"...one of Canada’s originals, known not only for the quality of her work,
but for the sheer range of her career."
Maclean's Magazine, 1991
Writer, actor Linda Griffiths was born in Montreal and studied at Dawson College, the National Theatre School of Canada and McGill University. However, her real training took place when she worked with a small, young company in Saskatoon Saskatchewan called Twenty Fifth Street Theatre. The company did ‘devised theatre’, original scripts and then learned to improvise collective creations by working with Canadian Theatre icon Paul Thompson, then artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille. Thompson would become Griffiths’ frequent collaborator. Through Thompson, the company (which included actor/director Layne Coleman) did it’s first collective creation, written entirely by the group through improvisation - “If You’re so Good, Why are you in Saskatoon?” Griffiths was now working in situations that asked her to write improvisationally and this became a springboard for her later work. Three years later, 25th produced another collective, Paper Wheat (1978), in which Griffiths was an original cast member and co-writer. The play was based on interviews with farmers and told the story of the pioneer co-operative movement in the west - it became one of the most significant collective creations of the period.
After moving to Toronto, Griffiths worked again with Paul Thompson as director – collective creations Les Maudits Anglais (performed entirely in bad French) and Shakespeare for Fun and Profit (1979). In 1980, the two collaborated on writing the hugely successful Maggie & Pierre, a one-person, three-character play where Griffiths played Pierre and Margaret Trudeau and a journalist named Henry. Maggie and Pierre became a Canadian phenomena, touring Canada, playing the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, and off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre. This was a break-through play for Griffiths as actor and writer. Film roles followed, including the title role in John Sayles, Lianna, roles in Denys Arcand’s Empire Inc. ( 1983) and Overdrawn at the Memory Bank with Raoul Julia. She continued to act on stage, including at NY’s Public Theatre in Caryl Churchill’s Fen.
At the same time as acting, Griffiths was writing plays – co-writing (with Patrick Brymer) the popular social comedy, O.D. on Paradise, directed by Clarke Rogers; Jessica co-written with First Nations author and activist Maria Campbell a in 1984, By 1987, Griffiths was concentrating on writing - The Darling Family (Griffiths performed in the original production, 1991) made in 1993 into a feature film; Brother André’s Heart The Duchess a.k.a. Wallis Simpson. In 2000. Griffiths wrote and performed the one-person show, Alien Creature: a visitation from Gwendolyn MacEwen, then followed with Chronic at Factory Theatre in 2003.
She has received many awards for her contributions to the theatre world. She has won five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, for Maggie and Pierre (for both acting and writing, 1980), O.D. in Paradise (1983), Jessica (1986), and Alien Creature: a visitation from Gwendolyn MacEwen (2000); a Gemini Award; two Chalmers Awards for Jessica (1986) and Alien Creature: a visitation from Gwendolyn MacEwen (2000); and a Quizanne International Festival Award for Jessica (1987). She has twice been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and received Los Angelos’ AGA award for her performance in Lianna. The Betty Mitchell for Best New Play was given for Age of Arousal – 2007.
In 1996, she started her own company, Duchess Productions which “dances between the personal, the political and the fantastic.” Duchess productions is a developmental company which produces Griffiths’ unique studio class, Visceral Playwrighting. In addition to her plays, Griffiths has published short stories ( The Dirty Theatre Stories), written articles and co-wrote The Book of Jessica, which tells of Griffiths and Campbell’s collaboration. In 1999, an anthology of her work, Sheer Nerve: Seven Plays by Linda Griffiths, was published. She has been Adjunct Professor to the University of Toronto’s Masters Program in Creative Writing and this year is the recipient of the Barker Fairly Visitorship at U of Toronto. This summer, Griffiths will perform her new solo show The Last Dog of War at the Chester Playhouse and as part of ATP’s 2010/11 season. New projects include a full length drama Games to be Played with Caution. In 2011 Age of Arousal will be produced in Edinburgh at the Royal Lyceum and the Tron in Glasgow. She is a member of Playwrights Guild of Canada.
"Just Moving Along", The Varsity, 2012 (view article)
All articles reproduced with permission by Torstar Syndication Services.
"She's Arousing Interest", Toronto Star, November 2007 (view article)
"Quiet abode in the city centre" Toronto Star, November 2007 (view article)
"Out to overthrow fashion tyranny" Toronto Star, December 2007 (view article)
Duchess attempts to dance between the personal, the political and the fantastic.
Work about politics, illness, native/white relations, abortion, royalty and baseball does have a common thread. Duchess is called Duchess as a bit of fantasy, also to evoke mythology and political absurdity.
Duchess is dedicated to a sense of the fantastic in theatre, both in terms of a celebration of language and theatrical image. It creates work that deals with the heightened word that is sometimes evolved through a combination of improvisational work and traditional methods of playwriting. The process of creation changes with each project. The goal is to create theatre that is highly literate, physically imaginative, and emotionally connected - a theatre where an exploration of the surreal does not exclude a love of language. Add to this an awareness of the topical - of political or social issues explored without reverting to polemic. While Duchess learns from a minimalist school, it’s roots are fabulist and populist - bridging the audience gap between the avant-garde and the popular, without compromising what has come to be known as edge.
Photo Credit: Image on Home page created by Matt Saunders.
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View Linda Griffiths' CV