THE SHAPE OF A GIRL by Joan MacLeod, directed by Patrick McDonald, with Jenny Young. Presented by Green Thumb and the Tarragon in the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Previews begin tonight (Thursday, March 21), opens Tuesday (March 26) and runs to April 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc-$15, preview $15, stu/srs $16-$20. 416-531-1827.
peer pressure. even if you've rejected following the pack, you've felt its tug. But for teens, the urge to conform is a hard one to resist."My daughter has just turned six, and already it's starting to happen," says playwright Joan MacLeod. I can hear the sigh in her voice as she speaks on the phone from her home on Bowen Island, in BC. "What her girlfriends think and say is becoming a big deal, and that'll get stronger as she grows older."
That consciousness has sparked the writer's new play, The Shape Of A Girl, which Green Thumb Theatre mounted last year. The same production comes to the Tarragon, where most of MacLeod's plays premiered.
"I feel for teens, especially the 14- and 15-year-olds," she says. "They believe in their hearts that they have no choice but to follow, that they can't take action on their own because they'll lose their friends. I remember what it's like to feel frozen like that, like losing your sense of self."
Her one-woman show delves into the memories and feelings of Braidie, a 15-year-old who follows news stories about the torture and murder of a teen by her classmates.
Braidie's horror at the events escalates with her realization that she herself has a history of violence with her own gang of friends.
If the story sounds familiar, it should. The award-winning MacLeod found a focus for the play when she connected a developing fictional character with the 1997 killing of Victoria schoolgirl Reena Virk.
"I already had Braidie's voice and a sense of her character. I had fun writing but soon found myself backed into a corner without knowing why.
"Then the Virk trials began and I started paying attention. It wasn't until a year after her death that I put the two pieces together and realized what my play was about."
MacLeod's scripts are filled with heart. There's a political edge, too, but the message is always wrapped in an emotional sensitivity to characters who go through painfully real situations. Jewel, her first play, is a wife's loving, clear-eyed farewell to her husband, killed in the Ocean Ranger disaster. The Hope Slide, another one-person show, plays a landslide tragedy against stories of the revolutionary Doukhobors. The several teens in Little Sister cope with eating disorders.
"I love writing teens," MacLeod says simply. "I remember that time well, though I've just turned 48. I love that voice, secure and passionate one second, scared and vulnerable the next."
And the one-person format?
"When I write a play with lots of characters, the energy comes from their interaction. What's hard about a one-actor play is figuring out how to keep the piece moving. With Shape, I played with time flips and consciously created scenes that get the momentum going.
"I love the enthusiasm that's generated when a one-person show works. I keep returning to the form every few plays. It keeps me honest to rely on purity of voice and trust in one story."
MacLeod admits she misses Toronto. She's been back in British Columbia for eight years, raising her young daughter not far from Vancouver.
"I never meant to stay in Toronto as long as I did," she says. "I missed the beauty of BC, though not Vancouver.
"I'd have a perfect life if Toronto were where Vancouver is and I could take a ferry there in an hour. It's true that sometimes I go a little bonkers living on an island, but it's great most of the time. And my home is bigger than my apartment on Markham Street." email@example.com