Sit your butt down and learn your three Rs: ranting, resisting, and respect.
In two new plays, Canada‘s king of black comedy takes on the failing education system. Both Parents Night and The Bigger Issue are set in public-school classrooms after hours and involve confrontations between stressed-out teachers and ticked-off parents. Both sympathize with embattled educators and evince Walker’s trademark understanding of poverty and the working classes. In both, Walker’s signature moves work: the audience feels simultaneously complicit in and righteously angry about injustice and inequity.
Parents Night finds grade-three teacher Nicole caught in the crossfire between John, an arrogant executive dad, and Rosie, a ballsy, low-income mom. Both are meeting with Nicole to express concerns for their children, but class warfare quickly erupts, and the kids’ behaviour turns out to be a reflection of their parents’ messed-up lives. A harried Nicole is dealing with troubles of her own, but she makes a brave attempt to discipline these overgrown brats.
The Bigger Issue covers the same ground but digs deeper. Suzy, a novice middle-school teacher, has been called onto the carpet by the principal, Irene, for physically accosting a violent student. But when the boy’s parents show up, it becomes clear that Jack and Maggie are a middle-class couple reduced to abject poverty; the real problem isn’t their son or the school but a dysfunctional society.
Together, Parents Night and The Bigger Issue comprise the first instalments in a projected play cycle similar to Walker’s famous Suburban Motel. With an introduction by Toronto director Wesley Berger.
George F. Walker
George F. Walker has been one of Canada’s most prolific and popular playwrights since his career in theater began in the early 1970s. His first play, The Prince of Naples, premiered in 1972 at the newly opened Factory Theatre, a company that continues to produce his work. Since that time, he has written more than twenty plays and has created screenplays for several award-winning Canadian television series.
Part Kafka, part Lewis Carroll, Walker’s distinctive, gritty, fast-paced comedies satirize the selfishness, greed, and aggression of contemporary urban culture. Among his best-known plays are Gossip (1977); Zastrozzi, the Master of Discipline (1977); Criminals in Love (1984); Better Living (1986); Nothing Sacred (1988); Love and Anger (1989); Escape from Happiness (1991); Suburban Motel (1997, a series of six plays set in the same motel room); and Heaven (2000). Since the early 1980s, he has directed most of the premieres of his own plays.
Many of Walker’s plays have been presented across Canada and in more than five hundred productions internationally; they have been translated into French, German, Hebrew, Turkish, Polish, and Czechoslovakian.
During a ten-year absence, he mainly wrote for television, including the television series Due South , The Newsroom , This Is Wonderland , and The Line , as well as for the film Niagara Motel (based on three plays from his Suburban Motel series). Walker returned to the theatre with And So It Goes (2010).
Awards and honours include Member of the Order of Canada (2005); National Theatre School Gascon-Thomas Award (2002); two Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama (for Criminals in Love and Nothing Sacred); five Dora Mavor Moore Awards; and eight Chalmers Canadian Play Awards.
"As in all of Walker’s best work, there is a lot happening here on several levels. We laugh at the foibles of parents and teachers as Walker piles misfortune on coincidence on looming disaster. It is extremely funny and bitingly satirical. But then we are aware of a deep sadness under the surface. These are human beings struggling to survive against harsh odds and in the most taxing of circumstances. There is also abundant compassion for teachers. Deeper still is Walker’s smouldering anger at the floundering educational system and at a society that actively discriminates against the poor and the marginalized ... extremely funny and bitingly satirical ... see it and rejoice; a new George Walker cycle is something to be celebrated." —Robert Crew, Toronto Star
"George F. Walker’s plays don’t allow audiences to simply sit back and be entertained. Satiric, questioning, occasionally absurd but always with sympathy for his characters, Walker focuses on our social frameworks and the ways we’re messed them up." —Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine
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