Women Building Peace
The Morning Bird
Down From Heaven
The Living Play
Adaptation of The Monument.
Password Pictures. Jordan Randell, Producer.
Reasons to be Cheerful (Ze Groyds Films)
The Moneta Men (Ze Groyds Films)
Hallowed Be Thy Name. Feature documentary. Atlantic MediaWorks;
Deux Voix, Comme en Echo, by Claudette Jaiko, produced by NFB.
Remembrance Day. Short Fiction. Isis Productions. Festivals: Tidal Wave, Fredericton, NB; Yorkton, Sask.
Ciao Canada. TV documentary series. Telelatino Network, Toronto.
The Living, a documentary play, inspired by the actual stories of women and girls who survived trauma in post-conflict zones, examines the lives of victims and perpetrators, post-genocide, who live side-by-side in government-issued housing, and NGO-funded campaigns to encourage reconciliation in hopes that the impossible act of forgiveness can end the cycle of revenge.
The Living premiered at SummerWorks Festival, Theatre Centre, Toronto, August, 2015 and was directed by Ines Buchli, and starred Kaleb Alexander, Beryl Bain, Francoise Balthazar, Cindy Block, Miriam Fernandes, Gabrielle Graham, Stephanie Jung, Anita La Selva, Richard Lee and Wayne Ward.
WINNER: Best Director, Ines Buchli
WINNER: NOW Audience Choice Award
“a hard-hitting anatomy of the social wreckage following ethnic cleansing” – NNNN Now Magazine
“an intense and ultimately cathartic exploration of loss, hatred, forgiveness, and the ghosts of guilt and atrocity… a moving, even raw atmosphere.”
* * * */5 torontoist, Best of Summerworks
“The painful truth on the road to reconciliation in Colleen Wagner’s beautiful and compelling premiere of The Living…Lovely work from this ensemble.” – life with more cowbell
“was most impressed by was Wagner’s strong portrayal of women in crises.” Mooney on Theatre
“Wagner illuminates the bravery and resilience of the survivors. The acting is strong as is the direction.” – The Slotkin Review, Best of the Festival
Women Building Peace
Women Building Peace is the story of remarkable women who, after surviving violence, war and genocide in Africa, are rebuilding their lives and societies, forgiving the killers of their families, adopting and raising orphans, breaking taboos, and redefining what it means to be a woman in their traditional cultures.
This documentary looks at some of the root causes behind the atrocities, and how existing matriarchal societies, whose cultural framework and belief systems not only embrace the feminine but see god as female, provide a much-needed peaceful and gender-balanced alternative to the violent, discriminatory cultures that currently dominate most of the world.
The film won best feature documentary at the Silver Wave Film Festival, Nov 6, 2016.
Length 70 minutes, 16:9 widescreen, DVD NTSC
Available on movingimages.ca
Two sisters, Carla and Nola, head off on a road trip with Steve, Carla’s new friend and possible love interest, to attend their estranged father’s funeral. Carla takes a camera to capture the day’s special moments. Steve takes a short cut down a logging road, the car gets stuck and the trio miss the funeral. They eventually arrive at the cemetery and discover the father has remarried and his new wife knows nothing about them. Remembrance Day explores the absence of fathers’ in the lives of their children and the need to have remembrances, even if they belie the truth.
Length 12 minutes 50 seconds, Shot On 16mm, Available in VHS/DVD/Beta
- Carla: Theresa MacKinnon
- Steve: Simon Duvall
- Nola: Jessica Allison
- Woman: Susan Hayward
- Writer/Director: Colleen Wagner
- Producer: Lloyd Salomone
- Photography: Tony Merzetti
- Designer: James Kennedy
- Editor: Tony Merzetti
- Sound: Jeremy Robinson
- Music: Peter Lockhart
The Monument is about a young soldier convicted of war crimes. Stetko is the boy next door who comes from respectable parents and has gotten caught up in the political events of a war he never understood. Like the good son, the good soldier, he obeys his superiors only to find that, at the conclusion of war, he has become the scapegoat for crimes “everyone was doing.” He is “rescued” by a woman from the enemy side, a woman who suspects he knows the whereabouts of her missing daughter, and arranges his release. The Monument charts the visceral journey of two characters, and through their journey exams the ambiguities of morality and justice, the paradox of a soldier today, and the length that must be traversed to reach potential reconciliation.
The play has been translated into a dozen languages including Mandarin, Kinyarwandan, Romanian, Japanese, Taiwanese, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and continues to be produced nationally and internationally.
Won Governor General’s Literary Award, 1996, numerous Dora Awards, voted best new play in China 2000 and 2006 (published in China and is on tour until 2017)
The Monument premiered in 1995 at Canadian Stage Company, Toronto in a co-production with Necessary Angel Theatre and the Manitoba Theatre Centre and was directed by Richard Rose and starred Rosemary Dunsmore and Tom Barnett.
“Once in a while I see a show that is simply transcendent and this evening was one of those occasions while watching Isoko Theatre Rwandan’s The Monument at Harbourfront Centre.”
– by Nicole Fairbaimm TheSceneIn Toronto. 2011
“There’s a scene near the end of The Monument, Colleen Wagner’s searing 1995 drama about wartime atrocities, when a young soldier is forced to remember in detail the 23 women he has raped and murdered…. It’s an act of resurrection and reclamation that lies at the heart of Wagner’s Governor-General’s Award-winning play.”
– by Martin Morrow, The Globe and Mail. 2011
“The ravages of war exact a cruel price from innocent victims who often pay dearly for their mere presence. In The Monument… two people are caught up in the tragic consequences of a war that is over; a woman who is searching for the body of the murdered victims and the killer who was only doing what he was ordered to do, a refrain that remains painfully familiar on our front pages.”
– by Jeniva Berger, Scenechanges.com. 2006
– Preview article by Vince Talotta, Toronto Star. 2018
The Monument was published in 1996 by Playwrights Canada Press and is in its 7th printing.
Sand takes place in once prosperous farm country, now turned to a vast and blowing desert. It could be the dustbowl of the thirties or the not so distant future. However, one thing is certain, the arrival of Carlye to her family home after a long and mysterious absence wreaks havoc. Is she rainmaker as she claims, or out for revenge.
Sand was produced in 1986 in a co-production between Nightwood and Factory theatres as part of Groundswell.
Selected for the final short list for best international play, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester England, 1989.
Sand was published in Chapbook by Playwrights Guild of Canada.
Young Daniel has been diagnosed with a fatal auto-immune disease. His parents want him to live at any cost. Charles owns a fabulous garden that is threatened by a blight, and wants to protect it at any cost. The efforts to keep the garden and Daniel alive reveal the theme of the two parallel and converging stories – individual freedom and the sometimes tyranny of love.
Eclipsed was produced in 1991 at Canadian Stage Company as part of The Words Festival.
Eclipsed was published in Chapbook by Playwrights Guild of Canada in 1998: Go to store.
The Morning Bird
Doreen, a mentally unstable homeless person steals a coat belonging to a working professional, Beth, who is about to have her first child. Through the coat, Doreen begins to assume the identity of Beth, a 30 something pregnant, urban professional as she tries to remember events in her own life, suppressed by her many medications. When Beth actually encounters Doreen wearing the now stained and dirty jacket, she feels violated, angry, and imagines Doreen is stalking her. She fears for the safety of her unborn child, her home and wishes Doreen would just… disappear. The play explores the boundaries of reality and fantasy, as fear takes over in Beth’s mind – fear that the world is no longer safe and those that threaten the safety of others should be eliminated. With echoes of post 9/11 and the erosion of human rights in the world today, The Morning Bird finds a domestic exploration of the seeds and consequences of feeding fear.
The Morning Bird premiered at NotaBle Acts Theatre Company, Fredericton, NB in July 2005 and was directed by Bill Lane and starred Tracey Ferencz, Jim Jones, Debra Kirshenbaum and Robbie O’Neill.
The French production premiered at Théâtre populaire d’Acadie, Caraquet, NB in March 2009 and toured NB. It was translated from English and directed by Maurice Arsenault and starred Karéne Chiasson, André Roy, Claire Normand and Albert Belzile.
It occurred to me as I drove home after The Morning Bird, the opening show of this year’s Notable Acts Summer Theatre Festival, that when it works, what theatre does is offer us the chance to share together in the magic darkened space what Shakespeare called the fierce vexation of a dream. A dreamlike reality which we feel to be coherent in ways we don’t quite grasp, a reality which is composed of equal parts random fantasy and inexorable reason, a reality which we know not to be real in just the moments when we feel most threatened by it, when we think, no, stop, when we know that any minute the alarm will go off, the doorbell will ring, the lights will come up, and we’ll recognize that, no, after all, it was, just as we suspected all along, a trick. Colleen Wagner’s challenging and in some ways daunting script was the occasion for that reflection, and it was so in large part because so much of the play occurs in the kind of ambiguous space we inhabit in dreams, where people we sort of know appear in various incarnations, in situations distantly related to others we remember more clearly, where ideas and objects acquire strange and apparently arbitrary significance and emotional weight that somehow really aren’t arbitrary at all. In The Morning Bird, the most oddly significant object is an expensive Italian coat which as the play opens has just been “borrowed” by a street person, and which comes to be of inordinate significance not only to its owner, a near-hysterical woman in the late term of a pregnancy, and her doting, confused and (mostly) helpless husband, but also to the deranged and struggling woman who steals it. Doreen, the street person who has, well, borrowed the coat from the waiting room at the hospital, is in many ways the whirling center of the play, and Debra Kirshenbaum gives her a vivid, gesticulatory, voluble warmth that is surprisingly attractive We come to share her ambiguous and guilty relationship to the coat, which serves not only to keep her, as she says, from “freezing her butt off,” but also stands in for lots of things she doesn’t have, including the baby that the coat’s owner, Beth, is about to have. … This is theatre doing what it’s supposed to do. – Russ Hunt. Russ Hunt Reviews.
The Morning Bird production sings. – Carolyn Van Der Veen. The Daily Gleaner
The Morning Bird was published in 2009 by Scirocco Drama.
Down From Heaven
In a world ruled by fear and class, what happens when an epidemic obliterates social order? “down from heaven” is an uneasy place, full of contradictions, horror and deep emotional beauty. As people fight for their survival, the concept of justice, civility and dignity becomes increasingly difficult to hang onto. The worm has turned. Heaven is a cautionary tale full of wonder and despair.
Set during a pandemic and food crisis, down from heaven explores the events that lead to the collapse of civil society, revealed through the lives of the wealthy Braumbach’s and their former gardener, Cheater; now a member of the Security and Surveillance Police. After going into voluntary quarantine the Braumbach’s become dependent on Cheater not only for information on the outside world, but for their very lives. Laurel Braumbach, their sixteen-year old daughter acts as go-between and enters the dark and convoluted world of Cheater, discovering in the process, startling revelations about herself, politics, and the man they have become dependent upon.
Down From Heaven premiered at Imago Théâtre, Montreal, Quebec in 2009 and was directed by Alain Goulem and starred Chip Chiupka, Bruce Dinsmore, Leni Parker and Amelia Sargisson.
Nominated for a MECCA award for best new play.
In her plays, Colleen Wagner has scavenged the sun-scorched plains of the Dust Bowl, confronted the desperation of parents with a terminally ill child and tackled the horrors of war. It is against these expansive, turbulent backdrops that her characters struggle to survive.
The theme of change via extreme circumstances also lies at the heart of Wagner’s new play “down from heaven”… The story follows the well-to-do Braumbach family, who are quarantined in the basement of their luxurious home. Outside, society teeters on the verge of collapse as a pandemic and food crisis rip apart the old order. – Brett Nooton. Montreal Hour. Sept 24-30 Vol. 17:38
“Colleen’s writing acutely evokes our contemporary world’s pulse and climate of seemingly perpetual catastrophes. In this post 9/11 era of heightened security, threatened ecology, impending pandemics and economic scandals, the mistrust of “others” has been heightened to an ominous frequency. down from heaven poignantly examines the paranoia and quest for delineation that our current condition fosters.” – Clare Schapiro, Artistic Director: Imago Théâtre
“I love the way Colleen is able to skewer the strata of society while still loving them,” says director Alain Goulem. The play explores in particular the world of the working class – who in Wagner’s story are in positions of power – and the human condition in a time of crisis. “I think that’s when we come to know ourselves most profoundly. We discover who we are,” she says.
Down from heaven was published in 2011 by Playwrights Canada Press.
Two families, four languages, one house.
Home is the story of an aging man, Toomas, exiled from his homeland, who through repatriation efforts, can now return and reclaim his home and property. However, fifty-five years have passed and the home has been inhabited by three women, who, though caught in the shifting tides of a new world of globalization, find themselves threatened with expulsion when Toomas and his son, Wendall, return to reclaim the land and house. The women who have lived in this adopted country and in this house for so long, feel suddenly rootless.
Home explores our deep connection to home, not just as place, but memory and language, our sense of identity. It explores rights and morality and the need to belong.
Home premiered at the Busstop Theatre, Halifax, NS, February 2010 and was directed by Mary Vingoe and starred John Beale, David Hughes, Sarah English, Mary-Colin Chisholm and Karen Bassett.
Playwright Colleen Wagner has created moments that I will long be thinking about; snapshots such as a line literally drawn between feuding cultures or a conversation conducted in two languages, yet entirely understood by the audience. I marvel at her ability to write primarily in English yet to give the flavour of several languages. But perhaps the message of the play is the ultimate reason to see it: Home may be where the heart is, but a heart will wither and die if it lives only in the past. –Kate Watson. The Coast Review
Beautifully written Home funny and sad
You can never go home again, or can you?
In Colleen Wagner’s new play, Home, an elderly Canadian man returns to the Estonian house where he was born. His parents fled the Russians 55 years ago but now the government is returning the house. There’s one hitch — three fierce Russian women are living there and they also call it home.
It’s a great conflict and Wagner mines it for all its thematic power in a beautifully written play that is intense, poetic and moving. The actors are very solid and the two-hour journey is at once funny, involving and sad. – Elissa Barnard. Chronical Herald
Home was published in 2014 by Scirocco Drama