Even though playwriting is still a male dominated profession, there has been a lot of progress made in the last 10 years. Nightwood theatre has been instrumental in developing and promoting female Canadian playwrights in Toronto and Espace Go has been dedicated to fostering female voices in Quebec. Across Canada there are many excellent female writers but those listed below have made our top ten:
Djanet Sears is the author of the first stage play written by a Canadian woman of African descent. Her work explores the complexities of racial and gender identity, and frequently includes songs, rhythm, and choruses shaped from West-African traditions. She is one of the founding members of the Obsidian Theatre in Toronto and AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival. Her best known play is Harlem Duet, which received multiple Dora Awards, and has been produced Canada wide.
Thompson started as an actor studying Drama at Queen’s University and then at the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada. Her career as a playwright began during a mask class where Thomson created a mentally challenged character Therese which eventually became the focal point of Thompson’s first play, The Crackwalker which premiered on the Theatre Passe Muraille stage in 1980. Since then she has been one of the most awarded and produced Canadian female playwrights national wide.
Trey Anthony took Canada by storm when her hit play Da Kink In My Hair debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2001. The play, set in a Toronto hair salon, won several awards, before being produced by a large commercial producer Mirvish Productions in Toronto, picked up by theatres in the USA and UK, and even turned into a hit television series. Trey, who is of Jamaican heritage, was born in the UK and immigrated to Canada when she was 12. She lived in Brampton before becoming one of the countries best female playwrights.
Sarah Berthiaume is an actor and author. Her first play, The Flood Thereafter, won the Égregore prize in 2006. She finds inspiration in abandoned towns or buildings, and unexplored landscapes. Her work touches on themes of labour and objectification of humans, particularly women. She is best known for the play Yukonstyle. Her work has been presented at one of the biggest theatre festivals in the world, Festival d’Avignon.
Evelyne de la Chenelière
One of the best and most frequently performed Quebecois female playwrights. She wrote more than 15 plays, most of which are yet to be translated to English, unfortunately. Her most popular work, Strawberries in January is a a whimsical portrait of four singles, one of whom is an aspiring filmmaker who casts the others in surprising roles. The play was produced across Canada and in England, Germany, and Scotland.
One of the most highly acclaimed Canadian playwrights, Hannah studied Philosophy and English at the University of Toronto, and playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada. Her plays are character driven and frequently expose characters in extreme events. Her best know works are East of Berlin, This Is War, and Secret Life of a Mother. Most of her work has been produced by Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.
One of Canada’s best actresses is also an accomplished playwright. As an actor Hennig’s credits include a long list of Broadway productions as well as credits at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK. Her best known plays are Mother’s Daughter and The Last Wife. In 2015, Hennig received the 2015 Christopher Plummer Foundation Award for excellence in the classical theatre.
This Indo-Canadian award-winning playwright, actress and librettist was born in Kolkata, India and immigrated to Canada at the age of 17. Her work is socially driven and engaged and often shines light on exploitation and injustice in India. Her best known plays are Brothel #9, Letters to My Grandma, and Pyaasa.
Anne Marie MacDonald
Ann-Marie MacDonald is an internationally acclaimed Canadian playwright, novelist, actor, and broadcast journalist. Born at CFB Baden-Soellingen in West Germany, she received the Governor General’s Award, the Chalmers Award and the Canadian Author’s Association Award for her play Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliette.
She specializes in exploring dark subjects with comedy. She wrote more than 10 plays and is best know for Yaga, Bang Bang and Mustard, which won the Dora Award for Best New Play. Her plays are surprising and startling, conversational, and layered, as the characters work through contentious conflicts in realistic dialogue. She was a frequent participant the Fringe Festival theatre circuit for years before breaking through to the main strain theatres recently.
Any of your favourite that didn’t make the list?
Let us know in the comments below and we might feature them in our next post.
Until then, check out our post about who we think are the worlds best play wrights.