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Born in Vancouver in 1950, Wendy Lill has not only written extensively for radio, magazines, film, television and the stage, but has also been active in national politics.
Lill received a B.A. in political science from York University in 1970. She remained in Toronto after graduation, continuing to pursue her interest in writing before moving to Winnipeg in 1979 to work as a journalist for the CBC. Lill has been the president of Integration Action Group—a provincial advocacy group for children with special needs; vice president (Eastern) of the Playwrights Union of Canada; a co-founder of the Eastern Front Theatre Company; a member of the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation; and a past member of the Board of the Dartmouth Day Care Centre. Between June 1997 and June 2004, Lill was an MP from the Dartmouth Riding in Nova Scotia for the New Democratic Party, serving as the party’s spokesperson for media and communications, human rights, persons with disabilities and Canadian heritage. She did not stand for re-election in the 2004 election.
In 1979, while with CBC Radio in Winnipeg, Lill wrote her first play, On the Line, to dramatize the plight of striking Winnipeg garment industry workers. Since then, her plays have gone on to examine the Canadian women’s suffrage movement (The Fighting Days); aboriginal-white relations (The Occupation of Heather Rose, Sisters); pedophilia and mass hysteria (All Fall Down); the slashing of social programs (Corker); and the dangerous lives of coal miners in her adopted province of Nova Scotia (The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum). Her skill at turning the potentially deadly “issue play” into compelling, emotionally charged theatre has resulted in four nominations for the Governor General’s Drama Award.
Awards and Recognition
Governor General’s Drama Award, Finalist (1999) Corker
Governor General’s Drama Award, Finalist (1996) The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum
Governor General’s Drama Award, Finalist (1994) All Fall Down
Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival, Labatt’s Canadian Play Award (1992) Sisters
Gemini Award (1992) Sisters
Governor General’s Drama Award, Finalist (1987) The Occupation of Heather Rose
“The pomp and circumstance of the House of Commons initially struck me as excessive, phony, and I remember thinking: all of this is going on when there are so many people who are homeless….”
“I’m a child of the Sixties, I’m a hippie. I found all of this surreal, over-the-top, and missing the point. And quite frankly, the point was that we were there to deal with very serious problems that are going on in our country.”
This narration by playwright and 1997-elected MP Wendy Lill is coupled with visual scenes of parliament in action. The double-edged sword of frustration and excitement are seen in the vehement speeches and looks of despair on the faces of fellow Members of Parliament. Wendy Lill, MP for Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, talks about her first few months after the election and the feeling she had, like it was the first day of high school, trying to be appropriate, feeling overwhelmed and out of place. She discusses the real challenges of trying to balance family, writing, her new position in Parliament, and feelings of frustration with the system. The challenge: if you’re at home, why are you not working in Ottawa, and if in Ottawa, why are you not working at home?
As an MP, Wendy sat on two committees: Heritage and Culture, and Disabilities, the first committee because of her livelihood as playwright and writer, and the second because of her own awareness of the system, as evidence in her son, who lives with Down’s Syndrome. She describes feeling like an outsider: “I feel like people will point at me and say, what are you doing here?”
As a result of Wendy’s new position, CBC Radio asked her to do a piece: A Journal of a Rookie MP. An appropriate allusion is made in the video: becoming an MP is a lot like becoming a parent; you get any amount of advice, but, in the end, you’re on your own.
“People want to know that you are living the same reality that they are—you’re taking your kids to baseball games, going to church, you’re afraid of getting your house broken into, etc. People want to know that I am taking these concerns to Ottawa.”
Socially engaged playwright born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1950. She studied at York University (Toronto), worked as a community health worker and moved to Winnipeg in 1979 where she became a radio broadcaster.
Ms Lill has written extensively for radio, film, television and the stage with her plays performed across Canada and internationally.
Her first play to get attention was The Fighting Days (Prairie Theatre Exchange, 1982, directed by Kim McCaw). It focuses on the women’s suffrage movement but also shows the dark edges of racism and xenophobia associated with the early days and characters of feminism.
The Occupation of Heather Rose (Prairie Theatre, 1985, McCaw), speaks of the young nurses who went to work in the Northern communities. The work saw productions across the country and established Ms Lill.
In Memories of You (Prairie Theatre, 1988, McCaw), Ms Lill began to experiment more directly with scene and structure saying, “Because the play is about memory, both the sets and the scenes have the unfinished floating qualities of memories.” Here she speaks of a woman artist, Elizabeth Smart, whose career became virtually invisible behind that of her husband’s.
Sisters (Ship’s Company,1989, Mary Vingoe) has two time periods—1969 and 1950—and speaks of a nun’s work in a residential school and tries to explain why she burned the school down. Stepping, as it did, into the fiery controversy of False Memory Syndrome, the work asks “whose truth is real?”
All Fall Down (Alberta Theatre Projects, 1993, Vingoe), examines the roots of intolerance. Her play, Corker, was premiered at Eastern Front Theatre—which she co-founded—in February, 2000, and subsequently played at the Blyth Festival in summer, 2000.
Ms Lill also very successfully adapted the Sheldon Currie novel The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum into a radio and stage play (premiered by Eastern Front) that was performed across the country.
Ms Lill lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with her husband and two children. In 1997 she became Member of Parliament (NDP, cultural and communications critic). She was re-elected in 2000.
February 2013 : Glace Bay Miner's Museum at Neptune Theatre
December 2012 : Announcing Modern Canadian Plays, Volume Two, Fifth Edition
March 2012 : NAC English Theatre 2012-2013 Season
March 2011 : Wendy Lill to Receive Merritt Legacy Award
Winner of the 2011 Merritt Legacy Award
Winner of the 1992 Gemini Award
Winner of the 1992 Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival, Labatt’s Play Award
BOOK AWARDSOccupation of Heather Rose, The
Finalist for the 1987 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama
BOOK AWARDSGlace Bay Miners' Museum, The
Governor General’s Drama Award Finalist, 1996
Finalist for the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama
BOOK AWARDSAll Fall Down
Finalist for the 1994 Governor General’s Award for Drama”
QUOTES OF NOTEOccupation of Heather Rose, The
“Playwright Wendy Lill takes you on an incredible intellectual and psychological journey..this kind of theatrical experience is not to be missed.”
— Georgia Straight
“An achingly honest reminder of the naively enthusiastic attempts that each of us has made to wade bravely into unfamiliar territory.”
— Toronto Star
“ Heather Rose is a structurally seamless play full of wit, vivid imagery and poignancy.”
— Halifax Mail Star
“A virtuoso solo showpiece..an entirely human but deceptively unsentimental play.”
— Vancouver Province
“Ultimately The Occupation of Heather Rose is a plea for forgiveness and understanding as Heather does battle with the darker part of her nature, that ‘heart of darkness’ that ‘occupies’ us all to some degree.”
— Gabriola Sounder”
QUOTES OF NOTEChimera
The play comes at a propitious time.
— The Scientist
QUOTES OF NOTEMemories of You
“Beautifully written…its pleasure, its sensuality and its pain. A courageous and profoundly moving play…”
— Robert Enright, CBC
“..a startling emotional and visual experience, thrusts the viewer into a red hot and hyper-real world of love..”
— Halifax Chronical-Herald
“resonates with energy and passion”
— Winnipeg Sun”
QUOTES OF NOTEGlace Bay Miners' Museum, The
“Lill has translated a novel – and, moreover, a novel that is essentially an intense, first-person monologue – into a captivating dramatic form, with engaging dialogue, conflict between characters, and enough thoughts shared directly with the audience to retain the flavor of the original.” – Canadian Book Review Annual
“… a tender, romantic triumph over the genre …” – Eye Weekly
"… bittersweet magic realism leavened by the ribald banter between the characters"
– Halifax Daily News
"… as real as the coal."
– Halifax Chronicle Herald
"What an emotional roller coaster ride! Playwright Wendy Lill has touched every possible nerve in her latest offering, The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum."
– Halifax Mail Star
QUOTES OF NOTEAll Fall Down
“Lill writes with compassion and complexity, with an unerring eye and seemingly effortless finesse – what more could you ask for?”
— Calgary Herald
“ All Fall Down is not about child abuse but rather about protecting the search for truth..Lill examines the roots of intolerance and hysteria and their effects on love..a powerful piece of work that affects every parent in the heart and gut. All Fall Down is a workout for the brain as well!”
— Globe and Mail”
QUOTES OF NOTESisters
“Lill plunges deeply into the mysteries of the human heart.”
— NeWest Review
“a powerful dramatic exploration of hypocrisy and the human conscience.”
— Halifax Chronicle Herald
“intelligent and articulate.”
— Winnipeg Free Press”
QUOTES OF NOTEThe Fighting Days
“Intelligent, witty, and genuinely moving. The Fighting Days is a superb entertainment, the comedy is genuine, the dramatization of ideas impressive.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“..The Fighting Days really transcends its documentary roots and gets to the human heart of the story.”
— CBC Radio
“An unusually insightful investigation of social conscience.”
— Arts Manitoba
— Winnipeg Sun
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program; and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.