By Audrey Dwyer
Julie, a young Jamaican Canadian screenwriter, is passionately working on an adaptation of one of the most beloved American novels of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, telling the story from the perspective of the Finch family’s Black maid, Calpurnia. But within the safe confines ... Read more
Julie, a young Jamaican Canadian screenwriter, is passionately working on an adaptation of one of the most beloved American novels of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, telling the story from the perspective of the Finch family’s Black maid, Calpurnia. But within the safe confines of her wealthy father’s home, and besides all the encouragement from their Filipina housekeeper Precy, Julie struggles with writer’s block and numerous distractions as her family prepares for an important dinner party. When her brother challenges her, saying she’s appropriating a culture she doesn’t belong to, she goes to dramatic lengths to prove her point, only to find she has much to learn.
Calpurnia is a witty and highly charged look at the complicated entanglements of intersectionality and allyship, exposing motives and biases that are clear as a bell one moment, and drowning in ambiguity the next.
Audrey Dwyer is an actor, director, playwright, teacher, artistic director, facilitator, and mentor based in Winnipeg. Her writing includes The D Cut, an award-winning six-episode series on Crave and Shaftesbury Film’s KindaTV YouTube channel. She was one of the winners of the CBC Creative Relief Fund to create a television pilot called The Gordons. She wrote the musical Come Home—The Legend of Daddy Hall for Tarragon Theatre, which was produced in their acoustic season in 2021. She wrote her first libretto called Backstage at Carnegie Hall, which will be produced in Montreal in 2022. She’s been commissioned by Nightswimming Theatre to write The Generations, an epic five-hour drama about the legacy of a Black family over many thousands of years. She’s the associate artistic director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. She graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada.
“Calpurnia is a romp of a play with a biting commentary on race, class, and privilege. I remember seeing it during its premiere run in a packed house at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. But moreover, I remember the conversations, reverberations, and discoveries in the days and weeks well after I had left the theatre. In the context of Canadian theatre, I think it is a milestone in the canon that is not only contemporary and challenging but fearless and hilarious too. ”
“It’s insightful, hilarious and thoroughly on target in exploring questions of race, privilege and allyship that have become part of the public discourse in recent years. ”
"How is it possible that a single play can simultaneously make you cheer and cringe? Calpurnia is an unforgettable masterpiece crafted by a playwright in her element. Dwyer paints each character into a corner where they are forced to face the most difficult conversations with each other, and, more importantly, with themselves. "
“Calpurnia is one of those stories that is deeply nuanced and provides much fodder for discussion and debate. It is eye-opening and reveals much about prejudices and ingrained privilege that, in some way, exists in everyone. ”
Audrey expertly calibrates the humour and debate in Calpurnia to explore the complexities of race and privilege in a surprisingly playful and honest way that kept me on my toes throughout.