The Plague’s the Thing: Theatre Before, During and After the Pandemic
Colleen Murphy, playwright, filmmaker; Gary Geddes, author, Distinguished BC Fellow of Green College; in conversation with Jerry Wasserman, actor and theatre critic
Online presentation via Zoom (click here to join)
Tuesday, January 26, 5-6:30 pmin the series
Medium to Extreme: Unlocking the Power of the Arts
The playwright Howard Barker said that “a good play puts an audience through a certain ordeal.” In the 1890s, American journalist Finley Dunne said that newspapers “should comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” Long before the pandemic struck, theatres were being pressured into becoming ‘safe spaces’ to gather, but the virus turned them into unsafe, possibly even fatal, gathering spaces. What place does live theatre have when the life and death stakes of a pandemic are raging around the world and up-to-the-minute news becomes more urgent than any theatre drama on zoom? Zoom keeps people safe in every way but when the danger recedes and live theatre returns, what might those ’safe/unsafe spaces’ look like? What kind of safety will artists and audiences demand when they gather together again? What kind of ordeals and afflictions will they hunger for?
Colleen Murphy is a playwright, filmmaker and librettist, born in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and raised in Northern Ontario.
Her play Pig Girl won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama as well as the 2014 Carol Bolt Award. The December Man / L’homme de décembre won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, the CAA/Carol Bolt Award and the Enbridge Playwrights Award. Other plays The Society For The Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius (winner of six Jessie Richardson Awards including Outstanding Production, and three Elizabeth Sterling Awards including Outstanding Production), The Breathing Hole (shortlisted for the Susan Blackburn Prize, U.S.), I Hope My Heart Burns First Armstrong’s War, The Goodnight Bird, Beating Heart Cadaver (shortlisted for the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama), and The Piper. Libretti include Oksana G., c. Aaron Gervais for Tapestry Opera (nominated for seven Dora Mavor Moore Awards); Bring Me The Head Of The President and My Mouth On Your Heart, c. August Murphy-King for Toy Piano Composers and Bicycle Opera, and the upcoming Fantasma, c. Ian Cusson for the Canadian Opera Company. Colleen twice won prizes in the CBC Literary Competition. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and her distinct films have played in festivals around the world.
Colleen has been Writer-in-Residence at six Canadian universities and three theatres, including Canadian Playwright-in-Residence at Finborough Theatre in London UK.
Gary Geddes has written and edited 50 books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation, and anthologies and won more than a dozen national and international literary awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region), the Lt-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence, and the Gabriela Mistral Prize, awarded simultaneously to Octavio Paz, Vaclav Havel, Ernesto Cardenal, Rafael Alberti, and Mario Benedetti. His non-fiction books include Letters from Managua, Sailing Home, Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things, Drink the Bitter Root and Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care. His most recent books of poetry are Falsework, Swimming Ginger, What Does A House Want? and The Resumption of Play. Geddes has a PhD from U of T and has taught at Concordia, Western Washington, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and been writer-in-residence at U. of Alberta, Green College, Ottawa U. and Vancouver Public Library. He is in demand as a reader and speaker worldwide. In 2018 and 2019, he gave talks in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bonn, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, the North American Studies program at the University of Munich and the Genoa International Poetry Festival in Italy. His work has been staged, translated into six languages, and broadcast on CBC and BBC radio. He lives on Thetis Island, BC with his wife, the novelist Ann Eriksson.
Jerry Wasserman is Emeritus Professor of English and Theatre, having retired in 2016 after 44 years teaching at UBC. Jerry is also an actor and theatre critic with Lifetime Achievement awards from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Association. He is a member of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
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