by Artistic Director Molly Smith
As a young artistic director at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska over 30 years ago, I began tracking Canadian writers and ended up in Banff, Canada in a room with wonderful artists like John Murrell and Morris Panych and talented dramaturgs like Urjo Kareda and Jackie Maxwell. I remember being a bit shy around Morris’s wit and special form of humor.
Fast-forward to a decade ago when I reconnected with Jackie Maxwell, now artistic director of the Shaw Festival (who directed Arena’s production of Good People), and met Morris once more. I was even more impressed with his work as a writer and director — and I was much less shy. I love how artists meet and reconnect after years in our world of the theater.
And I have a special love for artists from Canada. A number have graced our stages over the past 10 seasons, from Benedict Campbell in My Fair Lady to John Murrell’s Faraway Nearby to Michel Tremblay’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again to Ken McDonald as the scenic and costume designer for The Shoplifters. I love to experience the North in the American vision of our mandate through superb artists from Canada.
Morris’s strength as an artist is the discovery of universal truths in the ridiculous. In the case of The Shoplifters, he investigates the aisles of a grocery store and the people who occupy them. His characters and use of comedy have established him as one of Canada’s leading writers. He has written more than a dozen plays which have been produced internationally. His plays The Ends of the Earth (1994) and Girl in the Goldfish Bowl (2004) have been awarded the prestigious Governor General’s Award for Drama. Morris also has a knack for direction. He has directed many of the plays he has written including Vigil, Lawrence and Holloman and The Overcoat. His triple-threat abilities as a writer, director and performer have set him apart as an artist for decades.
At Arena Stage, we focus on new work and the playwright’s voice. We are excited to debut four additional new works along with The Shoplifters this season: Our War by 25 writers; Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery; John Strand’s The Originalist; and Katori Hall’s The Blood Quilt.
Morris comes to us at the right time with a ripe idea. Sometimes the ethical line between right and wrong gets a little smudged. His show pertains to the shoplifter and the security guard in each of us.
This is for anyone who has ever thought about stealing from the corporate man.
Enjoy the ride!
Molly Smith, Artistic Director