Featured Playwright Q & A with Conni Massing
1-With upcoming International Women’s Day, as well your participation in the feminist theatre festival in Alberta, “Skirts Afire”, how do you feel about the role and/or roles of women playwrights in Canadian theatre? And how can more opportunities be created?
Like many others I was alarmed to see the statistics (revealed as part of the EIT initiative) about the percentage of plays written by women produced in the professional theatre – especially the downward trend since this was last studied. None of this is simple, of course, because so much of what happens in terms of programming choices is influenced by unconscious biases. But I think we need to work toward having stronger representation of women as artistic directors at Canadian theatres. As individual playwrights, I think we have to reach out to potential producers with more confidence and what I’ll call “aggressive optimism.”
2-The Mommy Monologues, also premiering at Skirts Afire, is what many would consider to be an epic project; a collaboration of eleven female playwrights sharing their views and experiences on motherhood. What would you say was the single greatest challenge in the coming-together of this project? What did you enjoy most about it?
First of all, it has been a glorious experience participating in a show that features the work of so many talented women. I’ve also enjoyed seeing the astonishing diversity represented in the stories. I’ll confess to having some preconceptions about how my colleagues would respond to the assignment but the notion of mothering has been explored, defined and redefined in ways I never imagined.
The single greatest challenge? I think it has been difficult for the commissioning producer and the dramaturg to hold us all to the prescribed length for the monologues–it seems everyone has quite a lot to say about this subject!
3-In addition to writing books (Roadtripping..) for one, you’ve also done a fair amount of writing for television, film, and even radio – was it always your intention to delve into numerous genres with your writing, or did it just happen?
Mostly I think it’s a function of the fact that every story demands its own form. While I started out as a playwright, I found at some point that my imagination was straying to ideas more suited to television and film–and occasionally even creative non-fiction. I’ve moved back and forth between genres ever since. The other consideration is pragmatic. In order to thrive and survive as a free-lance artist, especially living outside the major centres, the rule is “diversify or die.”
4- Which Canadian playwright(s) are you most inspired by, or whose work do you most enjoy (among Canadian playwrights)?
There are so many inspirations and too many wonderful playwrights to list but a few of the plays and playwrights that have been speaking most strongly to me in the last couple of years include…
“Mouthpiece” by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, “Café Daughter” by Kenneth T. Williams, “Pike Street” by Nilaja Sun as well as work by Colleen Murphy, Karen Hines, Joan Macleod and Matthew Mackenzie.
5- What’s next for Conni Massing?
My new play “Matara” will also be featured at the Skirtsafire festival as a staged reading so that’s top of mind right now. But then I’m back to my work-in-progress, a new play which features a series of encounters between Joan of Arc and Dorothy Parker. I’m also busy adapting one of my plays for television.