Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Playwright in Preview: Briana Brown

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Playwright in Preview: Briana Brown

The last 31 days has been a great experience, and it’s been wonderful to include so many talented poets in my “Poet in Preview” series. However, I thought it’d be fun to genre hop a bit and include a writer from theatre since I’ve mostly focused on poetry and prose. Here’s a brief conversation I had with an extremely talented Toronto playright, Briana Brown.
BT: Briana, you were a vital member of Toronto’s theatre community for several years before moving out to BC to complete your MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. While living in Vancouver, your play The Concessions was produced and received a great deal of attention and positive reviews. So, now that you're back in Toronto, what are you working on? Will Ontario theatregoers get a chance to see a production of The Concessions? Are there any other plays that you've written being produced in the near future?
BB: There’s been some interest in The Concessions from a couple companies on the east coast, as well as Saskatchewan, but not yet in Ontario, which is surprising since it’s set so specifically in rural Ontario. It has always been my dream to have a production happen here, in the heart of it, so… fingers crossed.
These days I’m working on a play called Robert, which is about a pair of siblings waiting on the death of their father, and the secrets that come to light during that time. Like most of my work, it walks a fine line between drama and comedy – I’d say this one hits closer to comedy. It’s receiving a staged reading by Driftwood Theatre on January 23rd
I sort of fell into this opportunity last winter when I decided to participate in an overnight writing challenge in support of Driftwood called Trafalgar 24, which involved being ‘locked’ in a castle in Whitby overnight with 5 other playwrights; each of us came out the following morning with a ten minute play that directors and actors began rehearsing immediately. I returned to the castle that night to see the realization of my foggy brain’ed writing being performed for an audience, in the very room in which it had been written. It was a strange and wonderful experience. That night I was named the recipient of the Beyond the Castle award, which includes development support from Driftwood to continue working on the piece. We then received funding from the Ontario Arts Council so I could work as their Playwright in Residence for the fall. It’s been an interesting challenge taking something that began as a ten minute piece and finding and unraveling the larger story surrounding it. I recently wrote a blog post exploring this that can be found on Driftwood’s website.

BT: Can you share a brief excerpt from Robert?
BB: Sure. This is the opening section, which remains very similar to what was performed in the castle. I was inspired by a set of bagpipes sitting in the room where I was writing that night.

A hospice lounge.
Lights up on a set of bagpipes sitting on a table between KAT and JAMES. They stare at them.


KAT: I just don’t get why you brought them here.
JAMES: I thought maybe -
KAT: Like, sentimentally I get it, but practically –
JAMES: I just thought it might –
KAT: We’re already the ‘weird family’, James.
JAMES: I don’t think it’s weird.
KAT: He can barely breathe.
JAMES: I know -
KAT: You need a lot of breath for these.

JAMES: I know you need a lot of breath, but if Aunt Mary gets here in time –
KAT: You want Aunt Mary to play dad his bagpipes?
JAMES: (beat) Don’t make it sound absurd.
KAT: People are dying here.
JAMES: And so is dad, which is why --
KAT: They’re loud. The pipes.
JAMES: I thought about that.
KAT: Didn’t matter how far he went into the woods, we could still always hear them in the house.
JAMES: Shit, Kat – I know! But he loves them, and I think they should be with him, whether he can play them or not. And if Aunt Mary gets here in time, then she can… play him out, so to speak.
KAT: You really thought this through.
JAMES: Not many people get time to prepare. We’ve had time. We should do it right.
KAT: Should I bust out my highland fling?
KAT: No. That would be absurd.

KAT: About as absurd as the fact that right now dad is getting a sponge bath.

End of excerpt.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.