Dread, Dreams or a Train to The Yukon
by Judith Thompson
A highly esteemed Canadian playwright, Judith Thompson is the author of 20 published and produced plays - many of which have been produced all over the world in many languages - including The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog, I Am Yours, Lion in the Streets, Sled, Perfect Pie, Habitat, Capture Me, Enoch Arden, Palace of the End, Such Creatures, The Thrill and Watching Glory Die, as well as adaptations of Hedda Gabler and Elektra. Elektra in Bosnia was performed in Hydra and Athens, Greece as part of the 2012 international Women & War Project. She has also authored two feature films, Perfect Pie and Lost and Delirious, as well as several made-for-TV movies including Life With Billy and numerous radio plays. She is the director/creator of the verbatim theatre pieces body and soul, Sick, Rare and is currently in rehearsals for Borne. She is the recipient of two Governor General's Literary Awards, is an Officer in the Order of Canada and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. In 2007, she was awarded the prestigious Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts and in 2008, The Susan Smith Blackburn Award and Dora Mavor Moore Outstanding New Play Award for Palace of the End, which also garnered her the 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. She has been a professor of theatre at the University of Guelph since 1992. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two dogs, two cats and a shifting number of her five children.
Woke up this morning feeling pure dread—now these are moments I generally never admit to in public, but there it was: absolute dread of returning to the stage in my newest play Watching Glory Die, on Thursday, May 15 at Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs.
The audience was passionate about the piece—there were parents with adolescent children in custody, social workers, addictions counsellors, and of course, some of the lovely warm theatre community. They assured me I had nailed it. My amazing stage manager, Nan Shepard, was a life saver, and we had a comfortable routine going—a light supper, ironing the awful prison shift, chatting about this and that, and me going over the script from start to finish.
If I had done as the critics wished and just stopped writing, all those stunning performances, designs, and directorial concepts would never have happened. Those characters would have suffocated somewhere inside my brain. I learned after the Globe and Mail massacre of my first play, The Crackwalker, that the reviews rarely match the audience response, and they are never, never helpful. I have long ago learned not ever to read them, whether they are good or bad (although sometimes by mistake I will spot an open paper at a doctor’s office or a gym lounge, and my day is ruined), and, of course, the newspaper reviews are almost irrelevant in the age of social media—though the main theatre audience still reads the two dailies and many of them sadly trust the reviews as a final verdict.
Canadian Rep Theatre presents Watching Glory Die written and performed by Judith Thompson and directed by Ken Gass. May 15-June 1 at Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs. Performances run Tues-Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm. Tickets are available by visiting www.canadianrep.ca or calling 416.368.3110.