Her Side of the Story – Jennifer Brewin

This post is part of a series for our Her Side of the Story encounter, May 13-14 2016 located at the National Theatre School of Canada. We invited theatre artists from across Canada to reflect on how their work in theatre is influenced by their perspective as women. Are they conscious of promoting a “feminine perspective” or is it something that is intuitive? Imago Theatre would like to thank all of the artists who responded to our questions for their thoughtful, insightful responses. We will be sharing these responses on our blog for the first two weeks of May. We will also be creating a publication of selected quotes, which will be available for free at the Her Side of the Story readings, long-table discussion, and cabaret.

Jennifer Brewin

A few words

Women go to theatre.  They keep it alive. And a feminine perspective on stage will lead to a greater appetite for theatre. In its absence, we talk about the quality of the acting, the inventiveness of the staging — all fine questions, but the answers don’t want to make us move mountains. If the gals are only talking about their husbands, it’s not an invigorating experience. I can’t engage.

I go to the theatre and, over and over again, the women on stage are of three types: virgin, mother or harlot. The worst is when our plight is a metaphor for society’s tragedies. Fuck off. As Ann-Marie MacDonald, one of our great playwrights, wrote: “Keep your metaphor off my body.”

It’s also personal. What drives me is to create a theatre for my nieces and nephews and grandchildren and their friends. The women in their lives are funny and smart and sometimes forget to pick them up from soccer practice; they fix cars and run companies. These women have lives that don’t revolve only around who they have sex with, who they inspire or who needs their lunched packed. The women these children know are active agents in a complicated world.

About ten years ago I made a commitment to only making plays with woman at the centre of the narrative. When I begin to investigate an idea, I never start with “this is going to be a feminist story, or it’s going to be a play about women’s emancipation.” I start with something more general, the public service or democratic institutions, for example, and then, the creative team or the playwright put women at the centre of it and the story happens.

The work I explore is all about the individual navigating modern life.  It’s where the public and the private meet. Specifically, it’s about women and public engagement. I think society in general has a hard time with women in public life and I try to give that idea stage time to help us sort it out.