Best Canadian Playwrights

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Canada doesn’t have hundreds of years of theatre history under its belt yet, but nevertheless, plays by Canadian playwrights are performed all over the world. Here are some of the best Canadian playwrights, in our opinion: 

The best Canadian playwright sitting at a table and working on the next best play.
Photo by: Adolfo Félix

Wajdi Mouawad

Former head of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa now residing in France, Wadji’s work is regularly produced in theatres around the world. This Lebanese-Canadian playwright is best known for his acclaimed play called Incendies (or Scorched in English). This piece is one of the most widely produced Canadian plays internationally and domestically, and it was even made into an Oscar nominated film. Wajdi’s work contains elements of magical realism, complex narratives and often troubled characters.

Djanet Sears

Djanet Sears is an award-winning playwright and one of the founding members of the Obsidian Theatre in Toronto. She is the recipient of Canada’s highest literary honour for dramatic writing: the 1998 Governor General’s Literary Award. Her best known work is Harlem Duet, which received multiple Dora Awards, and has been produced Canada-wide. Sears holds the distinction of being the author of the first Canadian stage play by a person of African descent; Afrika Solo.

Michel Tremblay

It is hard to imagine how one playwright can stir up change in society, and yet that is exactly what Michel Tremblay did. Before his play Les Belles Soeurs, theatre in Quebec was dominated by travelling third rate theatre companies from Europe. Tremblay caused a revolution by putting working women speaking in the Quebec dialect “Joual” on stage, instead of the usual high brow French. His work caused riots and planted the seed of cultural self awareness for Quebecois people. Michel Tremblay didn’t stop there, his work continued to investigate and dismantle deeply rooted societal influences of the catholic church fundamentally transforming Quebec into the liberal society it is today. His work was one of the first in the country to openly advocate for gay rights.

Tomson Highway

The most widely known Indigenous playwright was born in Brochet, Manitoba. His mother tongue is Cree and he also speaks several other languages including English and French fluently. Besides several Dora awards, he was also made a member of the Order of Canada in 1994. His most known play is The Rez Sisters. His plays feature indigenous characters often including a trickster. They are filled with humour and music; Tompson Highway is also a classically trained pianist, opera composer and librettist. He supports multiracial casting in his plays and has some controversial opinions on the Canadian residential school system.

Three backlight Actors in front of a red curtain, performing a play by Canadian Playwrights
Photo by: Kyle Head

Hannah Moskovitch

Hannah Moskovitch writes for theatre and television. She is no stranger to awards and works with important Canadian theatres dedicated to producing new work such as Tarragon and  Factory Theatre. She is a graduate of  the National Theatre School of Canada, and is best known for Secret Life of a Mother, East of Berlin and This Is War. Her plays often present characters with secrets, and portray intimate interpersonal relations at a precipice. 

Clifford Cardinal

Cliff was already an award winning playwright before event attending the most prestigious playwriting program in Canada and the National Theatre School. He received several awards and nominations for his play Huff which toured all over Canada and the world for almost 10 years. Cliff’s work is a unique mix of poetic narrative, dark humour and striking, unforgettable situations resulting in a visceral, unforgettable theatrical experience when read or watched on stage.

Judith Thompson

A two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for White Biting Dog and The Other Side of the Dark. Judith Thompson graduated from Queen’s University in 1976 with a B.A. in English and attended the National Theatre School `s acting section. Her plays often portray people at the margins of society winning her a reputation as a socially active playwright who gave a voice to the voiceless. 

Trey Anthony

This former Brampton resident of Jamaican descent moved to Canada from the UK when she was 12. She is the writer of How Black Mothers Say I Love You, Black Girl in Love (with Herself) and a hit play and television show Da Kink In My Hair which won several Dora awards and was produced in New York, California and London, UK. Trey is a master at capturing vibrant street like speech.

William Shakespeare
Photo: Birmingham Museum Trust

Michel Marc Bouchard

Best known for Lillies, Orphan Muses and Tom at the Farm, Michel Marc Bouchard draws from Quebec’s societal secrets and constructs character driven plays. He writes in French, and has to date written more than 25 plays, which have been translated into several languages including Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish and English. Frequent themes in his plays are the past, power and identity. In 2012, Bouchard was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec.

Evelyne de la Chenelière

Montreal based playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière wrote more than 15 plays to date, most of which are yet to be translated to English, unfortunately. Her most popular works are, Strawberries in January, Bashir Lazhar, and Désordre public in which a failed actor who hears all the thoughts of his fellow passengers on a public bus. Her plays are included in the Anthology of Quebec Women’s Plays, and were performed across Canada and internationally.

For more incredible female Canadian Playwrights, check out this article.