among the group. I’m so thankful for her time sitting down with the community. She was truly a joy to spend a Thursday night with.

For more information about Irene Sankoff, visit her website at