U of G Prof's Play Premieres in Capital

November 09, 2012 - News Release

Thirsty, a new play adapted by University of Guelph English professor Dionne Brand from her award-winning poem of the same name, has made its world premiere at the National Arts Centre (NAC) Studio in Ottawa.

“I’ve been really excited about this, ever since Paula Danckert, the NAC English Theatre’s dramaturge, came and asked me if this was a possible way that I’d want to work,” said Brand, holder of a University research chair at Guelph. “I’m looking forward to seeing the play and watching the actors breathe another life into it.”

Directed by Peter Hinton, former artistic director of the NAC English Theatre, and featuring members of the NAC English Theatre Company, Thirsty depicts the aftermath for a family when a mentally ill black man is killed in his Toronto home by police. Brand’s stage adaptation exposes the raw impact of the tragedy upon his mother, widow and daughter, and upon society.

“It was very challenging to adapt my book of poetry to the stage,” Brand said. “The language of the poetry is maintained within the play, and the characters work with that language in trying to unwind and undo the tragedy that occurred in their life.”

Brand, who teaches literature and creative writing in U of G’s School of English and Theatre Studies, is known for exploring difficult and complex subjects such as social justice, race and gender in her writing.

Last year she helped launch the U of G’s speaker series, which complements the University’s BetterPlanet Project, a capital campaign to help improve the quality of food, environment, health and communities, locally and globally. She discussed how poems and novels promise a better world.

Brand is the NAC playwright-in-residence for 2011-12. She has penned numerous volumes of poetry, including Land to Light On, which won both a Governor General’s Award and a Trillium Book Award. She has contributed to 17 anthologies, written dozens of articles and essays, and made four documentaries for the National Film Board. She was Toronto’s poet laureate in 2009 and won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries, about an exiled activist.

Brand has taught literature and creative writing in British Columbia. She has held the Ruth Wynn Woodward Chair in Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University and recently received an honorary doctorate from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Thirsty will run until Nov. 17.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or shiona@uoguelph.ca.

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