Playwright Colleen Murphy on hiding secrets and finding sinister, shiny things
Ever since her first play hit the stage 30 years ago, Colleen Murphy has been drawn like a moth to a flame to the stories that live in the shadows. That's never been more true than with Pig Girl, a harrowing portrayal of violence against Indigenous women that took home the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for drama.
Below, Colleen Murphy answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Erin Bow asks, "Do you love your villains?"
As a playwright I believe my job is to deliver the humanity of every character, even those characters who commit heinous acts. I read once that you have to be murdered before you can murder. The phrase is interesting because if you take a little child and beat them or murder their souls, unless that child has a person around who will listen to them and help them, or unless they have the luxury of years of therapy, then the child will likely act out later and hurt others. No matter what horrible things they do, I try to remind myself that a villain is a human being and was not born with a knife in their hand.
2. Louise Penny asks, "What themes reoccur in your work that you need to explore?"
Grief occurs a lot in my work. So many human actions erupt out of grief — anger, revenge, hurt, fear — and in drama, when you put characters under pressure, they act out because deep down they are profoundly bereft. It is not so much that grief is something "sad" but rather that it is a huge aspect of the human condition and it takes endless forms.
3. Richard Van Camp asks, "What's the story you'll never write about that haunts you? It could be delicious. Yes, that's the one we want to know. What is your delicious that you'll never write about? What. is. it?"
Writing is often about secrets. Every person has a secret and writers are often propelled by secrets they will never tell — at least not in a way anyone might discover. The secret lingers somewhere between the words, or it's encapsulated in the emotions of the characters or even spelled out in coded dialogue, but no one knows the code except me. So the story I will never write that haunts me... is my secret story.
4. Caroline Pignat asks, "What scares you most about writing?"