Featured Playwright Q & A
1) Highlighting the success of the smash hit Bittergirl, currently with productions at the Royal Manitoba Theatre until April 8, 2017, and then in BC’s Granville Island from June 15 to July 29, 2017, can you talk about your feeling on being referred to as a “bitter girl”? Is it a proud part of your feminist “badge of honour”? Or are you ever concerned about feedback that such a descriptor could promote the idea of women being over-invested in their romantic relationships, thus causing them to be lacking in strength?
There's a line in our book that says "...a bittergirl is a better girl...that she wraps her dignity around her like a cloak". Our characters have to get dumped, deal with the shock and hit rock bottom before they can realize that they are more than fine without their bitterboy and move on to a rich fabulous life without him. However, if they knew that at the beginning of the play, there wouldn't be much of a journey would there? So, yes I absolutely wear it as a badge of honour. When I look back at the 18 year journey that Alison, Annabel and I have had with bittergirl I am proud to call myself one of the original bittergirls because of course now there are these new singing and dancing bittergirls across Canada.
2) Can you talk about working with such fellow playwrights as Alison Lawrence and Annabel Fitzsimmons, on Bittergirls in particular, and how that collaboration enhanced the creative process, and the exchange of ideas? Were there particular challenges faced, as a result?
I've been working with Alison and Annabel for a long time now and our collaboration has changed my life. We've gone from being acquaintances to living on the same street, producing bittergirl the play on our credit cards and standing up for each other at our weddings.
Individually, we all have very different voices and strengths but withbittergirl we have a collective voice. Sometimes we write in the same room, often we are oceans apart sending each other drafts written in a particular colour just so we know who wrote what. We are always reimagining our process depending on what's happening in our lives and where we are geographically.
We make each other laugh and their friendship is bittergirl's the greatest gift.
3) Your acting and directing credits are quite extensive, and well acclaimed, (no surprise there!) Your role in Catering Queen for example, where you play “Julia”, the alcoholic lawyer, earned you a Dora award nomination, in 2006. You’ve also done your fair share of television acting. In addition, for your directing talents, you received another Dora nomination for directing You Fancy Yourself back in 2006. And more recently, your direction of the premiere of Hannah’s Turn, got you named as one of Toronto’s best directors by CBC. Could you talk about navigating through these very different genres? Did you always see yourself working in both?
I have always seen myself working in different genres. I love stories and I love the process of creating so it has always seemed natural to act, write and direct. I have had some wonderful long-term collaborators like Alison Lawrence, Richard Sanger and Maja Ardal. The projects I've worked on with them have been very fluid in terms of evolution. Often, I am in the room creating and directing (like One Thing Leads To Another with Maja at YPT last season) with Richard it might be a story idea that we hammer out before he goes away and writes it. With Alison there have been shows where I started out as a dramaturge but through the process, have discovered it's actually a piece I want to perform. One of the nice things about long-term collaborations is the trust that comes with time.
4) Your work as an artist-in-residence has also been very vast and diverse. Upon researching your bio, I learned that you worked as a regular artist-in-residence at various prisons, and detention centres across Canada. Can you talk about how being involved in something like that informed and/or inspired your work(s) going forward? Was it as overwhelming as it sounds?
No, it's not overwhelming at all. I studied Drama in Education at Concordia University and I can't imagine not creating in these situations. There's a feeling in these places that art is necessary. Storytelling and personal narrative is vital. There is a need to share our stories in order to understand who we are and how we got there. The pieces that I have been a part of in my residencies are some of my proudest accomplishments. There will be no box office or reviews but at the end of the day I know what we created together and the lives that were affected. You can't not be affected and enlightened by the stories that are revealed.
In my role as Associate Artistic Director of The Confederation Centre of the Arts I recently travelled across the country with two Indigenous visual artists (Nick Huard and Watio Splicer) We visited a mix of remote and urban communities using drama and art to gather the dreams of young Canadians that I will develop into the 2017 Young Company Show called The Dream Catchers at the Charlottetown Festival. Kids are kids but their individual stories are unforgettable. The responsibility of holding their stories and their dreams is not something I take lightly whether they are about making the NHL or the desire for clean drinking water.
5) What does the future hold for Mary Francis Moore?
I'm heading back to Charlottetown to write The Dream Catchers for the Young Company. Bittergirl - the Musical is opening at The Mack in Charlottetown on July 6 and I'm directing a few workshops as well as The Longing and The Short of It by Vancouver's Daniel Mate for The Charlottetown Festival Theatre Conference in September.