Hannah Moscovitch’s great victory | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia

Tn day Hannah Moscovitch wins the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, Halifax’s most decorated playwright sips a café au lait, unties and knots her messy bun as a soft light shines around her. It’s a serene Wednesday afternoon in his house in the north, with no champagne in sight.

“I feel like I have paid in pain with this one. I feel like I’m fucking paid for this piece, ”says Moscovitch of Middle Class Sexual Misconduct, his 16th screenplay, now recognized by one of the most awarded cultural prizes in the country.

Recently published in book form, the story centers on a 19-year-old college student and her 40-year-old teacher, while erasing readers’ expectations and notions of power. The piece, based on composites of his own personal experiences and the stories of his friends, is a Moscovitch classic: heavy and messy; addictive and validating; send postcards from the gray swamp where sex and power intersect.

When asked what she’s most proud of in the room, she runs into another room, grabs a thin copy, and cracks her spine as the sticker announcing her award flashes on the cover. “I’m proud of it,” she said, showing dedication. It reads: “To future women. ”

Here we chat with the Drama Desk nominated playwright and Nova Scotia Masterworks winner about her bombshell, her post- # MeToo play, what it feels like to be one of the most exciting names in the world. Canadian drama today and more.

The Coast: How do you deal with the difficulty of writing these heavy topics? Since most of your plays delve into the atrocities of war or gender-based violence, how do you ignore that when you close your laptop or put your pen down at the end of the day?

Hannah Moscovitch: It’s embarrassing, to some extent, how ready I am to step into dark material – and it makes sense. I do not know. I have times when it’s too much or I feel like I’m traumatized, that’s for sure. I had these moments on particular projects. But generally, because who I write about, it is about their lived experiences that I write. And their lived experience is far worse than anything I have experienced writing about it. But it gives me a constant source of perspective.

And also I grew up in a synagogue where there were a lot of Holocaust survivors. So I grew up in the shadow of the genocide. So that gives you a special perspective. It gives you an idea of ​​how you see the world and what is normal for you.

I think because of my childhood: I think because of that I just have a built-in ability for darker subjects, honestly.

So most of your work is real stories about real people?

I really made it sound like that with what I just said. I mean, rarely, although I really like research, or I do a lot of heavy research projects.

I only wrote fiction. And yet, you know… one of the plays I wrote was about the children of Nazis who grew up in Paraguay after WWII. It only takes a huge amount of research to access the writing in a respectful, specific, and authentic way. And so, again, you’re like in the endless reading pool about the children of the Nazis and the Holocaust and the aftermath of WWII. It’s still fiction, just with a strong research component to it.

So in terms of balancing all the heavy stuff, do you almost feel like you’re swimming in that big pool and then you grab a little cup of water and walk out of the pool with that? And so everyone is like, “This mug looks really heavy.” And you say to yourself: I was just a little in this—

– All that swimming pool, over there, behind me! Welcome to a drink of it! It’s a beautiful metaphor, exactly. And I have the impression that this pool contains people to whom I owe something.

Like they live there and let you swim.

Yes, and the current project I’m working on is about the ’60s scoop on Indigenous children, with a co-creator named Jennifer Podolski. And it’s a TV show, a limited series for Crave. And again, you might be writing it down, but if behind you in that pool is every Scoop survivor from the ’60s, then your trauma is limited in writing about it by the depth of theirs.

As in real life, it often feels like your pieces are ending but not resolved – they have an end point, they just aren’t ordered. Why is it important for you not to arch things?

Sometimes it’s mean to do that, you know? Because what you basically do is whether the audience like it or not, you subcontract the meaning to them: the ending, which would give you the moral message, just give you a morale boost. I’ll just show it to you and let you decide what to think about it.

I was like, ‘Oh, my God, the audience is going to kill me for this. Like, they’re gonna be mad at me for writing it that way. But that’s not what happened.

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Sometimes people don’t like it in my writing. I’m in trouble for this. People get mad because I didn’t give them a specific way of looking at the material. I think it’s just a question of aesthetics. I think for me, I prefer to leave it in the hands of the public.

I think, sometimes maybe wrongly, that I digress from that and say, “I’ll leave you, the audience.” You are intelligent. You can know what to think and feel about it.

One thing I love about your job is that your dialogue is so real it feels like a punch. When I saw the production of your first three works by Matchstick Theater this fall, FOOTNOTES, the dialogue was so real it destroyed me. How do you deal with this?

I think, for some reason, part of the art that I love to do about writing drama is authentic dialogue. And I always liked it. And I think maybe it’s a couple of things in my life: like being a bit of a stranger, being a stranger when I was a kid, then working in a bar for five years and hearing constantly. dialogues at formative moments of my life. – like always being out of the conversation and listening to it.

I get to this part more easily. And then there are other parts of the writing that are much more difficult for me, like the structure. All this, that is to say that the plays are dialogues, they are always this medium which is located in the zone of the similars, the interpersonal relations between people. And therefore, ease of dialogue of all kinds will help you.

I think because I spent all this time working in a bar for five years, hearing how men talk, I acquired the ability to write like this: listen and hear how men spoke when women were not at the table. And it was just when I was writing [my first play] Trial, I worked in this restaurant. So I was like, just in touch with it.

What inspired Middle Class Sexual Misconduct?

I think in this case it’s fair to say that while the play is not autobiographical, I have had personal experiences that align with some of what happened in the play. It’ll seem old-fashioned now to say that, but then [around 2017, when it debuted]I was very aware that romances between students and teachers were often framed by a male point of view. And that was back when everything was happening with #MeToo: Steven Galloway was happening. So I was interested in what I could write about it that would turn that old student-teacher romance and write it for a post- # MeToo world, with the information I had as a grown woman thinking back to my experiences being a child: what happened when I was a child, in my teenage years.

I don’t think it’s dated, because I think for a lot of us during #MeToo we’re still trying to figure out what that means for the future.

There was a reading of Middle Class Sexual Misconduct in Seattle in 2017, in June, as three months before the publication of Harvey Weinstein’s allegations. And there was about 150 people in the audience, and I’ve been setting there before, with my heart pounding a little bit, like, “They’re going to hate her.” They will hate me.

Because what the play does is take you through a student-teacher romance from a male perspective, and then it takes it to a female romance at a key moment in the end. And then you suddenly have to look back through his perspective on what happened. So you only hear the male teacher talking about what’s going on until I change it at the very end, and you hear from her. So you only really saw him through his eyes until the end.

I was like, ‘Oh, my God, the audience is going to kill me for this. Like, they’re gonna be mad at me for writing it that way. But that’s not what happened.

I was completely off what I thought, which side the audience was going to be on. I expected this to really fuck the audience. And they were like, with her, and it seemed like a real change. But I still look back and think, “Wow, like the level I was afraid of how much they would hate her for reporting it.”

It’s about that time when women didn’t think they would be believed and were unable to come forward.

Why is the intersection of sex and power, or gender and power, such a fertile inspiration for you?

I feel like I always end up talking about my childhood. But my mom is a feminist non-fiction writer. So I grew up thinking about these questions all the time at a time when feminism was pejorative. So I think that’s always been the lens that I look through, whether I like it or not, because I was given that lens.

And I mean, that’s what being a feminist is, isn’t it? It’s not always fun. Often this is not the case.

You can’t just float, can you? Just float in your culture. You always look at your culture and see what it does for you and for other people like you. And the others in general. So I think so, it’s like my mom is a heroine. And she gave me that goal, for better or for worse.

You are also at a point in your career where you are inspiring other playwrights: people see you as a light in this male dominated industry. What would you like to be able to say to these young directors?

Don’t just include women. Push yourself to the limit of inclusion. But if I had to talk to the younger version of me, it would be: the stories you tell are relevant. They are important. Women want to hear them. Some of the most significant experiences in my life in theater and in my art have been written specifically for and for women.

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