Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I Interview Playwrights Part 360: Hannah Moscovitch

Hannah Moscovitch

Ottawa, Canada

Current Town:
Toronto, Canada

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m in Banff, working on a play commissioned by the Banff Centre called We are at War about the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. It’s based on interviews with three veterans who did tours in Panjwaii, one military psychiatrist who runs a PTSD clinic in Ottawa, and two journalists who were embedded with our troops.

Q:  How would you characterize Canadian theater?

A:  I spend most of my time in Toronto and theatre culture varies a lot across the country (we only have one tenth the population of the States but we’re so spread out that different aesthetics develop regionally). Okay but I’d say Canadian plays tend to explore ambiguity, complexity of human experience, and subtle shades of meaning. And our sense of humor is relatively self-deprecating and ironic. It comes from knowing we’re an icy outpost and not at the centre of things. And to be honest a lot of the plays that get done in Canada are made in England or the States. Canadian theatre culture is young. Almost all of the great Canadian playwrights are alive.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  It’s common knowledge in my family that I’m terrified of spiders. It’s true that when I was a little girl I was terrified of spiders. Now I’m not scared of them but somehow it’s become so much a part of my identity within my family and it’s so expected of me that I’ll lose my shit when I see a spider that I pretend to be frightened of spiders. I scream and run out of the room over spiders even though I’m not at all afraid.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  The ticket prices.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My first heroes were the Canadians playwrights: Judith Thompson, John Mighton, Daniel MacIvor, George F. Walker, David French, Claudia Dey, Morwyn Brebner, Michael Healey, Adam Pettle, Wajdi Mouawad, Michel Tremblay, Michel Marc Bouchard, Robert LePage...

At the moment I’m reading a lot of Edward Bond. It’s blowing my mind.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I don’t have a kind, I don’t think. I’m pretty fervent about believing that you don’t have to suppress one theatrical style to promote another. I get excited about verbatim, experimental performance, language-based plays, story-based plays, image and spectacle based plays, musicals. I like whatever’s beautiful and intelligent. I like what’s good.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Produce your own work, find colleagues you want to collaborate with over and over again, and develop relationships with theatre companies who will produce your plays. The best case scenario is to develop a primary relationship with one artistic director who will produce all your plays (and take risks with you). Either that or built your own theatre company and tour your own work.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  East of Berlin and The Russian Play are being produced by Signal Ensemble in Chicago in October.

Little One is being premiered by Theatre Crisis at Summerworks Theatre Festival in Toronto in August.

The Children’s Republic is being premiered by Tarragon Theatre (where I’m in residence) in Toronto in November.

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