Featured Member — Sean Harris Oliver
**Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with Sean Harris Oliver, a Governor General award nominated playwright, as well as a director, performer and filmmaker. His work has appeared throughout Canada and the US in a variety of arts festivals, public readings and theatre productions. His first play Bright Blue Future was produced by Hardline Productions and was subsequently nominated for 3 Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards, as well as being a finalist for the Theatre BC Playwriting Competition.
Tell us a bit about how you got started as a playwright.
In 2010 my friends and I started a theatre company together — Hardline Productions. It wasn’t long before we started writing plays as a collective and staging what we wrote. It was during that process of creative collaboration that I identified a passion for playwriting. I started writing on my own and it wasn’t long before I came up with my first script, Bright Blue Future.
How do you balance being an actor, playwright, director, producer and filmmaker?
For me it’s about understanding what role I’m playing on any given project, and then sticking to the parameters of that particular role. I wrote my first short film Letters From A Stone Cold Killer, and when the production company couldn’t find a director they asked me to step in, which I felt was a natural process — being a writer and director.
As long as the parameters of my work on any given project are clearly defined (and I don’t get myself overloaded) then I’m happy to wear multiple hats in the storytelling process.
What kind of stories are you passionate about?
I’m interested in exploring the small stories that exist within a greater cultural or societal event. For example my play Redpatch (co-written with Raes Calvert) focuses on how indigenous soldiers were specifically deployed for Canada during World War I, and The Fighting Season was about the impact that the war has had on primary caregivers who served during the Afghan War.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m writing a play called The Soldier’s Wife which is inspired by two former Vancouverites, Debbie and Trevor Greene. Trevor was grievously injured while serving for Canada in Afghanistan, and when Trevor returned home, his fiancée, Debbie, became his primary caregiver. Against nearly insurmountable odds, Debbie was able to get Trevor out of a coma, and played an integral part in Trevor’s recovery from a devastating brain injury.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently within your career?
I would have liked to have taken more english literature classes when I was in university. I think I would have really enjoyed, and benefitted from, reading and doing concentrated analysis of some of the classic works of literature.
What’s your favourite PGC program and why?
The Opportunities portion of PGC website is probably the program that I use the most. It’s a very useful resource for seeing what kind of work is being done around the country, and also for applying for opportunities to get the work out there. I’m really grateful that someone at the PGC is putting all those events and opportunities together and sharing them with Canadian playwrights.
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.