CATR Montreal May 28-31 2010: Seminar: The Playwrights of Atlantic Canada

full name / name of organization: 
Canadian Association for Theatre Research

The 2010 conference of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR) will take place at Concordia University in Montreal, May 28 to 31, as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The theme of the 2010 Congress is "Le savoir branché/Interconnected Knowledge."


Seminar 3: The Playwrights of Atlantic Canada
Linda Burnett (Algoma University) AbstractThis seminar will focus on the writing of the playwrights of Atlantic Canada, who can be counted among the best playwrights in Canada, if not the world. Mary Vingoe, former Artistic Director of Magnetic North Theatre Festival, has gone so far as to say that the playwrights of Atlantic Canada "are the finest poets of the Canadian stage." These playwrights have been recognized for the quality of their work. As Wanda Graham said at the Merritt Awards in 2006, "our Atlantic plays and playwrights ... not only feature on our regional stages regularly, but on national and international stages, in collections, on shelves of libraries, in bookstores, and in University Theatre programs around the world." However, many of these playwrights have received little serious, critical attention. (Some exceptions are Michael Cook, David French, and George Elliot Clarke.) Shelley Newman and Sherrill Grace have remarked about Wendy Lill that she "has created a substantial body of work that has received professional production but little critical analysis to date." The same can be said about too many of the other playwrights of this region, including Daniel MacIvor, Robert Chafe, Kent Stetson, George Boyd, Bryden MacDonald, Colleen Wagner, and Michael Melski. Accomplished playwrights all, they have been interviewed, their plays produced and reviewed and nominated for awards. However, these playwrights have attracted nearly no scholarly attention to date. My hope is that this seminar will help to bring to at least some of the important playwrights of Atlantic Canada the scholarly attention that they and their plays deserve. Questions: Seminar participants might be interested in exploring some of the following questions, but exploration of other questions would also be welcomed: 1. What is the relationship between history/myth and the plays of this region? Playwright Michael Melski said to me a few years ago, "there is an enormous resource in the East of stories." In what ways do these plays work to interrogate the assumptions of the history of this region and to rewrite these stories? Is the theatre of these playwrights a political theatre?2. What work by contemporary playwrights in Atlantic Canada gets produced, where, why, how, and for whom? What work by contemporary playwrights in Atlantic Canada is not making it to production, and why? What plays get published? What plays do not get published? Why has so little serious critical attention been paid to the playwrights and plays of Atlantic Canada?3. What sorts of connections can be made among the playwrights of Atlantic Canada themselves? Are there any connections that might be made between the playwrights of Atlantic Canada and the playwrights of other Atlantic regions, for example, the playwrights of Scotland or Ireland or Wales? With what other playwrights do these "poets of the Canadian stage" have an affinity? Working PlanInterested participants are asked to submit 250-word abstracts to Linda Burnett ( by December 1, 2009. The seminar will be limited to twelve members. Participants will be notified of their acceptance by January 20, 2010. Participants will be asked to circulate to the group drafts of a short paper (10-12 double-spaced pages maximum) one month before the conference. This will allow participants to read each other's papers in advance and pose some questions pre-seminar. As well, it will allow the seminar session during the conference to function as an occasion for shared discussion as opposed to individual presentation or summation.