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Writer to watch

Writer to watch: Anusree Roy

GG-winner Judith Thompson wrote a winter tale for us. She also recommended Anusree Roy as a writer to watch. Read what Anusree has to say about what inspires her to write.

"Anusree Roy, who just won a Dora for her play Brothel No. 9, as well as for acting and writing in Pyassa and Letter to my Grandma, is absolutely brilliant as a playwright and actor. She is already a major voice, and she is now in her prime!"

- Judith Thompson



Writing for change
by Anusree Roy

Born and raised in India, I grew up in a family which believed in revolution through the arts. My grandma produced socially relevant plays during WWII to raise money for Ghandi's freedom movement. She raised me to believe that through art comes change and that it is our responsibility as artists to create work that demands change from society. 

When I was seventeen, I moved to Toronto with my family. I started writing seriously after getting rejected from the university acting program. I took a playwriting class and realized that writing gives me a type of pleasure that no other form of creativity provides. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting at my desk at 4 a.m. with my little window cracked open and the cold winter air coming in as I type away. When I write, I am at peace, I am breathing, and I am not me. 

Often I find I have trouble taking ownership of my work because I feel that the play writes me, instead of the other way around. When I sit to write, the words just come, situations happen, characters are born, they name themselves and conflict arises. Then the characters work really hard to resolve the conflict as more obstacles come their way. I don't actively do anything - I keep typing and get out of the characters' way. 

This happened when I was writing my play, Brothel # 9, about survival in the sex-trade industry in Calcutta, India. Late one night, I was writing a pivotal moment between two sex-workers in scene fourteen. I had no conscious idea about where the scene was going. I kept typing the words I heard in my head. 

Then suddenly, I found myself typing the line "Two. Two of them. I have drowned two of my own babies in this water tank. Two." I was stunned and sat speechless for a moment as tears rolled down my face. I found myself grieving for the sex-worker who had to drown her newborn babies. Although these are fictional characters I have created, I didn't consciously make that character's choice when I began writing the play. 

I let the characters decide what they want to do and how they want their lives to unfold. As scary as that is as a writer, it's really liberating. I don't judge them for their lives or how they resolve  conflict. They do it. I just type. 

***


Anusree Roy is a playwright and actor whose work has toured nationally. Her plays include Brothel # 9; Roshni; Letters to my Grandma; and Pyaasa. Her librettos, The Golden Boy and Noor over Afghan, have been produced by Tapestry at Opera Briefs this fall. She is the Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Jones Roy and has been published by the Playwright's Canada Press. Her plays and performances have won three Dora Mavor Moore Awards along with multiple nominations and she is the recipient of the K.M.Hunter Award; the RBC Emerging Artist Award and, most recently, the Carol Bolt Award.




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