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Anglophone playwright born David Wiper in Montreal, Quebec, 1947. He was raised in the working class district of Pointe-St-Charles, an area he would make the centre of most of his plays. He was one of six children, his father was a housepainter. His pen name, given to him by a girlfriend, was part of a Bob Dylan song, “Pretty Peggy-O.” David Fennario has described his life as: Born on the Avenues in the Verdun-Pointe Saint Charles working-class district of Montreal; one of six kids growing up in Duplessis’ Quebec, repressed, depressed, oppressed and compressed. “School was a drag. My working experience turned me into a raving Red calling for world revolution. The process of becoming a political activist gave me the confidence to be a writer. Up to then, I thought only middle-class people could become artists, because they were not stupid like working-class people, who were working-class because they were stupid. But reading Socialist literature convinced me that working-class people can change themselves and the world around them. We are not chained to fate, Freud, God, gender or a genetic code. We can make ourselves into what we want. I’ve been trying my best to do that ever since, and have had some success as a playwright and a prose writer.”
December 2014 : Now Playing in Montreal: “Fennario: The Good Fight”
November 2014 : Michel, Ti-Jean, and Verdun, QC in the Montreal Review of Books
July 2014 : Motherhouse Has Arrived!
January 2014 : Browse Our Spring 2014 Catalogue!
BOOK AWARDSOn the Job
Chalmers Award Winner for Best Canadian Play, 1976.
BOOK AWARDSJoe Beef
The United Steel Worker’s Union Pauline Julien Prize Winner 1987
BOOK AWARDSDoctor Thomas Neill Cream
Arthur Ellis Award Nominee, 1994.
Winner of the 1980 Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award”
QUOTES OF NOTEMotherhouse
“Our narrator is a woman named Lillabit, although it seems Fennario’s true protagonist is the city of Verdun, itself a tragic hero of the Great War, and a site of warfare … Motherhouse challenges Canadian theatregoers’ expectations of what it is to experience a one-person show. … it is more a poetic political essay told through a theatrical character than it is a theatrical exploration of character involving political themes. … Fennario is working against the practices in theatre-making that serve to depoliticize creative output. He tasks us to tell real stories that can facilitate change: ‘No more pretending to be someone else on or offstage.’ … Just as Lillabit’s anti-war storytelling interrupts the militaristic, romanticized, red poppy-filled narrative of World War I that permeates Canadiana, Fennario’s script is an attempt to interrupt dominant practices of theatre-making.”
– Montreal Review of Books
“a powerful work, rendered magnificently … the play’s real subject is the choice we all face: to fight or uphold injustice.”
– Amir Khadir [translated]
“a vituperative indictment of class inequality, as expressed through a working-class Verdun woman’s experience of the war. It’s also darkly hilarious at all the wrong moments, for which I am personally eternally grateful … a very punk-rock production that takes aim at both modern and older manifestations of inequality, the use of the police state, and the perils of unfettered capitalism. I think that this play will take a lot of people by surprise (and anger a whole lot more).”
– Bloody Underrated
QUOTES OF NOTEBolsheviki
“Bolsheviki is vintage Fennario, gritty, authentic, touching, replete with one- liners, never boring … making its radical-pacifist point while paying due respect to veterans.”
“Tying Bolsheviki all together is Fennario’s determined de-glorification of war and old-soldier nostalgia. He’s still an unrepentant, hard-charging leftie. A socialist, pro-worker, anti-war activist who, though now confined to a wheelchair, has lost none of his dramatic edge, as pissed off … as when he wrote On the Job forty years ago.”
“Part invective against militarism, part anti-imperialist rant, part foul-mouthed diatribe against some cherished values, the piece must be an actor’s dream, affording a performer the opportunity to mimic a variety of voices, to sing, to joke, to bluster, and to chew the scenery with aplomb. … Bolsheviki is trenchant and loud; it makes unsubtle points about war, but it deserves a staging, if only to see Canadian audiences bristle at its more uncomfortable shock moments.”
– Canadian Literature
“While Canadian theatre has certainly portrayed the nation at war before, Bolsheviki’s perspective on the First World War, especially its often mutinous, revolutionary final days, is unique, even among the history books.” —Robyn Fadden, hour.ca
“Unlike what is usually considered pacifist propaganda, Fennario’s heartbreaking drama is … [an] unsentimental but at the same time sweetly poetic rendering of life in the trenches during World War I … a precise and powerful statement against all those in command who have privileged a distorted picture in ‘history books’ of the real conditions under which the men lived and died.”
– Paola Irene Galli Mastrodonato, PhD (Tuscia University, Viterbo, Italy)
QUOTES OF NOTEDeath of René Lévesque, The
When a final analysis is made of 20th-century Canadian theatre, the most significant political playwright will undoubtly be David Fennario.
QUOTES OF NOTEDoctor Thomas Neill Cream
Fennario’s in-your-face irreverence [is] ferociously funny.
— U of T Quarterly
QUOTES OF NOTEJoe Beef
An evening of political theatre with both guts and skill is a rare commodity these days.
— Montreal Gazette
QUOTES OF NOTEBalconville
“The bilingual nature of the drama makes it a great play instead of a good one, but the setting itself could be anywhere. Balconville is a work of genius. It’s angry, bitter, cruel and funny. It’s a real vision of this country—and even more rare—it’s a moment when bilingualism has found a voice.”
— Globe and Mail
QUOTES OF NOTENothing to Lose
Restores one’s faith in theatre as a medium of continuing vitality and relevance.
— Southam News Service
QUOTES OF NOTEOn the Job
Vibrates with the rough and ready energy of a street fight.
— _Quill & Quire
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.