His contribution to Canadian theatre is undeniable; his role in bringing queer art to the masses is incalculable. So why has it been so long since we’ve seen a new play from Brad Fraser?
“I basically had three years in complete pain,” says Fraser, whose serious back problems forced the unplanned hiatus. “I was unable to work, fried on Percocets all day long.”
Now fully recovered after surgery to correct his spinal stenosis, Fraser is back with a vengeance, writing and directing his new play True Love Lies.
Like Fraser’s seminal hit Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love and the ferociously erotic Poor Superman this new play focuses again on the character of David McMillan whom Fraser calls his “literary doppelganger.”
“When I write a David McMillan play it’s because something has happened in my life that I want to write about,” Fraser says. “In Poor Superman he’s about to turn 30, wanting a partner and to settle down, which totally reflected my feelings as well at the time. Now he’s 50, dealing with aging and how hard it is.”
As Fraser’s marquee birthday falls shortly after the play’s premiere, it’s not hard to guess that McMillan’s new story comes from a very personal perspective. The drive to revisit his doppelganger’s life came as somewhat of a surprise to the writer, who had other plans in mind. “I had no desire to write a play after working on Queer as Folk,” says Fraser, who served as writer and supervising producer on the North American TV series. “I wanted to write TV and film.”
An unexpected email from a former lover changed all that, with news of the man’s marriage, children and recent divorce. It had been 20 years since they parted, and Fraser’s ex wanted to touch base to thank him for what he’d learned during their relationship. “It made me go, ‘What if…?’ says Fraser. “And of course ‘What if…?’ is the writer’s greatest gift.”
That conjecture wove itself into David McMillan’s new story as a moderately successful restaurateur. David (played by David W Keeley) is all set to hire a new waitress when he discovers that pretty young Madison (Susanna Fournier) is actually the daughter of a former lover.
David’s ex Kane (Ashley Wright) has been happily married to wife Carolyn (Julie Stewart) for several years, producing not only the gregarious and confident Madison, but also their maudlin emo son Royce (Andrew Craig). Madison is fascinated by her father’s ex-lover and David finds himself drawn into a family drama of secrecy, violence and, of course, sex.
Fluid sexuality is a recurring theme in many of Fraser’s works: straight guys sleep with homos; lesbians bed het chicks; everyone’s open season when it comes to the playwright’s take on sex between humans. It’s something Fraser has caught flack for from straights and gays alike.
“I get in trouble because I don’t believe that homosexuality isn’t a choice for everyone,” says Fraser. “With some people it depends on who they’re involved with at that time. People don’t like that. They don’t want to believe that such things are possible, and it’s usually because they’re in denial. Or they’re just really boring.”
Despite Fraser’s rejuvenated theatrical drive, True Love Lies initially had a hard time getting off the ground in his home country. “Nobody in Canada would even read it,” says Fraser. “I sent it to America and they ignored it.”
It wasn’t until UK producer Braham Murray brought the play in for a successful run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre that folks back home began to take interest.
“Once people hear it got good reviews they want to jump on that bandwagon,” Fraser says ruefully. “It’s just really hard to get the bandwagon going sometimes.”