Today I am attempting to gather my exhausted wits and to celebrate a wonderful playwright and a man that I deeply respect and admire, Mr. Brad Fraser, who has written two pages of a brand new play and the rest will be improvised live in 3D tonight at the Theatre Passe Muraille by those mavericks of mischief, those darlings of deviance the incubators of Improv…. THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF THE WORLD!!!
Brad Fraser. I was introduced to Brad’s work late in the game, although I had certainly heard his name bouncing around much earlier. The first Fraser play I saw was, at that time, his latest, True Love Lies at Factory Theatre, where I had a similar reaction, I think, to most people who see Fraser plays. I was obsessed with the dialogue. He is called a “master” of writing conversations and I don’t care how many plays you have seen, written, directed, acted in, dramaturged or avoided, you see a Fraser play and you immediately have some sort of revelation about how meticulously and accurately the vernacular and rhythms of speech in conversation can be captured for the stage. Fraser’s play made me realize how false and heightened and hugely articulate and poetic most dialogue in plays are written to be. I read somewhere where Fraser’s plays were likened to “overhearing a conversation between two people on the bus” and that seems to me to hit right at the heart of what his plays can do. They don’t seem written, but with a keen eye and knowledge of the theatre, one knows the amount of talent it takes to seem almost invisible.
I next play I saw of Fraser’s was one of his first, a recent non-Equity production of Wolf Boy (1981), which was an ambitious but uneven production, but still highlighted how fascinating and exciting the play is and I came away wishing that I had seen one of its initial performances. Wolf Boy still resonates and is still, sadly, relevant, but I am sure that it must have been a powerful and provocative piece in the cultural and political climate of the early 1980s. His plays are not only political but they belong to the moment they’re being written. Fraser assaults the present moment, he exposes its underbelly with a fierce quest to examine and question the things that people hold sacred, the conventions we cling to and the deep complexities and contradictions inherent in all our daily interactions.
Other Brad Fraser plays include Chainsaw Love (1985, Edmonton Fringe Festival), Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (1989, Alberta Theatre Projects PlayRites Festival, has since been produced in Edmonton, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Sydney, London, Sao Paulo and Cincinnati, among other cities), The Ugly Man (1993, Workshop West Theatre, Edmonton), Poor Super Man (1994, Cincinnati Ensemble Theatre, since produced in Edmonton, Buffalo, Edinburgh, London, Washington D.C, Toronto, Montreal, Sydney and Sao Paulo, Martin Yesterday (1998), Outrageous (2000, Canadian Stage, Toronto), Snake in Fridge (2001, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester) and San Francisco, Cold Meat Party (2003, Royal Exchange Theatre) also Factory Theatre (Toronto), and his most recent play 5 @ 50 which debuted at the Royal Exchange in 2011. His plays are available in print at Theatre Books in Toronto and I recommend checking them out. Also a very early play of his Mutants is included in Robin Whittaker’s anthology of plays that Premiered at the Walterdale Playhouse Hot Thespian Action.
Fraser has been internationally honoured and acclaimed for his work. He has twice received the Chalmers Award (Unidentified… and Poor Super Man) and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poor Super Man, 1996). He is a five-time winner of the Alberta Culture Playwriting Competition and five-time winner of the Alberta Writers’ Guild Drama Award. He also received the London Evening Standard Award for best new play and the Los Angeles Critics’ Award. I wish that his plays were given professional revivals more in Toronto because there are a great many that I have not seen and want to very ardently. I’m especially eager to see Snake in Fridge, which is not as well known as much of his other work, which is likely why I want so ardently to see it. Based loosely on the salacious exploits of Michael Alig, here is an excerpt from the description on Fraser’s website, “Led by the steroid abusing, foul mouthed, unbelievably angry club kid, Corbett, seven people, all working in the sex industry, share a house in Toronto.” Sounds like it belongs at Buddies, right? Can we make that happen? Brendan Healy? Yes?
The media loves Brad Fraser. Or, rather, they love to sensationalize the “Brad Fraser: Bad Boy of the Canadian Theatre” image that they constructed decades ago. What bothers me about this is that too often they write off what he says as being, “just Brad Fraser stirring up scandal” or “Brad Fraser, once again, being subversive” that “rebellious, bad, bad, boy”, instead of actually taking a moment to consider the legitimacy of what he is saying. Could it be that the mainstream Canadian media are typically cowardly and self interested… well we all saw what happened with The Globe and Mail during the recent election. So, what do you think?
To me, Brad Fraser is a Canadian theatre hero, and one that is not afraid to give voice to the issues that are pertinent in our community. He is smart, he is passionate, he is articulate and he calls out bullshit in a way that is not only refreshing, but necessary for the Canadian theatre to be better, stronger and to bring forth work and artists that are world-class, unique, brave and that fuel and evoke volatile reaction from their audiences which will ultimately keep the theatre alive. Brad Fraser demands better from all of us and he refuses to give in to complacency; he refuses to settle for mediocre. Yet, it all comes from his faith in what this country and its artists are capable of. Brad Fraser inspires me to dig deeper, to never stifle my curiosity and to never, ever be afraid, to consent to being bullied or being made to feel intimidated by anyone with power, money or clout. He helps keep me true to my heart and he helps keep my heart searching for the truth.
According to the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia Fraser “was once a contributor to The National Post, considered a right-wing publication. About this he told Edmonton’s Vue Magazine, in June, 2000, “…I’m really tired of preaching to the converted. I could write for a great many publications where they’d agree with everything I say. But I really want to write for the people who don’t agree with everything I say.”” I think that speaks wonders of him as a man and a human being.
I saw The National Theatre of the World perform a Brad Fraser Impromptu Splendor with special guest Chris Craddock over a year and a half ago. Brad was the first playwright that I know of who attended a Splendor in his own style and his reaction was very enthusiastic and he has been an ardent supporter of The National Theatre of the World and their work ever since. Tonight is sure to be a hot and sexy, wild and foul-mouthed adventure, likely with some bare bottoms and booze. Tickets have sold out, but I would still recommend moseying down to Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) and lining up early to join the Waiting List.
The Script Tease Project plays at Theatre Passe Muraille MAY 24-29. 16 Ryerson Avenue. Tickets are $20.00 ($15.00 for students) Get there early, they will more than likely sell out or book ahead at www.artsboxoffice.ca. Here is the complete schedule.
Friday, May 27th 8:pm Brad Fraser- SOLD OUT
Saturday, May 28th 2pm Morris Panych
Saturday, May 28th 8pm Mark McKinney- SOLD OUT
Sunday, May 29th 2pm Norm Foster
Sunday, May 29th 8pm John Patrick Shanley- SOLD OUT
Got Splendor? Come see a play that will make you laugh with your heart.
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