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.
I write plays about women. Always have. My first attempt was a park bench two-hander between a cocktail waitress from Sudbury and a Marxist-Leninist bag lady. Literally, it was a conversation on a park bench in Allan Gardens. Both lonely, down on their luck. I worked at a bar on Yonge Street at the time. I knew the material. The whole experience was deeply therapeutic for me. I became hooked on writing plays. Next I wrote about a young white nurse from Southern Ontario who went north to work on an Indian reserve. Her adventure turned into a painful exploration of her own fragile cultural heart of darkness. When I was struggling under the weight of raising two babies, I wrote about an expat Canadian writer Elizabeth Smart who wrote a slim but brilliant book called By Grand Central Station I sat Down and Wept. Elizabeth wanted to be a mother, a lover and a writer – and felt she screwed up on every count. Sound familiar? We write our lives. And those we admire or aspire to. I’ve written about suffragettes fighting for the vote for women in WW1, then splitting apart over whether foreign women should have the vote. About well-meaning nuns who, under the thumb of the Catholic Church and the federal government, ended up destroying the lives of native children in a residential school. And about a woman who became an accidental Member of Parliament and her physical, emotional and ethical workout each day. I’ve written other plays as well, usually about women just living in their time and place in history, trying to accomplish some thing and often finding that thing, perhaps not the prize they’d originally sought. Most recently, I did a modern-day take on Henrik Ibsen’s Enemy of the People. I’d always been bothered by Ibsen’s line “The strongest man in the world is the one who stands most alone” which Thomas Stockman delivers after practically bringing the house down around his whole family with his actions. In my Ibsen-inspired tale, Kate Stockman is the central character. She knows that we do not stand alone. I think women especially know that. The play is really all about climate change and is an exploration of our colossal and collective failure to take action. Judith Thomson talks about drama being all about waking up the dragon underneath the surface of our characters and hearing them roar. I love that idea and have tried to find the dragon in each of my characters. I have definitely tried to tell our side of the story.