The Joy of Anonymity by Marie Beath Badian

(Photo credit Mike Tan) 

 

I received an email in mid-December, last year, that read:

 

Dear Playwright:

Huge congratulations on your Longlisting…

….please respond with your real name…

 

Dear Playwright? That’s me!  Congratulations?! Woo-hoo!

 

Real name is Marie Beath [pronounced Mary Beth; bless my parents and their disregard for the traditional phonetic names of their homeland]. Surname: Badian. Rhymes with Canadian. Which I am; Filipino-Canadian to be precise. Born and raised in the suburb of Scarborough, just outside of downtown Toronto, where I live. Call me worldly.

 

I have a confession. Well, three, actually:

  1. I was unaware of longlist as a verb.
  2. I didn’t think that what I write would ever have resonance with anyone outside of Canada.
  3. Most embarrassingly, prior to spring of last year, I had never heard of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

 

I entered it by the generous nomination from Brian Quirt and the wonderful team at The Banff Playwrights Lab where I had spent a two-week residency in the Canadian Rockies, writing a pastoral romance set in the Canadian Prairies. [Like I said, worldly].

 

I sent in a project that seemed the least geographically Canadian:  Common: Parts I and II.  The application was swift – the anonymity mercifully lifting off my chest the usual performance anxiety I experience when trying to convince others that my work might be worth supporting. Off went my play into the ether where I forgot about it until mid-December.

 

Common is a play in three parts, set in the central common room of a downtown Toronto youth shelter.

Common: Part I [The List]  Drey, a loud and popular client of the centre befriends the new girl, Ming,  who can’t or won’t speak. Their friendship grows over text messages, gossip and McDonald’s hacks at the mall.  Part I is about secrets, intimacy and the things that make us silent.

 

Common: Part II [or Hope is in Winnipeg] is a window into the beginning and end of a tumultuous relationship between Becca, a mysterious girl from Winnipeg and Snaps, an urban lofty-dreamer. The form of Part II is non-sequential, as is the constant chaos inherent in their current lives. Part II is about trust, hope, longing and the circumstances that lead to or create barriers for falling in love.

 

Currently in development is Common Part III: Chester Breaks His Glasses. On the eve of Chester’s 21stbirthday, he is in the Common Room, after hours, with a pair of broken glasses in his hands. Chester is in crisis – when he turns 21 he officially “ages out of the system” and is no longer a Crown Ward – that means he can’t call his caseworker Wendy – who always made sure he got his glasses. In the middle of his crisis, Ming from Part I speaks to him.

 

Being longlisted has been an unexpected treasure. Attached to the email was a document of thoughtful and rich feedback. They get it! Such a relief! I’m so grateful. Also offered was a potential connection to someone who had been involved in one of the many rounds of reading the play. Sign me up!

 

Out of anonymity came an email from the wonderful London-based director, Hannah Joss. Hannah and I have connected several times since our email introduction. In that time the world has taken a turn and now we talk about what lockdown means in London and Toronto. We share sadness and worry, but also the necessary levity for these dark times.

 

We talk about my play.  I feel enriched and excited by the exchange. Of course, neither of us can begin to imagine the answer to what the future of theatre will be in either of our respective communities. I’m okay with that. It is a privilege beyond words to be in a place of artistic uncertainty; a safety and comfort afforded to me by countless frontline workers. I am a playwright. There are bigger, more important things right now.

 

With regards to the future of my play, I find there to be a grace in not knowing, in living with the written words on page for a little while longer and dreaming about what my play could look like if I were to imagine it as worldly.

 

 

______

 

Marie Beath Badian is a Toronto-based Playwright.   www.mariebeath.com

 

 

17 Jun 2020

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