As part of Cancers of the Imagination—Colleen Murphy's investigation into the creation of characters in her work—acclaimed Siminovitch Prize-winning playwright and educator, Marcus Youssef, will join her to discuss and debate the relationship between self and other in the writing they do as playwrights. Colleen and Marcus will talk about their experiences of encountering the other in their own lives, and in their work, and the complications—personal, political, ethical—of attempting to represent experiences that are not their own, as well as their own, in their plays.
Marcus Youssef is based on unceded Coast Salish territory, aka Vancouver. His fifteen or so plays cross a wide variety of styles and genres, but almost always investigate some aspect of difference. They have been produced in multiple languages in scores of theatres (and school gyms!) in twenty countries across North America, Europe and Asia, from Seattle to New York to Reykjavik, London, Venice, Hong Kong, Vienna, Athens, Frankfurt and Berlin. They include Winners and Losers, King Arthur's Night, Jabber, Awkward and Embarrassing Conversations, How Has My Love Affected You?, The In-Between, Ali and Ali & the aXes of Evil, East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz, East Van Panto: Pinocchio and A Line in the Sand. In 2017, Marcus received Canada’s largest theatre award, the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize for Theatre, for his body of work as a playwright. He is also the recipient of Berlin Germany's Ikarus Prize, the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award, the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, the Chalmers' Canadian Play Award, the Seattle Times Footlight award, the Vancouver Critics’ Innovation award (three times) and the Canada Council Staunch-Lynton Award.
Marcus co-founded the East Vancouver artist-run production hub Progress Lab 1422, which is a centre for theatre and performance creation in the city. He is currently International Artistic Associate at Farnham Maltings in the UK, Playwright in Residence at Tarragon Theatre, Editorial Advisor at Canadian Theatre Review and Artistic Associate at Neworld Theatre in Vancouver, where he was artistic director from 2005-19. He has been an artistic associate of Magnetic North Theatre Festival, an Artistic Advisor to the National Arts Centre Theatre in Ottawa, and leads consulting projects for many arts organizations including the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Chop Theatre, Nightwood Theatre and Tapestry New Opera.
Marcus also regularly writes in other genres, publishing and broadcasting work for a number of programs on CBC Radio (where he’s about to start a new audio column) and a wide variety of publications including the Vancouver Sun, This Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, RicePaper and others. A passionate educator and cultural advocate, Marcus was the inaugural chair of the city of Vancouver’s Arts and Culture Advisory Council, a Canadian Fellow to the International Society for Performing Arts and helps develop arts policy for the Vancouver political party OneCity. He was an assistant professor at Concordia University and a Special Appointee at Capilano University, where implemented Canada’s first multi-instiutional interdisciplinary Bachelor of Performing Arts Program. Marcus has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and graduated for the National Theatre School of Canada many many many years ago.
Colleen Murphy is a two-time recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, and the Carol Bolt Award for Outstanding Play, for Pig Girl in 2016, and The December Man / L'homme de décembre in 2007. Other plays include 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 Smith Blackburn Prize, U.S., and the Carol Bolt Award), Armstrong's War, The Goodnight Bird, The Piper and Beating Heart Cadaver (shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama). Libretti include Fantasma, with composer Ian Cusson, for the Canadian Opera Company, Oksana G., with composer Aaron Gervais, for Tapestry Opera, and My Mouth On Your Heart, with composer August Murphy-King, for Toy Piano Composers and Bicycle Opera. Colleen is also an award-winning filmmaker and her films have played in festivals around the world.
She has been Playwright-in-Residence at Finborough Theatre in London UK; Necessary Angel Theatre and Factory Theatre in Toronto, and at the University of Regina. She’s been the Mabel Pugh Taylor Writer-in-Residence at McMaster University; Writer-in-Residence at the University of Guelph; Edna Staebler Laurier Writer-in-Residence at Wilfrid Laurier University; Lee Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Alberta, and Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick. She teaches at playwriting at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
“Characters are, perhaps, those parts of shadow or independent vitality within the psyche which the poet cannot integrate to his own person. They are cancers of the imagination insisting on their right to live outside the organism from which they are engendered (how long could a man endure with an Oedipus or a Lear locked inside him?) But whatever their relationship to the source of invention, dramatic personages assume their own integral being.”
--George Steiner, The Death of Tragedy
CANCERS OF THE IMAGINATION is the title given to Colleen Murphy's residency at Green College. From mid-January through mid-April, 2023, she will curate and host a series of three public events presenting guest writers who will read from their work and take part in discussions about how and why they create the characters and stories that they create.
For more information on Colleen Murphy, and on her residency, visit our Invited Residencies page.