For Ottawa playwright Lawrence Aronovitch, reaching into the past and looking toward the future are both happening in the present.
Aronovitch has just been named playwright in residence at Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC). He will be using his time there to develop two new gay-themed plays during GCTC’s 2012/2013 season.
One, tentatively titled Bespoken, is about a man looking back on his closeted life; another, a comedy with the working title Ultrasound, is about the political implications of the “gay gene” being discovered by scientists at some point in the near future.
“The idea is to provide funding to a playwright in order to write,” Aronovitch says. “What the theatre does, as a partner in applying, is to offer a home to the writer for the duration of the grant. I’m used to writing plays at my own little desk here at home, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to spend some time working out of GCTC, if only because then I can . . . talk with people as colleagues, exchange ideas, ask questions.”
The residency, funded by the Ontario Arts Council’s playwright residency program, will allow Aronovitch the space and time to focus on writing these explorations of gay life.
“Our mandate is to provoke examination of Canadian life and our place in the world,” says Eric Coates, the new artistic director of GCTC, who started in the position in early October. Coates will be meeting regularly with Aronovitch to give feedback on the works in progress. “For many Canadians, the idea of identity politics is tied only to career and family. Lawrence is asking us to look at the role of sexuality and what happens when we undergo a seismic societal shift.”
Aronovitch is not new to these themes. His career as a playwright has plumbed the depths of gay identity, including 2009’s Galatea, about gay marriage and relationships, and 2010’s futuristic dystopia, The Lavender Railroad. From February 2009 to April 2010, he was the artistic director of TotoToo Theatre and, before that, from 2007 to 2009, was on the board of directors for the organization. He has also written or acted in several of TotoToo’s plays.
“This is a bit of a niche for me, I suppose, in terms of the plays I’ve already written,” he says. “I try to define what it means to create gay or lesbian theatre at a time when sexual orientation has become fairly normalized in our society. What is the impact of this change on a community that has begun to move beyond identity politics?”
As of now, it’s unclear where and when these new plays will be produced, but Aronovitch aims to have a first draft of each script ready in time for his dramaturgical process with Coates, which begins in January 2013. In the meantime, he will be working with the creators of two new plays for GCTC’s 2013 undercurrents festival and ushering his newest play, The Notebooks of Marie Curie, into existence. It launches at The Gladstone theatre in March.