Quebec-born, northern Ontario-raised playwright, screenwriter and director Colleen Murphy is in town for two literary events in the next week. The first is Talking Fresh 12 which the Saskatchewan Writers Guild is hosting at the University of Regina on March 7-8 (RIC119)
The theme this year is “Exile: Writing Beyond the Borders”. In addition to Murphy, Ottawa poet and academic Armand Ruffo and Toronto dub poet and reggae musician Lillian Allen are feature presenters.
Allen is pulling double-duty too as she’s also appearing at Thursday Night Live! at the MacKenzie Art Gallery tonight at 7 p.m. It’s being co-hosted with Vertigo Series, so there’s a bit of a literary theme. Allen and musician Brian Templeton are two of the presenters. And while you’re at the MacKenzie be sure to check out the Amalie Atkins show if you haven’t already.
As for Murphy, she’ll also be presenting at the Playwrights Reading Series at the University of Regina (ED114) Monday, March 10 at 8 p.m. Before Murphy arrived in Regina I had this email exchange with her:
At Talking Fresh 12, in addition to a panel discussion and reading, you’re scheduled to give a talk on the subject “Emotional Theatre: A Country Without Flags, A Land Without Borders”. Could you elaborate on what you intend to discuss and the relationship with the conference themes of exile and writing beyond borders.
I am approaching the notion of exile from a writer’s perspective, asking whether writers can free themselves from having to represent where they come from, where they are now or where they wish to be in the future. How do I, as a playwright, write beyond my own personal borders and create other worlds on a stage?
2013 saw the premiere of two plays for you. Armstrong’s War debuted in Vancouver in October. It features two characters (a 12-year-old girl who’s a Pathfinder and a 21-year-old man who is an Afghan War veteran). Both suffer from physical and psychological injuries when they meet in the hospital — she as a community volunteer, he as a patient. What was your motivation for writing the play?
War fascinates me — the impulse to kill for your country and the impulse to sacrifice yourself for your country. I am not sure what all that means but I am interested in the meaning of honour in war; honour between soldiers under extreme duress… and because war smashes young people I created a young soldier who lost his courage and a young girl whose own trauma helped her find courage.
The second premiere occurred in Edmonton in November. Pig Girl deals with very dark subject matter tied to the Robert Pickton mass murder case in Vancouver and has some very graphic scenes. What was your motivation here, to perhaps provide audiences with a visceral representation of the horrible crimes that occurred in Vancouver and the general indifference in many quarters of society to people who exist on the margins?
Societal indifference to women being abused and murdered makes me angry. The play, which is deliberately fictional, puts a woman on the center of the stage as she defiantly fights for her life against a brutal killer. It’s a very, very serious play and demands a great deal from those who watch it.
On March 10 you’ll be participating in the Playwrights Reading Series. What works do you intend to read from?
I am excited to read the outline of a new opera in development about the Canadian Arctic called THE BREATHING HOLE, and I will read a bit from a new one-person play called LUMPS, about a clown.