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  • Drama
  • Ann Wilson

In 2015 a number of newly published Canadian plays took a historical event as a point of departure. Many others addressed issues which are pressing in contemporary Canadian society. And a number of the year's plays are theatrical romps in which the plot is driven by romantic entanglements: these plays include Bryden MacDonald's Odd Ducks: A Romp, Curtis Peeteetuce's Nicimos: The Last Rez Christmas Story, and Drew Hayden Taylor's Cerulean Blue: A Comedy in Two Acts. These plays make no pretense of being profound; they are lively entertainments. Paul Ledoux and Allen Cole's The Bricklin: An Automotive Fantasy is a musical invoking the sounds—and fashions—of the mid-1970s when the Bricklin was produced in New Brunswick, an enterprise which did not transform the province into a centre for manufacturing cars.

Like The Bricklin, a number of plays explore historical events. These plays include The Wilberforce Hotel by Sean Dixon, which is based on Austin Steward's autobiography Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman, which includes an account of Steward's attempt to create a colony for African-Americans fleeing slavery; their settlement was in an area north of London, Ontario. Alix Sobler's The Secret Annex imagines that Anne Frank did not die. The play depicts Frank as a young woman who, with her sister and her friend, Peter, has moved to New York City, where Anne is attempting to sell her memoir, without success. In Pig Girl, which was awarded the 2016 Governor General's Award for Englishlanguage drama, Colleen Murphy depicts a young woman who has been abducted by a character named Killer modelled after Robert Pickton. Murphy imagines the desperate last hours of the young woman, who wants to live and pleads that she be spared. Late Company, by Jordan Tannahill, takes as its point of departure the response to the suicide of Jamie Hubley, an openly gay teen in Ottawa whose father was a city councillor.

Suicide figures in several plays published in Canada in 2015. In three plays, Judith Thompson's The Thrill, Brad Fraser's Kill Me Now, and Beth Graham's The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, characters are facing incapacitating illness that will lead to death. The central character in The Thrill is Elora, a character inspired by the life of Harriet McBryde Johnson, an advocate for the rights of the disabled. Elora, like Johnson, suffers from a neuromuscular disease which has required her, throughout her life, to use a wheelchair and rely on assistance from others for her daily care. Eventually, the disease progresses, and Elora asks her lover for assistance in ending her life. Jake, in Fraser's Kill Me Now, suffers [End Page 62] from spinal stenosis, which causes him tremendous pain, as well as cognitive impairment. Eventually, with the assistance of his physically disabled son who is mentally acute, Jake takes his own life. In Graham's play Bernice Trimble, the mother of three adult children, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, from which her mother had also suffered. She decides that she would like to end her life at the point that she begins having difficulty recognizing those she loves. She enlists her middle child, Iris, to be the person who finds her after she has ended her life.

It is not surprising that assisted suicide was prevalent in a number of the plays published in 2015. It is a topic which has had a lot of public discussion, for which theatre is a forum. Similarly, stories of immigrants, including refugees, were prominent in the news and figure in two of the plays. Mary Vingoe's Refuge combines an imaginative rendering of Ayinom Zerisenai's attempt to be granted status as a refugee with interviews with people who knew the man. In the play, Ayinom is staying with Pamela and Alan while his claim for admission to Canada is being adjudicated. He rarely interacts with his hosts; he is up at night and is mysteriously severing electrical cords in the basement. Alan fears that he and his wife are hosting a terrorist. It turns out that Ayinom is distressed, and he takes...


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