That Elusive Spark

By (author): Janet Munsil

Neuropsychologist Helen Harlow is an expert at understanding the functions of the human brain, and yet her own remains a mystery. Turning her back on a once-brilliant future filled with scientific promise, Helen attempts to escape the mess of her life by diving headfirst into a new one: living in a frat-house basement, teaching Psych 101 to clueless freshmen, and confronting both her depression and the puzzling attentions of her slacker housemate Finlay. Pushed to the brink and increasingly desperate for some semblance of normalcy, Helen finds herself in a doctor’s office looking for a change. But not everyone chooses to change. Certainly not Phineas Gage, a construction foreman in 1848 who miraculously survives an explosion that shoots an iron rod though his head. While Phineas makes an extraordinary physical recovery, he has a dramatic change in personality. Attended to and observed by the young doctor James Harlow, Helen’s ancestor, the legacy of Phineas’s dramatic story shows how far we have come scientifically, and yet how little we can comprehend of the mystery of our own hearts and minds.


Janet Munsil

Janet Munsil’s work has been produced on mainstages internationally, including Alberta Theatre Projects, Tarragon Theatre, Touchstone Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Citizens Theatre (Glasgow), the Arts Club Theatre, Persephone, and the Soho Theatre (London). That Elusive Spark was a finalist for the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award. Her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, commissioned and co-produced by Theatre Calgary and the National Arts Centre, has been seen worldwide. Munsil is the former artistic director of Intrepid Theatre. She currently teaches writing at UVic, and is adapting her most recent play, Attaboy! into a one-hour drama pilot through the CBC Creative Relief Fund. In March 2020, she instigated the Canadian Play Thing ( to support the work of playwrights, which she operates from her home on Lekwungen territory/Victoria, BC.


“…a colourfully instructive and insightful romantic comedy about change and new beginnings. “

“…a wild theatrical romp. “


  • Governor General’s Literary Award 2014, Nominated
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    96 Pages
    8.19in * 5.38in * .41in


    March 01, 2014



    Book Subjects:

    DRAMA / Women Authors

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