Bryden MacDonaldBryden Thomas MacDonald, playwright, actor, director (b at Glace Bay, Cape Breton Island, NS 30 Oct 1960). Bryden MacDonald has spent much of his life dividing his time between Sydney, Nova Scotia and Montréal - a rural/urban split familiar to many East Coast Canadian writers. Not surprisingly, then, MacDonald's writing (and his personality) exudes a productively unstable tension between a raw and earthy physicality and a conspicuously self-conscious, urban (and urbane) sophistication. While frequently working with small Nova Scotian companies such as the Mulgrave Road Theatre (Guysborough) and FESTIVAL ANTIGONISH, MacDonald is equally familiar to audiences of the National Arts Centre and Montréal's Monument-National.
MacDonald is quick to identify this tension as a central preoccupation in much of his drama, as he charts the internal and external explorations of characters whose determination to "go home" is constantly frustrated by their clear-eyed understanding of their own perpetual dislocation. Thus, while MacDonald's work is often unconventional, his plays retain an East Coast (specifically Cape Breton) relevance and sensibility. Whale Riding Weather (1992, 1994) is a love story that focuses on Lyle, an older gay man in the process of losing his younger lover to another. Fascinated with the plight of a gay man in an environment that neither understands nor recognizes him, the play is poetic, reflective, and frank. When it premiered at the FACTORY THEATRE in Toronto it was shortlisted for the CHALMERS and the DORA awards. In 1994 it was shortlisted for the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD for drama, as well as for Vancouver's JESSIE Award. The Weekend Healer (1994, 1995) is a decidedly more intense play that takes aim at traditional family structures and expectations. The situation is a charged standoff between a woman and her mother, whom she is visiting in Cape Breton for the first time in 5 years. Following the disappearance of the woman's son, the play stages the rapid breakdown of relationships and behaviour patterns built on convention and avoidance.
Divinity Bash / nine lives (1998, 1999) marked MacDonald's departure into more experimental territory. An intentionally and overtly "non-linear theatrical experience," the play follows the lives of 9 urban misfits - individuals whose clear claim to place is based upon their utter sense of displacement. Petty thieves and drug addicts, transvestites and strippers, clothing store clerks and janitors - all are presented as equally valid and equally overwhelmed by the city's marginal (and marginalizing) toleration of their presence. Within a progressively absurd framework that bears the influences of Ionesco, Daly, and The Doors' Jim Morrison, the characters fragment and dissolve in what emerges as a simultaneous celebration and condemnation of the end of the 20th century.
Bryden MacDonald's creative output includes 5 short plays under the title of Resolutions for the End of Time as well as the full-length drama With Bated Breath, which received its world premiere at Montréal's CENTAUR THEATRE in 2009. With Bated Breath tells the story of Willy, "a troubled but charismatic gay kid who flees Cape Breton Island for Montreal with hopes of forgetting a newly broken heart." A tale of discovery and disappearance (in this case a literal "disappearance" into Montréal's red light district), the play continues MacDonald's consistent, if always inventive, preoccupation with the conflicting desires of breaking out and finding "home." With Bated Breath was nominated for 6 MECCA AWARDS, winning for best text, ensemble, lighting, sound, and set design.
Some of MacDonald's theatrical projects take the form of highly successful musical tributes to major Canadian singer-songwriters. These include interpretations of the words and music of Leonard COHEN (Sincerely, A Friend, 1991), Carol Pope/ROUGH TRADE (Shaking the Foundations, 1999) and Joni MITCHELL (When All the Slaves Are Free, 2003).
Bryden MacDonald teaches at THE NATIONAL THEATRE SCHOOL OF CANADA (NTS) in Montréal and has conducted workshops for numerous arts organizations across the country. He has been artist-in-residence at the NTS, Factory Theatre, Playwrights' Workshop Montreal, Mulgrave Road Theatre (Antigonish), and NEPTUNE THEATRE (Halifax). He regularly leads workshops in writing and directing with organizations such as the Quebec Writers' Federation and Quebec Drama Federation. In 2009 Bryden MacDonald became playwright-in-residence at the STRATFORD FESTIVAL.