A deceptively fragile-looking Hannah Moscovitch suddenly takes flight as she reads from her work, The Russian Play at Glendon on March 1st as the most recent guest in the bp nichol Reading Series.
Moscovitch takes on a delightfully exaggerated Russian accent as Aebovka, the sarcastic observer of Stalinist Russia “… a shitty country”, who recounts her misadventures with two lovers, one of whom exiles her to Siberia, ironically reuniting her with the other, who is already there.
The Russian Play, a one-act piece presented together with Essay, won kudos at the SummerWorks Festival of 2006, and was remounted at the Factory Theatre in 2008. Her first success was in fact the 2005 production of Essay, focusing an unblinking eye on lost idealism and gender politics in the academic world.
Her second reading at Glendon was from What a Young Wife Ought to Know, this time with the Irish accent of the central character, a young working-class wife who has too many children and no access to birth control, or any control over her life.
Moscovitch’s greatest success, so far, has come with her first full-length play, East of Berlin, now in its third hugely successful season at Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space. East of Berlin, like all of Moscovitch’s plays, confronts difficult, controversial subjects with full, frontal attack.
At the age of 18, Moscovitch spent 4 months in an Israeli kibbutz, where she met the grandson of an SS officer who had an affair with the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. The enormous guilt that was underlying this relationship was the basic premise on which Moscovitch built East of Berlin.
Moscovitch’s keen ear for dialogue and insights into deeper psychological motives are all the more striking given that she has barely passed the age of 30. At the Glendon reading she discussed her background, coming from a middle-class Ottawa family of a non-observant Jewish father, a professor at Carleton University, originally from what is now partly Romania and partly the Ukraine, and an Anglo-Irish Catholic mother, who is a labour researcher. The dynamics of this home obviously primed her for critical thinking and the serious examination of political and social issues.
Moscovitch is a graduate of the National Theatre School in Montreal, where she spent three years in the acting program, before she finally accepted the observation of her professors that she was really a playwright.
She has never looked back. By her own account, she has an enormous amount of work and all she would need is more time. Success has consistently smiled on her, starting with her student work, Cigarettes and Tricia Truman, mounted by Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company. She has written for CBC’s radio program, Afghanada, and for young audiences, in 2009, with the play In This World. She is currently playwright-in-residence at the Tarragon.
Moscovitch’s preferred writing time is first thing in the morning or late at night, when there are no distractions. Her bent is towards fiction, rather than autobiography. Her interest in different accents is an attempt to really understand and be immersed in other cultures and locations. She claims that her inspiration comes from her subconscious, rather than from direct experience.
Her advice to aspiring playwrights is to “[…] keep writing and participate in as many playwriting units as possible. Talent scouts attend festivals and it is important to have your work out in the public view.”
“I don’t miss acting”, adds Moscovitch. “Playwriting is so satisfying; it gives you your own voice and it’s fabulous to see life breathed into characters you have created. I love to be a primary artist using my own ideas, rather than expressing those of others.”
In her plays, she talks directly to the audience, building a relationship with them which can be friendly or, at times, confrontational.
In spite of her huge success, Moscovitch is always questioning, doubting. “I struggle constantly with whether my writing is any good and whether it has any meaning”. If the reactions of the critics and her audience are any measure, the answer to those questions is a resounding ‘yes’.
More about Hannah Moscovitch
A young writer with a strong, original voice, Hannah Moscovitch is a rising star, already a name with both audiences and critics. The following is a list of her writing accomplishments to date.
More about the bp nichol Reading Series
The Glendon English Department has been presenting a reading series for Canadian writers, sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, since the early 1970s. During the 1980s, the distinguished and much-loved poet, bp Nichol taught creative writing in the department and after his tragic and premature death in 1988, his colleagues named the reading series after him. In this series, several Canadian novelists, poets, short fiction writers and playwrights come to Glendon each year and read from their work. The readings are open to the public and are very popular with students and visitors alike. The format typically includes a reading by the author from a new or unpublished work, followed by a question period. Copies of the author's books are usually for sale at the reading and at the Glendon Bookstore.
Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny
Essay. SummerWorks Festival.
The Russian Play. SummerWorks Festival.
East of Berlin. Toronto: Tarragon Theatre. Production toured to Vancouver’s Touchstone Theatre, Edmonton’s Theatre Network. It was also staged by Calgary’s ATP.
Tarragon Theatre remount of East of Berlin.
Essay/The Russian Play at the Factory Theatre.
In This World. Youtheatre Montreal. (A play for young audiences)
commissioned new works for Prairie Theatre Exchange, Great Canadian Theatre Company, The Banff Centre, and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York.
East of Berlin. Playwrights Canada Press, 2009.
Five Hot Plays. Edited by Dave Carley. Playwrights Canada Press, 2008.
Anthology includes The Russian Play.
The Russian Play and Other Short Works. Playwrights Canada Press, 2008.
Includes The Russian Play, Essay, USSR, Mexico City.