New Lee Playwright-in-Residence arrives at the U of A

(Edmonton) Greg MacArthur, the University of Alberta's new Lee Playwright-in-Residence, has worked extensively across Canada and around the world, but has never been to Edmonton. Now that he's here, he says he has been exploring. He is convinced that, "like any other place, there's the surface of the city and underneath there are little gems that you could find. I look forward to discovering the gems of Edmonton."

And during his time searching, he hopes to find "a really healthy, nice, independent community, where the underground folks—the progressives, the others—hang out."

The others he says he is looking for in Edmonton will provide him community and influence, much of which informs his work. "I'm looking for a sense of community with people to create work. My aesthetic in arts is not mainstream. I'm interested in alternative methods of creation," he says.

MacArthur does not necessarily create work for a community of others, but he says that the theatre that affects him most is one that "reflects my state of being and condition of living in the world, something that I could recognize. Maybe this goes back to the sense of community again, something that I can see and realize that I am not alone in my thinking."

But whereas he believes that art could be a mirror through which society is viewed, he says it ought to be much more than that. "Art is not meant to be created for ourselves, it's meant to affect people," MacArthur said. "I think theatre should not answer questions, but should pose them. The role of theatre is for an audience to come out of a play slightly changed from when they came into the theatre, whether that change is for 10 minutes or a lifetime."

That practice of questioning will find its way in the largest play MacArthur has ever penned, and it will be for U of A's Studio Theatre. The play, tentatively titled Missionary Position, is influenced by events from the devastating earthquakes in Haiti.

"That's a piece written for 12 people and I've never written a piece of that scale before," he said. "There's something I find interesting about the western world's relationship to the disasters happening around the world right now," he said.

MacArthur is the third Lee Playwright in Residence, following Kevin Kerr (2007-2010) and Don Hannah (2005-2007). Greg MacArthur wrote Tyland, which was featured at the Alberta Theatre Project's Enbridge playRites Festival and Recovery, commissioned and produced by The National Arts Centre and produced by Rumble Theatre.