Governor General's Award-winning playwright shares his expertise at Guelph
BY RACHELLE COOPER
“For me, writing is a way of engaging with the world,” says Guillermo Verdecchia, a Governor General's Award-winning playwright who is U of G's 2005 writer-in-residence. “It's a way of understanding the world and trying to work on the world.”
Verdecchia, who is also a director and actor, will be available to students, faculty and members of the Guelph community this semester to discuss his work, help with their own writing or talk about the business of writing.
“The writer-in-residence program is an important initiative developed with support from both the College of Arts and the Canada Council,” says Prof. Jacqueline Murray, dean of the College of Arts. “It allows us to bring in fine writers whose presence benefits our students and faculty and contributes to the amazing literary community that characterizes Guelph.”
Prof. Alan Shepard, director of the School of English and Theatre Studies, adds: “I am delighted that we were able to recruit Guillermo back to campus to work as writer-in-residence this winter. He has taught acting and playwriting for us previously and, in 2002, we produced his play Final Decisions: War. It was a great success.”
Verdecchia says his writing is prompted by “an idea or a problem or a question that interests me or that I want to know more about, that won't leave me alone.”
His 1993 one-person play, Fronteras Americanas, which received both a Governor General's Award for drama and a Chalmers Canadian Play Award, “was an attempt to figure out where I lived,” he says. “It was an attempt to resolve this division that I felt in terms of my position as a Latin American living in Canada. ”
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and raised in Ontario, Verdecchia has had to deal with misconceptions, stereotypes and myths surrounding his Latin American identity. In Fronteras Americanas, he was able to explore one person's struggle to build a home between the two cultures.
Verdecchia also wrote and starred in a short film adaptation of Fronteras Americanas called Crucero/ Crossroads, which played at film festivals around the world and received nine international awards.
As a theatre maker, he says one of his main goals is to challenge whose voice is considered valuable in Canadian theatre.
“The theatre seems to be overwhelmingly Anglo-Caucasian in Canada, and yet if you look at our cities, they're not at all. I'm really interested in crossing boundaries and depicting different ways of being Canadian.”
In addition to tackling those challenges through his own writing, Verdecchia just finished a five-year term as artistic director of Cahoots Theatre Projects, a company dedicated to the development and production of new Canadian plays that reflect the country's cultural diversity.
While at Guelph, he hopes to dedicate time to working on a new play that he's co-writing with Canadian theatre director and writer Daniel Brooks.
“It will be informed by the idea of ecology in terms of environments and ecological systems, and also in terms of families as an ecology,” Verdecchia says.
He and Brooks have collaborated on several other plays, including The Noam Chomsky Lectures, which received a Chalmers Award and was shortlisted for a Governor General's Award, and Insomnia. A Line in the Sand, a play he co-wrote with Marcus Youssef, also received a Chalmers Award.
In addition to plays, Verdecchia writes screenplays and short fiction. He published a collection of short stories called Citizen Suarez and is currently working on a piece of prose.
On March 2, he will give a reading at 6:30 p.m. in Lower Massey Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Verdecchia will hold office hours most Mondays and Tuesdays in February and March and is also available by appointment. To book an appointment, call Elizabeth Gilbertson at Ext. 53147 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
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