Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with Frances Koncan (she/they), an Anishinaabe and Slovene playwright based in Treaty 1 territory on the land currently known as Winnipeg, Manitoba. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, they hold a BA in Psychology from the University of Manitoba and an MFA in Playwriting from the City University of New York Brooklyn College. They are currently Assistant Professor in Playwriting at the University of British Columbia and Assistant Girly of the Kendall Roy Fan Club. As a playwright, their work includes: Women of the Fur Trade, Space Girl, and zahgidiwin/love.
Tell us how you got your start writing plays.
I started writing plays as a way to kill time at a job I had during University. I used to make my co-workers act them out when it wasn’t busy.
What inspires you to write, and what does your writing process look like?
I’m inspired to write by curiosities I have about people and why they act in certain ways and not others. I find clarity about myself, others, and the world through writing. I don’t have a writing process yet, although I admire the dedicated writing processes of others very much. I don’t usually write unless I have a reason for writing — a deadline, or just my own brain having too many thoughts. When I do write, I tend to hyper-focus on that task and will usually write something from start to finish in one sitting
The plays you write are often comedies. Can you tell us about the role humour plays in your life and in your art?
I think the plays I write are structurally more similar to tragedies than comedies, but I enjoy that people find them funny. It was fairly recently that I started researching comedy as a genre and actively incorporating that into my writing. But I don’t really consider myself funny, and I don’t think I write comedies, even though people keep telling me I do.
Your play, Women of the Fur Trade, will be staged at the Stratford Festival this summer, opening July 15th and directed by your fellow PGC member, Yvette Nolan. Can you tell us about the creation of that piece, and the process of bringing it from the page to the stage?
I wrote Women of the Fur Trade originally in 2017–2018 as a submission for the Toronto Fringe New Play Contest. I was a few years out of school and feeling kind of frustrated about where I was living and how my life was shaping up. So I extremely heathily channeled that into a play, just like my therapist suggested.
You’ve worked with a variety of organizations; indie theatres, Fringe festivals, and now a large festival like Stratford. How do the processes of staging a show differ between the different types of theatre, and how are they the same?
In my experience, the level of control you have over a show is what changes the most between the different kinds of organizations. Self-producing at a fringe festival offers a huge amount of creative control over every aspect of the producing process, not only the writing of the script itself, so you get to explore a story from many different perspectives. Having a play staged at a large institution like Stratford, writing becomes your only task, so you can focus more in depth on the script.
What are you working on next?
Right now I’m working on a prairie gothic play inspired by the myth of Medea. It may or may not have ghosts.
Do you have any favourite Canadian plays and/or which artists are currently inspiring you?
I don’t have any favourite Canadian plays or artists right now, mostly because I don’t want anyone to get mad at me for not mentioning them in this. But something I saw recently that I was kind of inspired by was Thomas Kail’s Sweeney Todd starring Josh Groban. I actually saw it twice, because the first time I wasn’t sure if it worked for me or not, so I went back, and it really landed for me that time, except that Josh Groban forgot the lyrics to one of my favourite songs. What an amateur (jk jk we stan Joshua in this house).
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.