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EXCLUSIVE: Hannah Moscovitch Talks Mini Festival, Upcoming Projects

Award-winning Canadian playwright talks to Shalom Life about her new plays

By: Ilan Mester
Published: February 24th, 2013 in Culture » Stage » Interviews
Hannah Moscovitch

At just 34, Hannah Moscovitch has already written numerous well-received plays, won multiple Dora honours and scored a Governor’s General Award nomination for her critically-acclaimed play East of Berlin. But you wouldn’t know it just by talking to the modest writer who tells Shalom Life she still gets nervous ahead of premieres.

“I’m as excited as I am terrified,” she says of the mini festival put on by Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre to celebrate her work. “I’m excited, it’s nice to have a bunch of the plays up at once. It’s a little bit like I’m having my psyche up on stage so people can peruse my madness.”

Moscovitch’s Double Bill, on stage through March 24, actually features three plays; two are premieres. The works (Other People’s Children, In This World and Little Ones) come on the heels of the successful run of This is War, a drama written by Moscovitch that tackles the story of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Fans of Moscovitch’s work know that her plays are generally set outside of Canada. In fact some of her most critically-acclaimed stories have taken place in countries as far away as Russia, Germany and Paraguay. “My father is a prof and so we spent a lot of time when I was younger in different countries on sabbatical,” says the Ottawa native. “So it was a big part of my life, travelling and being in countries that weren’t Canada. I make it out of the country at least a couple of times a year, but I think I just like to write from behind a mask. I also like to write in countries that are not my own.”

Another common trait of Moscovith’s plays is that they tend to be set in the past. “I think I am really interested in the 20th century partly because it’s a past that informs our present so much,” she says. “And so you can see in the present that past.”

Moscovitch has technically been writing creatively since she was a kid. The award-winning scribe admits she kept journals, but insists they’re nothing to be proud of. “They’re really bad,” she jokes. “I just sound like a little girl. I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I think Otto looked at Shoshanna instead of me.’ They sound like that.”

It’s a little known fact that Moscovitch originally studied acting; she enrolled at the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada, which is where she started to realize writing might actually be her calling. “I was training to be an actor, but I in the end liked to have a hand in the vision of the work,” says the playwright. “I like it to be my meaning.”

Her visions have resulted in a number of critical hits, many of which have Jewish themes and characters. For example, The Children’s Republic focuses on kids from a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. East of Berlin, arguably one of her most well-known plays, follows a young man who finds out his father was a Nazi doctor. “I think being Jewish informs all my writing,” says Moscovitch. “But then it’s just a question of whether it becomes explicit content or just an implicit philosophy of life.”

Moscovitch says she loves to write behind a mask, but she hasn’t ruled out creating confessional work. “There’s something in me that loves the Lena Dunhams and the Sylvia Plaths and the Sheila Hetis of the world who write confessional work,” she reveals. “Sometimes I think I’ll do that, if I’m ever going to rip the mask off and really write about myself. Instead of playing a character who’s sort of like me I think I’ll go all the way and write a character called Hannah and play her myself.”

What’s next for the Canadian playwright? Moscovitch tells Shalom Life she’s working on the adaptation of an Ann-Marie MacDonald novel called Fall on Your Knees, which is being turned into a musical. She’s also stepping outside her comfort zone by writing on a TV show.

Related articles: Hannah Moscovitch, interview, Tarragon, Canadian theatre, plays, 2013
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