Monday, May 4, 2015

George F. Walker - Anger - Creativity - Despair - Humour

Martha Burns and Peter Donaldson - And So It Goes

It always quite amazes me how as Canadians we know little about ourselves, particularly when it comes to art and culture. I don't really get it, and frankly it's a little embarrassing and pisses me off. I think we are so inundated and overwhelmed with American culture, and our historical colonial mentality, that more often than not, we have missed out on learning about our own artists and culture in the process.

Admittedly, I have confess to my own lack of knowledge about Canadian artists and culture. However today, I learned about the most prolific Canadian play write, Toronto born, George F. Walker. It's a good thing I listen to CBC Radio, otherwise I'd probably never have known about him directly.

I very much enjoyed the great interview Shad did with him on CBC Radio Q this morning. My ears really perked up when George F. Walker spoke of his play about teachers, and the relationship between creativity and anger. What especially interested me, was when he humbly mentioned getting an award from the Canadian Schizophrenia Society. He did not mention that he also along with commendations from the Law Society, and Elizabeth Fry Society, for the topic of mental health in the Television series Wonderland. This program was about those in trouble with the law and took place in a mental health court.

I am particularly interested in his play And How It Goes about a middle class family coping with mental illness.

Learning that George F. Walker grew up in the east end of Toronto made me nostalgic, with memories of spending my first nine years of life in east end Toronto, and returning later in my young adult life for a few years to study theatre.

I remember seeing the Factory Theatre, as it was just around the corner from where I was living in 1979-1980, and I wondered just what was going on in there. At the time I was preoccupied with school, and others things as young 26 year old. I had no idea what amazing things were being produced inside the Factory Theatre. Now I know, this is where George F. Walker got his start, among many other play writes. The Theatre Factory from it's inception, with founder Ken Gass, established a Canadian gem of a theatre company, dedicated to  producing  alternative and experimental, solely Canadian plays, written by Canadian play writes, exclusively. Pretty darned exciting stuff!

What I most admire about George F. Walker is how he manages to give a voice to the marginalized and disenfranchised  in society, while combining a state of anger and despair, all present within our culture, filled with moral dilemmas, injected with his comedic sensibility and perspective. Without humour in the face of anger and despair, most of us would surely loose our minds completely.

I haven't any reasons to want to live in Toronto these days, but considering George F. Walker's plays and Toronto's rich theatrical life, causes me to wish I did have more reasons to move back, back to the east end. 

George Walker has received several awards including the Member of the Order of Canada (2005); National Theatre School Gascon-Thomas Award (2002); two Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama (for Criminals in Love and Nothing Sacred); five Dora Mavor Moore Awards; and eight Chalmers Canadian Play Awards.

 All of these awards that George F. Walker has received, speaks volumes about the philosophical and intense impact of his plays that resonates with his audience over the past 40 years.

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