Buddies is bringing back one of the old boys. The company announced this week that Bryden MacDonald, a seminal figure from the early days, will be working with them for the first time since 1999. Based in Halifax, MacDonald comes on board as playwright in residence this fall. We caught up with him to chat about his plans and why he can’t seem to escape theatre.
Xtra: It’s been a long time since you’ve worked with Buddies. What does coming back to the space mean for you?
Bryden MacDonald: Buddies has always made a point of empowering queer youth, creating a place for young people of all stripes to flourish. In the early ’80s, that’s who I was, and Buddies gave me the opportunity to write, direct and perform in a safe and non-judgmental environment. I began to formulate ideas that would make their way into my plays Whale Riding Weather and The Weekend Healer. I often wonder whether these plays would exist or if I would have had the confidence to mine the deeper reaches of imagination and sexuality without the Buddies foundation. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, and I’m interested to see what the bright, young, queer things are up to.
How will you spend your time with Buddies?
BM: I’ll be working on a series of short plays, two to 15 minutes in length, under the umbrella title Resolutions for the End of Time. A pandemic of existential crises has taken a large, unnamed city in its grip. There’s chaos in the streets, and those most severely stricken rarely leave their squats. It sounds sort of dire, but there will be laughs. The plan is that these plays could be presented individually, two or three at a time, or all together. And not necessarily in theatres. Park benches and alleyways wouldn’t be out of the question. I’m interested in creating maximum bang in limited stage time, and I like the power of a short blast of theatre. Either that or my attention span is just totally frayed.
That does sound a bit dire. What prompted you to take on that subject matter?
BM: I was in a place in life where I was screaming to myself that there is more than writing goddamn plays. I was sick and tired of submitting work to theatres and being ignored, pissed off that a good play gets one production before being relegated to the vault. In any other given profession I’d be a fucking executive vice-president by now. I was feeling there wasn’t a place for my work anymore. Let’s just say I was frustrated. I knew I needed to shake things up, get out of my own way. I turned to fiction, which was — and still is — great. It kept me writing rather than just giving the fuck up. But one of the story lines in this novel I’m working on might have play potential, so I find I can’t really get away from the theatre. I still don’t know how it will play out, but it feels like a beginning. It feels new and fresh, and I’m excited about the theatre again for the first time in ages.