From page to stage: 7 performances inspired by CanLit

With the wealth of creativity in Canadian literature, is it any wonder that it's inspired orchestral productions, ballet performances and rock albums? Below, we've gathered seven of our favourite adaptations of Canadian writing.

1. "Dear Life" by Alice Munro

In September 2015, the National Arts Centre debuted a new orchestral production inspired by the short story "Dear Life" by Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, from the story collection of the same name. Writer Merilyn Simonds adapted the 10,000-word story into a 500-word monologue performed by actress Martha Henry. The music was written by award-winning Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri.

2. Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson

Islands of Decolonial Love is author Leanne Simpson's first short story collection, and was released in tandem with an album of the same name. Polaris Prize-nominated musicians A Tribe Called Red wrote many of the album's songs, which can be streamed for free on the publisher's website.

3. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

best-laid-plans.jpgActors Nick Fontaine and Shannon Chan-Kent in a performance of the musical adaptation of Terry Fallis' Best Laid Plans. (Tim Matheson/Patrick Street Productions Music Theatre).

Terry Fallis's Stephen Leacock-winning novel The Best Laid Plans became a musical in the fall of 2015, starring Andrew Wheeler and Nick Fontaine. The political comedy follows engineering professor Angus McLintock, who agrees to run in an election he's determined to lose - a goal that proves much harder to achieve than he and his young campaign manager expect.

4. Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler


Writer Howard Wiseman won the Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award in 2004 for his four-hour radio adaptation of Mordecai Richler's classic novel Barney's Version. Check out the full radio play, in four parts, below:

Barney's Version Part 1:

media clip

Barney's Version Part 2:

media clip

Barney's Version Part 3:

media clip

Barney's Version Part 4:

media clip

5. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje


Adapted by Michael Ondaatje and director Daniel Brooks, the 2011 theatre production of Divisadero was lauded by Toronto Star reviewer Kamal Al-Solaylee as "divine" and given three out of four stars. The spellbinding story follows a shattered family, haunted by an act of violence from years past.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaids-tale.pngLeft: A photo from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's production of The Handmaid's Tale (Courtesy of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet). Right: Lakes of Canada's album Transgressions is also inspired by the novel.

Though it was published over 30 years ago, the relevance of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale doesn't seem to have wavered, continuing to inspire contemporary art performances around the world. Some adaptations include a BBC Radio drama, an opera by Danish composer Paul Ruders, a stage play that toured the U.K. in 2001, a ballet production by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and an album by Montreal-based musicians Lakes of Canada.

7. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry's 1995 Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel A Fine Balance was adapted for stage by British theatre company Tamasha in 2006. The adaptation celebrated two sellout runs, and was deemed "magnificent" by The Sunday Telegraph.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg oscarreadinglistbanner-620 booktomoviebanner.jpg Thumbnail image for Spring-2016-Books-Preview-Banner.jpg