With Bated Breath asks questions about memory—how and why it plays such a prominent role in our lives: how time affects it, how it fractures, how we often reinvent it depending on the situation—and why it is that certain things stay with us with a blistering clarity, while the shadows of other people and events simply slip away, only to reveal themselves again later in our lives when we least expect them.
This is the provocative tale of Willy, a troubled but charismatic gay kid who flees Cape Breton Island for Montreal with hopes of forgetting a newly broken heart by starting a new life in the big city. There, hopelessly awkward and naïve, caught up in the cynical and brutalizing cash-economy of the city’s red light district, he retreats ever further into a world of fantasy and anonymity, and soon goes missing without a trace. Willy, in one way or another, has had a profound effect on the lives of the people he has touched. As rumours fly, secrets explode and reality blurs with fantasy, he is both remembered and reinvented by each of the play’s characters in their own way.
Though Willy’s self-appointed, newfound and worldly wise mentor had cautioned him, “There’s nothing safe. We’re never safe. If you ever thought you were, you were in denial,” it’s too late for this dreamer who ignored the best advice he ever got from those who cared for him: “You just don’t find a soul mate—you have to invent them. Cuz love at first sight sure don’t last.” What lasts at the end of the day is memory—the necessary tale we tell ourselves to both make sense of our past and to give ourselves hope for a future without having to lose those we have loved.
Bryden MacDonald is a playwright, director, dramaturge, and teacher. His published plays are Whale Riding Weather (1994), The Weekend Healer (1995), Divinity Bash / nine lives (1998), and With Bated Breath (2010). He has created and directed theatrical interpretations of the words and music of Leonard Cohen (The Light Gets In), Carol Pope and Rough Trade (Shaking the Foundations), and Joni Mitchell (When All the Slaves Are Free). His latest play, Stained Glass, is in the works, as is his first novel, The Old Marsh Road. He has taught and coached students at the National Theatre School of Canada and McGill University, served as resident dramaturge at Playwrights Workshop Montreal, and was the mentoring director for Imago Theatre’s Inaugural Directors’ Gym. He has conducted workshops or been artist-in-residence or guest artist at a number of theatres and festivals across the country, including the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Factory Theatre, and Neptune Theatre. He has juried Canada Council for the Arts awards and been a member of the board of directors for the Quebec Drama Federation.