2016 is shaping up to be a big year for Anna Chatterton (2009 cohort). We're barely out of the gate and her new play Within the Glass, which she started working on during her time in the MFA, is already in previews at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre.
Here are Tarragon Artistic Director, Richard Rose, and Within the Glass director, Andrea Donaldson, discussing the play's themes and Anna's darkly comedic flair:
We asked Anna to share with us a little about, as Andrea puts it, how to be "both." How does she approach writing something both funny and tragic or traumatic? Is it hard for her to give herself permission to find the humour in dark situations? Here's her response:
"I tend to write comedy first, tragedy second. My first pass/early drafts of a play are usually written pretty fast, pretty short and fairly funny. It's perhaps a little too easy for me to find the humour in dark situations. I never think “I’m going to write a comedy”—actually whenever I try to be funny, I’m just not. The comedy comes out when I’m writing. Then with each draft I have to dig deeper and deeper, and attempt to make sure the emotional arc of the play (and each character) is authentic and that every moment is true. I focus on trying to channel the depth of the emotions my characters are going through—moment to moment. And as the play progresses it becomes a fine balance of how to allow the comedy to be there, without sacrificing the depth of the characters' emotions but also making sure not to sacrifice too much of the humour! Although often that is exactly where comedy can lie—when emotions are so high in a scene or monologue—often what someone says next can be very funny—simply because it has been so darn tense.
Within the Glass has been marketed as a “comedic drama”, and “a dramedy”, because it is a combination of the two. I always think of a saying “The depth of your despair creates the height of your joy” and I can see that with this play—because it is such an absurd situation, and yet so heartbreaking for those involved—the comedy and drama are holding hands."
Anna will be our MFA Featured Graduate this spring, so check back for more details about her MFA experience and her next exciting project, Gertrude & Alice, co-written and performed with longtime collaborator, evalyn parry, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in March. You'll also be able to catch Anna's work as a librettist with the premiere of Rocking Horse Winner, produced by Tapestry Opera, playing at the Canadian Stage Berkeley Street Theatre in May.