Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with Deanna Kruger, a Guelph-based award-winning playwright. Her work has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Guelph Arts Council. She’s also an alumnus of Nightwood Theatre’s Write from the Hip. Deanna has shared her love of theatre by facilitating regional playwriting circles, as well as leading playwriting workshops for teens. Next up, her play Forty-Seven will be part of Here For Now Theatre Company’s 2022 season.
Tell us how you got your start writing plays.
I wrote my first play with friends in Grade 10 drama class. I’d always written when I was younger, bits of fiction, horrible poetry, but something about writing that one-act play really clicked for me. After that class project, I knew writing plays was something that I wanted to keep doing. I was a shy but curious kid, so I spent a lot of time in the background, eavesdropping and observing people. Sometimes I wonder if these two personality traits might’ve steered me towards playwriting.
Where do you get your inspiration for your writing?
I get inspiration from a lot of places! Some of my plays are inspired by stories told by women around my family’s kitchen table when I was younger. Table conversations are also a kind of theatre. The stories that I remember were mostly told by my grandmothers, aunts, and older cousins, which might explain why many of my characters are women over forty.
I also find inspiration in nature and the environment — trees, rocks, animals, and insects. I like blurring the boundaries between indoor/outdoor or urban/rural, probably because I spent my childhood on a farm, roaming fields, and hanging out in the barns with goats and ducks. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change. My growing concern for the planet has also shaped the stories that I want to tell on stage.
Your play Forty-Seven is being staged at Here for Now Theatre in Stratford, ON in July. Can you tell us about the process of creating that play, from idea to stage?
A while ago, I read that forty-seven is statistically the saddest year of a person’s life. My forty-seventh birthday was on the horizon, so I started thinking more about aging and what the future might bring. Around the same time, I was researching photographers who took portraits of the same people over decades. Somehow these two separate inspirations married and became a script.
Last summer, my play Janet and Louise was part of Here For Now Theatre Company’s New Works Festival, which was a wonderful experience for me. Artistic Director Fiona Mongillo is fearless and passionate about theatre. Here for Now commissioned me to write Forty-Seven. I was very fortunate to have Joanna Falck as dramaturg. Rehearsals recently started. The whole team is a dream. Director Rebecca Cuthbertson is so intelligent and her vision for the show is beautiful. Sharing a new play with an audience is always a little terrifying, but I’m looking forward to showing what we’ve created. Forty-Seven opens in July, but the entire Here For Now season runs July 5th to September 11th. There’s nine amazing plays to see — including seven world-premiers! I’m honoured to be part of it.
Can you tell us about your experiences facilitating playwriting circles and mentoring teens? Is there anything that you have learned about yourself through these experiences?
I’ve had opportunities in recent years to bring playwrights together, both adults and teens, in various playwriting circles. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process — more than I could ever express here. But an important thing I’ve learned from those experiences is that I’m a compassionate cheerleader with a real knack for getting people to experiment and play.
One of my favourite things to do is work with teens. I’ve been blessed to have teachers, professors, and mentors who have encouraged my writing and been a positive influence in my life. Theatre was an important part of my high school years and I’m also a mom to a teen, so it’s a pleasure to give back and encourage young people to tell the stories that are important to them. Also, teens can be pretty wise. I’ve learned to listen carefully to what they have to say about our world. So, in many ways, I’ve become their student too.
What are you working on next?
Next, I’m diving into a few projects. I’ll begin researching a new play that I’m excited about. But it’s still just the seed of an idea, so I don’t have much to share about it. I’ll also start rewriting Quarry, a play-in-progress that I set aside during the pandemic for various reasons. Quarry is inspired (in part) by Bancroft, Ontario, where both my parents are from. It’s a play about family, money, and rocks. Later this summer, I’ll be leading a workshop for teens on world-building at the Guelph Public Library, so I’ll be dreaming up fun activities to spark their imaginations.
Do you have any favourite Canadian plays?
I have many favourite Canadian plays! I love seeing live theatre, but I also have a true passion for reading plays. A few of my favourite Canadian plays are The Last Wife by Kate Hennig, carried away on the crest of a wave by David Yee, Bone Cage by Catherine Banks, Bears by Matthew MacKenzie, and If We Were Birds by Erin Shields.
Learn more about Here For Now Theatre’s upcoming production of Deanna’s play Forty-Seven, playing in Stratford ON from July 19–31, 2022, here.
Follow Deanna on Twitter: @DeannaLKruger
Disclaimer: Playwrights Guild of Canada (“PGC”) is a national arts service mandated to engage and grow an active Canadian writing community. We promote Canadian plays around the world to advance the creative rights and interests of professional Canadian playwrights for the stage. The views of our members are their own. The opinions of PGC as an association remain neutral.