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New Year, New Me: Explore Drama
If you hoped that your 2023 would be drama-free, not so fast. Reading plays is one of our favourite pastimes: they’re naturally full of action and interpersonal intrigue, and, more often than not, they don’t take a lot of time to finish. We recommend six drama titles to kickstart your dramaturgical devotion.
Out the Window by Liza Balkan (Scirocco Drama / J.G. Shillingford)Plays are often fictional, but they can also document real happenings, like Liza Balkan’s Out the Window, first staged in 2018. The play draws from Balkan’s witnessing of the Toronto Police beating a man to his death, and weaves in her notes, court transcripts, and interviews with various parties involved in the investigation, trial, and aftermath. With police forces across the country demanding budget increases, plays like Balkan’s put into laser-focus the lived experiences of people who have suffered at the hands of police.
Yaga by Kat Sandler (Playwrights Canada Press)Recommended by Tan, LPG Sales Manager: “Reading a play is such a fun experience: They are fast-paced and dialogue driven. Plus, it’s fun to talk about the book over a drink with friends, and then plan to catch the next local production.”Yaga is a perfect blend of comedy, myth, and gender dynamics – plays can often poke fun and bring the audience along in the way other forms can’t. It borrows from the Slavic myth of the Baba Yaga but turns that witch’s story into something wholly modern and original.
The Piano Teacher by Dorothy Dittrich (Talonbooks)Comment from the Governor General’s Award for Drama Peer assessment committee: Keith Barker, Marie Leofeli Romero Barlizo and Alex Poch Goldin: “Moving and compelling. With this gorgeously written play, Dittrich has accomplished the remarkable. She brilliantly delves into a multi-layered exploration of love, loss, isolation and friendship, reaching beyond words to reveal the healing and redemptive power of music. She holds our hand on an unexpected journey through grief towards hope.”
The Supine Cobbler by Jill Connell (Coach House Books)A retelling of a contemporary, clinical abortion in the style of a classic Western, Sheila Heti says of The Supine Cobbler that its “the only work of art about abortion I can think of that doesn’t sentimentalize or simplify the experience, but gets the strangeness and banality of it exactly right.”
Concord Floral by Jordan Tannahill (Playwrights Canada Press)Recommended by Lauren, ALU editor: “I recommend Jordan Tannahill’s Concord Floral (Playwrights Canada Press) to everyone – a gripping, I Know What You Did Last Summer-style play that only takes an hour(ish) to read. Whatever reader’s block you might have will be decimated. If you can see a production of it in your area, still the better – the playwright encourages anyone staging the play to use their own, local slang for the teenage characters, and to cast teens whenever possible.”
I am William by Rébecca Déraspe, translated by Leanna Brodie (Scirocco Drama / J.G. Shillingford)Of course, plays aren’t just for adults! Get younger folks in your life into drama with books like I Am William, a play-in-translation about the secret to William Shakespeare’s success: his brilliant sister Margaret. Writing her plays in secret and giving them to William to be published, I Am William raises questions of historical and present-day sexism in a way that’s accessible to every audience with humour and energy, much like the bard himself (or is it herself?) would have wanted.
* * *Stay updated on All Lit Up’s New Year, New Me picks by following along with the blog and on social media @alllitupcanada.