MacLeod playwright due to ‘flukey’ experience

One of Canada’s most renowned playwrights, admits that it was ‘a great and flukey experience’ that made her start writing for the stage.

PLAYWRIGHT JOAN MacLEOD will be present on opening night as Courtenay Little Theatre presents her play Homechild.

PLAYWRIGHT JOAN MacLEOD will be present on opening night as Courtenay Little Theatre presents her play Homechild.

One of Canada’s most renowned playwrights, admits that it was ‘a great and flukey experience’ that made her start writing for the stage.

Joan MacLeod was attending the Banff Centre for the Arts as a poet, but started hanging out with a group of playwrights and actors who were also there. As a finale to the session, everyone was expected to give a reading from their work.

The “great and flukey experience” was that she had a pro actor read her work while she sat in the audience. She was instantly hooked.

“It was like discovering plays for the first time and falling in love with the form,” she says.

Her first play, Jewel, a monologue by the widow of a man killed when the oil-drilling platform Ocean Ranger sank off Newfoundland in 1982, was another learning experience for Joan.

When it premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Joan was a last-minute replacement for the scheduled actor. She had next to no acting experience and this encounter impacted greatly on the way she has since written for the stage.

However, she hopes she never has to appear as an actor again.

“If I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t know what an audience feels like from up there,” she says. “But I don’t have that gene that I want to be up there on stage. There is so much more to it than making the emotional connection with a character. Walking and talking at the same time was very hard for me.”

Since her performance in Jewel, her plays — which include Amigo’s Blue Guitar, The Hope Slide, and Toronto, Mississippi, have played widely in Canada and also internationally, and been translated into six different languages.

MacLeod has won two Chalmers Canadian Play awards and is also the recipient of a Governor General’s Award.

“I write about what I care about,” she says.

Her early experience as a social worker, looking after the mentally handicapped, helped to make her sensitive to societal problems.  Her play Homechild is being presented by Courtenay Little theatre and deals with some of these problems.

The idea for Homechild came to her when she was reading about adoption and came across one of the darker aspects of Canadian history.

Between 1860 and 1948, tens of thousands of poor kids were shipped from the U.K. to Canada. These youngsters were known as “home children” and were assigned to farms to act as labourers.  Some of them landed in abusive situations.

Homechild is set in 1999 and deals with the reunion of a brother and sister who had lost each other after being shipped to Canada at different times and assigned to different farms.

MacLeod’s plays are known for their humour, honesty and human observation. Her earlier interest in poetry adds to the sensitivity and enjoyment of her work.

Her daughter, Ana Celeste, was born in 1995 and her husband is an avid sailor. They met on Bowen Island and later moved to Victoria, where Joan is an assistant professor of writing.

MacLeod will make a personal appearance on the opening night of Courtenay Little Theatre’s production of Homechild, and will answer questions from the audience.

“This is an incredible chance to meet an incredible lady,” says Val Macdonald, one of the producers of the show. “We will be providing her with comfortable hospitality, but this modest playwright was happy to bring her sleeping bag and crash on someone’s floor!”

Homechild will run at the Sid Williams Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 6, 7 and 8 with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Oct. 2.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The 5th Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
City of Courtenay awards contract for 5th Street Bridge project

The City of Courtenay has awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Gas prices jump in the Valley – and experts predict prices to rise even more

“We still could be talking about record prices…”

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition is hoping to see more bike lines in the Cumberland area. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cycling coalition wants better bike links for Cumberland

Group says members want more connections with Comox Valley

The Courtenay Legion has identified 16 homeless veterans living in the Comox Valley. File photo
Courtenay Legion unites with Qualicum to help homeless veterans

Last year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count conducted in the Comox Valley identified… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read