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Posted: Sunday March 28, 2010
Joan MacLeod

Multiple Betty Mitchell, Chalmer’s, Dora and Governor General’s Award-winning author Joan MacLeod grew up in North Vancouver and studied Creative Writing at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia.

Now an internationally celebrated star of the world of the theatre, MacLeod developed her finely honed playwriting skills during seven seasons as playwright-in-residence at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, and turned her hand to opera with her libretto for The Secret Garden, which won a Dora Award.

She has had many radio dramas produced by CBC Stereo Theatre, including Hand of God, a one-hour drama adapted from her play Jewel, and has written numerous scripts for film and television productions.

Translated into eight languages, her work has been extensively produced around the world. Multiple simultaneous productions of her hit play The Shape of a Girl toured internationally for four years, including a sold-out run in New York. Her play Amigo’s Blue Guitar won the 1991 Governor General’s Drama Award. Her Governor General’s Award nominations include one in 1996 for The Hope Slide / Little Sister and one in 2009 for Another Home Invasion.

MacLeod also writes prose and poetry, which has been published in a wide variety of literary journals.


April 2018 : Gracie has arrived!

June 2016 : On Monday, June 27 in Vancouver, the 2016 Jessie Awards will be presented

January 2016 : No fewer than nine Talon plays on stage across Canada this spring!

May 2014 : The Valley Has Arrived!

January 2014 : Browse Our Spring 2014 Catalogue!

August 2013 : MacLeod’s Latest Play Addresses Police Brutality Toward Mentally Ill

August 2013 : Volume Two of Modern Canadian Plays (5th Edition) Has Arrived!


Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, Recipient (2011)


Toronto, Mississippi

Finalist for the 2008 ReLit Award (Longlist)


Hope Slide / Little Sister, The

Winner of the 1993 The Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award


Another Home Invasion

Finalist for the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama



"Joan MacLeod’s excellently researched and compelling written 2017 play, Gracie ."
– theatretimes.com


The Valley

“A wonderful piece of writing … not to be missed”
Toronto Star

“a powerful, thoughtful and unsettling exploration of the complexities of love, the law and mental illness. … In conversations around policing and mental illness, it’s easy to elect villains but The Valley doesn’t allow any of its characters to fall into caricature.”
Vancouver Sun

The Valley is like a rickety sculpture. It’s lopsided. It barely holds itself up. And yet there’s a kind of beauty in it. … [it makes] emotional and poetic sense.”
Georgia Straight

“There’s a lot of empathy in the writing and between the characters … The Valley’s structure turns out to be more inspired by aboriginal approaches to conflict than Aristotelian ones. … [the staging] underlines the question that underpins the whole play: What would you do?”
Globe and Mail

“A gripping, emotional play that will have you shifting your allegiances from one character to another as the truth is revealed”
Calgary Sun

The Valley is full of universal truths and intimately unique characters. It’s also remarkably topical.”
The Martlet

“With her new play The Valley, playwright Joan MacLeod peers behind the headlines in a subtle work that avoids all the romantic traps that typically ensnare those who write about mental illness. Focusing on two families, she takes a close, clear-eyed look at our society – one where individual rights and freedoms are constantly clashing with the desire to protect, at home and on the streets.”
Globe and Mail

"Joan MacLeod’s script is impressive and balanced, allowing issues to be explored but not exploitative. She has explored the dark, isolating energy often associated with Vancouver (which was recently voted the world’s least livable city, once again) in this script, which visualized the brooding sense of the city through these characters."
– JJ Brewis, Lords of Dogwood


Another Home Invasion

“The playwright shares with novelist Ian McEwan the ability to stretch tension out over everyday domestic scenes … Another Home Invasion is piercingly accurate writing that interrogates how our society is really serving our seniors at a time when they most need our help.”
Globe & Mail

“A perfect evening of theatre … there isn’t a false word in MacLeod’s script.”
Calgary Herald

“A finely honed work of art.”
Toronto Star

“ … even better than Shape of a Girl.”
National Post

“A startling commentary on aging and elder care.”

Another Home Invasion is a deliciously readable monologue.”
— Sara Cassidy, BC Bookworld

"Another Home Invasion is a comfortable thinkpiece with a simple love story at its heart."
Cult MTL


Toronto, Mississippi

“His poetry addresses the limitless discussion of the boundaries between the personal and the political.”

— National Post



MacLeod has written a moving story of hugh implications—what family, identity and personal history mean.


Shape of a Girl , The / Jewel

"Joan MacLeod’s The Shape of a Girl has many of the hallmarks of the best intuitive writing… [her] poetry is pure."

— Georgia Straight


— Globe and Mail

"Beautifully written… like Jewel, The Shape of a Girl will enter the repertoire and be performed for many years to come."

— Toronto Star

"Her main character… feels so much more real than most portraits of young people onstage. Ms. MacLeod writes dialogue that sounds like the way girls talk, without being a bit condescending. Braidie is just your average kid. She’s a little melodramatic, maybe, and a handful for her mother, but nothing too out of the ordinary. So when she sees her friends cruelly hazing a girl at school, she does what most kids would do — absolutely nothing.

Joan MacLeod’s sober and gripping one-woman show ‘‘The Shape of a Girl,’‘ produced by a Canadian company, the Green Thumb Theater, and playing at the Duke on 42nd Street through Jan. 30, adds to the growing consensus in popular culture that ‘‘sugar-and-spice and everything nice’‘ might have been overstating the case.

In recent years, girls have been increasingly portrayed in everything from serious journalistic studies to light comedies like ‘‘Mean Girls’‘ as tyrannical, bullying and devoted to a ruthless caste system.

Inspired by the real-life murder in 1997 of the 14-year-old Reena Virk by two high school girls in Vancouver, this memory play tells the fictional story of a less horrific act of brutality told from the perspective of a not-so-innocent bystander. By making the play about her failure to act courageously, Ms. MacLeod has turned what could have been a simple after-school special into a much more complex drama with thornier moral issues.

Through Braidie’s eyes, the audience sees the plight of Sophie, an innocent, awkward girl who is bullied by her classmates. She is ignored, mocked and referred to as a thing instead of a person. Braidie sympathizes with Sophie, but also seems to resent her inability to stick up for herself.

Jennifer Paterson is brilliant in the role, winning our sympathies and communicating with painstaking articulation the weakness of being unable to stop something that you know is wrong. This subject has been explored before. Neil LaBute, for one, is a master at revealing the failings of the ineffectual everyman.

But Ms. MacLeod doesn’t have his killer instinct or his cruel streak. She struggles mightily not to judge her main character, who feels so much more real than most portraits of young people onstage. Ms. MacLeod writes dialogue that sounds like the way girls talk, without being a bit condescending. Of course, the fact that Braidie and her situation seem so familiar only makes the drama that much more troubling."

— New York Times



(2000) is a remarkable achievement.
CBRA (Canadian Book Review Annual)

Full of good insights good lines.
University of Toronto Quarterly

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