The number of local plays up for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for drama is compelling proof of the strong, original, and culturally diverse new Canadian plays being generated here.
Among this year's nominees are Tetsuro Shigematsu's 1 Hour Photo, inspired by the life of Mas Yamamoto, who owned a chain of one-hour photo shops in B.C. (He was the father of Shigematsu's friend and producer, Donna Yamamoto.) It premiered here as a Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre production, presented at the Cultch. When the Straight reviewed it, we called it "a buffet of sensory textures", complete with vinyl recordings of interviews with Mas, and a little scale model of Shigematsu’s house. Shigametsu also wrote the critically acclaimed and equally inventive Empire of the Son.
Kevin Loring, meanwhile, is nominated for Thanks for Giving, a show the Straight's reviewer said "tackles vitally important realities of colonialism, intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities, mixed families and racism, culture, legacy, and belonging, LGBTQ issues, and so much more, and it does so with humour and heart and deep compassion." The story of a family Thanksgiving dinner that implodes due to deep-set secrets and resentment, it debuted at the Arts Club Theatre Company's Granville Island Stage in late 2017. The Lytton-born Studio 58 grad was appointed the first artistic director of Indigenous theatre at the National Arts Centre of Canada in 2018, and he's already won the Governor General's Literary Award for drama in 2009 for Where the Blood Mixes.
And local playwright Sean Harris Oliver's play The Fighting Season, which was inspired by his own father's experience treating soldiers in Afghanistan, is also up for the national prize. At its earliest stage, it played to sold out audiences at the 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival and was awarded The Georgia Straight’s Critics Choice Award. We called the work, about three members of a Canadian medical team sent home after a traumatizing encounter with an injured Taliban fighter, a "cause for celebration". His war story Redpatch, cowritten with his Hardlines Productions partner Raes Calvert, was also critically lauded here when it debuted two years ago.
Another nominee isn't from Vancouver, but has a strong relationship to the theatre scene here. Toronto playwright Hannah Moscovitch has seen her work performed locally by the likes of Alley Theatre (the haunting hit Little One) and Ruby Slippers Theatre (The Russian Play and Mexico City). Her G-G nomination is for the compelling What a Young Wife Ought to Know, set in 1920s Ottawa, before the legalization of birth control.
The final contender is CBC host Amanda Parris, who's nominated for her play Other Side of the Game, the story of black women activists in the 1970s and 2010.
Whoever wins the top drama prize will receive $25,000; he or she will be announced on October 29.More