Joan MacLeod: Playwright
on drama

“Dreaming Scout”
Essay excerpt from Canadian Theatre Review, Winter 2008
I went to see my first play when I was fifteen.  It was a high school field trip likely organized by some hard working English teacher who I should’ve appreciated but probably mocked.  What I remember most was taking the bus over town, over the Lions Gate Bridge, and eating lunch in Scotts’ Restaurant, smoking one cigarette with six other girls in the washroom of the Vancouver Playhouse.   I wish I could tell you about the profound impact watching a play for the first time had on my fifteen year old self but it didn’t really have any impact.  I know it was something by Shakespeare but I couldn’t really tell you which play it was we were watching. 

Those field trips – I think I went twice more -- were more like visiting a museum where people were speaking a language that I found, well, goofy, than truly experiencing a piece of art in any sort of meaningful way.  Perhaps if instead of seeing Richard III or Macbeth I had seen my own fifteen year old self reflected up there on stage it wouldn’t have taken me so long to become a playwright.  Maybe then this job wouldn’t be something that I fell into by accident, but something that I ran toward. 

I think I, Claudia is a perfect piece of children’s theatre – the text, the acting, you name it.  I know it wasn’t written for children and that’s not the audience it’s marketed toward but I don’t care.  I’ve never really seen the need for those distinctions – I don’t like them much either.  It’s those distinctions that keep teenaged characters off our main stages.  I know that I, Claudia speaks to teenagers and I know that teenagers, all of us really, need to be shaped and comforted by stories.  When I’m writing for teenagers I want to give them characters where they will see themselves – their splendor and their frailty.  If I had met Claudia on my high school field trip I know that she would’ve taken over for me where Scout had left off.  I would’ve swallowed her whole along with a big bag of chips and a good dose of Joni Mitchell.
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