Ann-Marie MacDonald | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Ann-Marie MacDonald

Ann-Marie MacDonald, playwright, actor, novelist, (born at Baden-Baden, West Germany 29 Oct 1958).
MacDonald, Ann-Marie
Playwright, actor and novelist Ann-Marie MacDonald (photo by Gabor Jurina).

Ann-Marie MacDonald, playwright, actor, novelist, (born at Baden-Baden, West Germany 29 Oct 1958). Until she was five, Ann-Marie MacDonald lived on the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Baden-Baden; but she considered her real home to be Nova Scotia, where both her parents had been born - her father to a family of Scottish heritage in New Waterford, and her mother to a family of Lebanese heritage in Sydney. MacDonald would later draw on this unusual family background for her novel Fall on Your Knees.

MacDonald's first career was in acting. She graduated from the National Theatre School in 1980, then became a popular performer in Toronto theatre, where she was widely admired in such roles as Maria in Twelfth Night for Theatre Columbus and Rosalind in As You Like It for the Canadian Stage Company. She also appeared in several films, including I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987), for which she won a Genie Award and Where the Spirit Lives (1989), for which she won a Gemini Award. She has appeared in episodes of many TV series, among them The L Word and Slings and Arrows. She was the host of CBC television's Life and Times and began hosting Doc Zone in 2008. For Soulpepper Theatre she played Pope Joan in Top Girls (2007-08).

In 1985 MacDonald's first work as a playwright emerged in a feminist collective creation, This Is for You, Anna, and a comedy, Clue in the Fast Lane, written with Beverly Cooper. In 1988 came her first play as sole author, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), a witty post-modernist comedy about a young female professor who enters and alters the patriarchal worlds of Shakespeare's tragedies. The play won a Governor General's Literary Award for Drama and a Chalmers Award, and has been produced more than 50 times, including a 2001 production at Canadian Stage Company where MacDonald herself played the lead. Subsequent dramatic work has included a black comedy about eugenics set in late-19th-century Scotland, The Arab's Mouth (1990); a libretto for a chamber opera, Nigredo Hotel (1992); another collective, The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls (1995); and book and lyrics for a musical, Anything that Moves (2000), which won a Dora Award.

Wider public recognition came to MacDonald with the publication of her first novel, Fall on Your Knees (1996). This richly plotted family story, by turns dark and amusing, won extensive critical praise and several awards, including the Commonwealth Prize (1997). The book became an international bestseller when it was the second Canadian novel chosen for Oprah Winfrey's Book Club in 2002. MacDonald's second novel, The Way the Crow Flies (2003), proved to be a still more remarkable literary achievement. It begins by recapturing in meticulous detail the thoughts and sensations of a young girl and her family as they live through a series of alarming events while stationed on an air force base in Canada during the Cuban missile crisis, then traces the consequences of these events through their later lives. The book was nominated for the Giller Prize in 2003. In 2004 the Libris Awards honoured The Way the Crow Flies as the Fiction Book of the Year.

See also Canadian Literature.

Selected Works of
Ann-Marie MacDonald