The Mysteries


It was the year when I became so preoccupied with sleeping with women that I lost motivation for almost every other pursuit and began to worry, at times, that I might starve. The women I slept with would feed me, I hoped. Or perhaps I’d establish a network of male friends, preferably wealthy, whose envy of my lifestyle would transform into an urge to help me, sustain me as an avatar of their own desires, a mild-mannered satyr through whom they could live vicariously. I was surviving on a combination of government grants and awards and a monthly allowance from a local dowager, sentimental and cruel and extremely old, whom I’d met at the opening of a play I’d written, a Holocaust fable about erstwhile child star Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT) and the working poor. It wasn’t very well received, but my benefactor-to-be, quite senile, thought me a young genius. Once she died, which could happen at any moment, I knew it would be much harder for me to survive.

In the meantime I was pretty happy. I got into the habit of discussing my situation with Debbie, brilliant and anxious, an inveterate overachiever who greeted with ambivalence my merry fornicating ways. “Debbie,” I’d say, as we lay entwined in bed, “I worry sometimes that I’m spending my whole life chatting with girls at Starbucks, and also at ‘independent’ coffee shops. I go to such places to write, but I always end up talking to some girl. I’m not getting any work done.” And Debbie would squeeze my bum and say, “I don’t want to hear about this,” if she felt jealous, or, “You’re so ballsy,” if she did not.

She was an acquisitions editor for a major publishing house and a wonderful freak who could reach orgasm only when first spanked and then, during intercourse, scolded with biblical verses suggesting she was not among the elect graced by divine providence, generally selections from the Book of Jeremiah or, during fellatio, Isaiah. We’d met online. She was more or less okay with me fucking other people as long as I took care of her needs and was kind and honest. This contract was agreeable to me—my standard boilerplate, as it were. She could read incredibly fast, a symptom of or qualification for her job; often she’d read my writing. “It’s shit,” I’d say, as she read my manuscript at the kitchen table. She’d hold up a finger to shush me, and I would shush. “It’s seriously shit,” I would insist, and she’d tell me that if I wouldn’t shut up she’d exile me to the hallway. I had a bachelor apartment in a low-rise building; the hallway was poorly lighted and offered nowhere to sit besides the filthy carpet. “Okay,” I’d say then, trembling, “but if you come to feel you’ve wasted your time reading that shit and you’re resentful, you’re the only one to blame.” She may have given me the finger, if my peripheral vision is to be trusted. In any case she gave me a finger.

Well, but I knew my “work-life balance” wasn’t tenable, so I decided to visit the dowager for advice. Continue reading

On Top – The Complete Script


goodwp.com_16407A little experiment.

For the next year, I’m waiving all production royalties to my play On Top for theatre companies and collectives with an annual budget under CAD $50,000. The full script, below, will live online for the year. To secure the rights, just e-mail me and tell me what you plan to do.

The text is also full of meaty audition monologue material for men and women in their late 20s and 30s.

On Top premiered at the Tarragon Theatre Workspace in Toronto in March 2016, directed by me and performed by Krista Colosimo, Michael Goldlist, and Jess Salgueiro. Under a previous title, it won the 2015 Safe Words Playwriting Competition. The play is political, sexual, non-linear, fragmentary, occasionally poetic, sometimes anti-dramatic, often weird. It requires no set or design. It allows, maybe demands, a fair bit of interpretation by the producing artists. It runs about 60 minutes.

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Partisan Magazine: Never an Intruder, Always a Guest


Anand-Rajaram-Sarah-Dodd-in-Mustard-2-photo-by-Cylla-von-Tiedemann_web-1024x716When an important theatre company’s entire eight-play season includes just one (1) actor who unambiguously couldn’t pass for an ethnic European, and that actor is cast as a non-human in a jester’s hat, can that truly be seen as a positive, progressive example of “colour-blind casting”?

If racial and ethnic “colour-blindness” isn’t a genuine human possibility, tribal and prideful as we are, but is instead a bourgeois myth that allows the lookers to feel morally righteous instead of confronting their own prejudices, what’s the artist’s responsibility in relation to it?

For Partisan Magazine, I asked these and other questions in a discussion of Mustard at Tarragon Theatre:

On Doubt


“Christmas Morning,” Andrew Wyeth (1944)

Zadie Smith’s essays are so great. They’re collected in a book called Changing My Mind, a phrase that beautifully captures the tentative quality of the essay form: a literary gamble, an attempt, child of the French word essayer, “to try.” I’ve spent a year and a half essaying, on this website and sometimes elsewhere, and I’ve never changed my mind so often or been so full of doubt.

In the spring of 2014, I launched a dangerous little experiment on this inch of online real estate: I began to write long-form critical essays about dramatic art and mainly about the work of my own theatre community in Toronto. Soon after I started the project, I decided to package those essays as open letters to the theatre artists about whom I wrote, with the guiding principle that I’d include in the essays only such thoughts as I might otherwise share with those artists directly and privately — over e-mail, say. The letters would be overheard speech, governed by roughly the same social rules, the same codes of omission and inclusion, that mark any frank but respectful conversation with a peer.

Though the initial public reaction to the project was largely positive, in the spring of 2015, almost exactly a year in, it received a fundamental critique from a local artist who argued that it, and I, as a straight white man, take up too much space in the Canadian theatre landscape. That critique, which took the form of a discussion of the aesthetics and ethics of one of my own plays, positioned me at a distinct point along a spectrum of ideas about the politics of identity. The critique staked out political territory, drew a line, and located me on the other side of it. To be fair, it did invite me to reform my views and switch camps. But in the process it established, by implication, that there were camps, and that I was, at least for the moment, in the wrong one.

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How To Save the Canadian Theatre in a Few Not-So-Easy Steps




A Possible Roadmap to a Less Pale, More Prosperous Future




I caused some distress a few weeks ago when, in the rowdy virtual pub that is Facebook, I offered a possible explanation for why the Canadian theatre is so damn white.

My claim, which I made way too glibly, was that the vast majority of new Canadians from Not-Europe seem more inclined to seek lucrative work in mainstream sectors like finance and technology, for instance, than to hurl themselves down the economic rabbit hole that is the arts. Whether that observation is true or not, it was wrong of me to speak of race-related matters in the flippant, generalized way I did. It was a mistake — lazy, facile, distracting — to approach such a complex issue with quips instead of rigour.

This essay, then, is the product of research and reflection to which I was compelled by my own dissatisfaction with my careless words. It’s an attempt to move past glib politicking, test intuitions with data, examine some of the economic forces at work in the Canadian theatre, and propose a speculative but potentially revolutionary model for change.


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