Lights fall on the stage and sever the encompassing darkness in Tarragon Theatre’s Main space. Hannah Moscovitch’s play The Children’s Republic begins telling the story of Dr. Janusz Korczak, a man that runs an orphanage during the rize of Nazi power in Poland and how he is rattled by his connection with a boy named Israel.
In this play Hannah creates a cinematic effect, with quick lucid and punchy scenes. This is no small feat for such material. Questions of justice permeate the play: she does not define a perpetrator or a victim in this work. Overall the production was excellent and incredibly effective. All of the performers were striking and original. It runs until the 18th of December. There is still time to see it!
Before I saw this play Hannah generously offered some of her time to speak with me. There was a black coffee on my side, and what looked like a latté (I should have asked) with a fruit cup on her’s. It took only minutes for me to realize that this darkly humorous woman possesses a genuine and wholly original spirit.
Hannah Moscovitch is an audience’s writer. She believes in the conversation of the theatre. This is why I am honored to have our conversation become a part of our blog so that we can all engage in her widely expanding dialogue with us.
Photograph by: Cylla von Tiedemann. Amy Rutherford, Peter Hutt, Mark Correia, Katie Frances Cohen, Elliot Larson, Emma Burke-Kleinman
AN INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH MOSCOVITCH
You’ve had many interviews. What kinds of questions do you wish people would ask you?
Nobody really asks me personal questions, but I did recently have this one interview with the Chronicle Herald where I answered the journalist’s questions about my personal life. Also some people don’t ask me about the big over arching questions. I don’t know if I have good answers, but for example questions that ask me how I believe I am evolving as an artist, or how my plays relate to one another. I never get asked those kinds of questions. People tend to not ask me questions from a literary stand point.
So what is going on with your process right now?
I have eleven plays in the process of being written right now. I was originally relieved to get it down to eight and then I got it up to eleven again. I have all these plays in development now so I am really aware of what my future looks like, which is a really strange and wonderful place to be in. It’s like having a really big secret; I know what all my plays are going to be and nobody else really knows that.
With my plays I have been excited about interiority and clawing myself towards an audience. Recently I have enjoyed playing with characters that address the audience. I also have plays that I am developing that are very meta-theatrical. I’m also working on a play that is a series of interviews. I’m doing a lot of things with form now which is why I am really looking forward to seeing how audiences respond to them when they finally go up.
Discuss how SummerWorks was involved in establishing your career.
Well I don’t want to be histrionic but it’s been everything. I don’t know if I would have invented myself as a playwright at all had it not been for SummerWorks. I don’t know how I would have done it.
What are your favourite books?
I love Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, George Elliot’s Middle March, Jane Eyre, I also love Ernest Hemmingway.
If someone were to catch you reading in the next twenty four hours who would you be reading?
Who are your favourite artists?
I love Toulouse Lautrec, Salvador Dali, and Francis Bacon.
Briefly describe a piece of theatre you saw recently that resonated with you.
The piece I saw that really blew my mind last year was Our Class. It did exactly what good art should do, it surprises and confounds your ideas about the art form. I also really loved a recent production of Blasted. I am really excited by Sarah Kane’s work.
How was the process of The Children’s Republic distinct from others?
The Children’s Republic was a commission with Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. It is a different kind of project because the company asked me to think of a particular person and story. I was doing something a little more complicated; I had to channel the visions of both ends of the commission. I wanted to create something that honoured my creative voice and the expectations of the commission. I had to approach it differently than the way I normally approach my writing. With The Children’s Republic I had the opportunity to work with realism and I had the opportunity to experiment with a larger cast than what I am used to.
A lot of actors speak of nerves pre-show and adrenaline post opening performance—When does that happen for you?
Oh I don’t know it’s pretty hard. Watching your play for the first time is like watching a train wreck or a car crash.
What reactions do you love witnessing while sitting in the audience of one of your plays?
Sometimes I really enjoy being in an audience. I think many of my plays are shocking. I can be a bit mean with the audience. I am beginning to realize that there is meanness in me working through my plays. It’s like punching them in the head and they get shocked, and you think yes, I’ve got you, and you drag them in. So I really enjoy the moment when the audience goes wow is she really going to do that? I enjoy witnessing this moment for the audience, moments in my plays that shock them and draw them in.
Have you harnessed a structural habit around writing plays or is every play written differently?
I spend a lot of time thinking about how I get into plays. I start every play differently, although I do start with research a lot of the time.
What do you love most about writing plays?
Communicating with the audience and getting them to react. I am in it for the adrenaline rush when I see my plays communicate with an audience.
Do you ever think about characters you want to play rather than characters you want to write?
Where were you ten years ago around now?
I was twenty-three. I just moved to Toronto. I just came back from Ottawa after doing a haunted hike that I made up for myself. I then moved in with this dancer and designer and I had just enrolled into classes at U of T. November about ten years ago was really important because I just got hired at Teatro on College as a waitress, I waitressed there for five years. I was totally confused and terrified, but it was the beginning of my life here.
What dreams or little hopes do you have for yourself?
I’m excited to try other mediums, like film, and of course do theatre too.
What title or description written about you do you hope to have?
The Order of Canada.
I don’t think Hannah Moscovitch’s dreams are inaccessible. Evidently this rising artist flourishes under the highest standards, standards that she creates for herself. This gives her the mark of an authentically fine talent.
Once again I sign off as your humble storyteller.