Playwright Judith Thompson Writes New Play, Featured in New Book
October 23, 2006 - News Release
University of Guelph theatre studies professor and Governor General Award-winning playwright Judith Thompson has written a new play that will be read during ArcFest (Art for Real Change Festival) Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. at the Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St. W. in Toronto. Thompson is also the subject of a new book, The Masks of Judith Thompson, edited by Prof. Ric Knowles, also a member of the School of English and Theatre Studies.
Thompson’s new play, The Palace of the End, consists of three monologues that capture the global effects of the Iraq War. It debuted at the Edinburgh Festival and was recently produced in Florence, Italy. “It’s the first time one of my plays has been translated before being produced in English,” said Thompson.
The first fictional monologue, called “My Pyramids,” is by Lynndie England, the young female American soldier who was convicted for torturing detainees and was pictured in newspapers holding the end of a leash that was pulling a naked Iraqi man by the neck.
The second monologue, “And Then They Came for Me,” features British microbiologist David Kelly, who told the BBC that the dossier justifying the invasion of Iraq was grossly exaggerated before he died suddenly.
The third monologue, “Instruments of Yearning,” tells the story of Narjis al Saffarh, a leading Communist in the 1960s and mother of four, who was brutally tortured by the Baathists and finally killed by American bombs.
“I don’t think any socially responsible person could turn away from what’s going on in the Middle East,” said Thompson. “The play is very shocking, although compared to what people really do, it’s actually very mild.”
The Masks of Judith Thompson is the third and final book in a series published by Playwrights Canada Press and to help scholars and actors study Thompson’s work more fully. It includes articles and interviews that provide insight into her plays, as well as her personal and professional life as a playwright and professor.
“It’s a tribute to Judith,” said Knowles. “As one of the major playwrights in the English-speaking world, she deserves this kind of treatment.”
There no question that Thompson, a U of G faculty member since 1992, has earned her reputation as one of the country’s top playwrights. She’s a two-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama for The Other Side of the Dark (1989) and White Biting Dog (1984), and was nominated for a Genie Award twice for her screenplays Perfect Pie and Lost and Delirious. She also received the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award for Lion in the Streets (1991) and I Am Yours (1987).
In 2005, she was named an officer of the Order of Canada, considered the country’s highest honour of lifetime achievement, for her outstanding contributions in arts and writing. She holds an honorary doctorate of sacred letters from Thorneloe University for her work as a playwright.
The interviews from The Masks of Judith Thompson start in 1988 and end with a 2006 interview. “It’s a fun blast from the past, and it’s interesting to see how my ideas and perceptions completely change,” said Thompson. “I think the opposite of what I thought 10 years ago. I think I said ‘I’m not a feminist writer’ at some point, and I most profoundly am. I just think when you’re young, you don’t want to be ghettoized.”
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