June 1981. Farmers face a debt crisis, with interest rates as high as 24%. More than 300 men are arrested after police sweeps of Toronto bathhouses, yet Pride Toronto launches its first Gay Pride day. Everything’s changing, including fifteen-year-old Esther, who escapes the family farm and runs away to the city. With the help of a brash young hustler and a gay activist who shelters street kids, she confronts her conservative-Christian parents—farmers on the brink of financial ruin—and begins to find her way home. Acclaimed playwright Leanna Brodie excels with this heartwarming coming-of-age, and coming-out, drama.
Cast size: 2F/3M
"Like The Vic, Leanna Brodie’s play The Book of Esther is filled with tenderness, heart, and humour. It is also an eloquent plea for understanding. It posits that people who feel they are very much on the opposite ends of the belief spectrum can learn to understand human difference." – Sky Gilbert, playwright and founder of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
"Whether or not one agrees with the opinions of the characters is beside the point. Brodie is exploring the possibility of a Canada where the embattled farmer, the gay urbanite, and runaway teenagers can find themselves in this mosaic of ours, through mutual respect …" —Dr. Lloyd Arnett, Trinity Western University
"...serious themes... snappy dialogue ... a clever and well-crafted play that deserves a long shelf life." – Paula Citron, The Globe and Mail
Blyth Festival, 2010. Directed by Leah Cherniak. Set and costumes by Victoria Wallace, lighting by Rebecca Picherack. Photography by Terry Manzo.
Leanna Brodie, Abigail Fernandes
Festival Players of Prince Edward County, 2011. Directed by Brad Rudy, set and lights by Glenn Davidson, costumes by Jennifer Triemstra-Johnson. Photography by Michael Grills.
The time: 1938. The place: S.S. #1 Jericho School, a one-room schoolhouse in a farming area just outside the fictional village of Baker’s Creek. There, a delightful but unmanageable group of children finally meets its match—Melita Linton, an 18-year-old teacher fresh out of Normal School. But Miss Linton soon faces her own challenge in the form of Ewart, a menacing and mysterious juvenile delinquent sent to “straighten out” on a farm after doing time in Battenville Training School. The play chronicles Miss Linton’s struggle to connect with a boy cut off from everyone, including himself—and to persuade a cautious and close-knit community to open its arms to this stranger in their midst.
Full of warmth and poignant humour, Schoolhouse evokes a way of life shared by generations of rural North Americans, while exploring timeless themes of exclusion, of compassion, of damage, of hope.
With its flexible cast of 10 or more (two dozen speaking roles can be performed by a mix of adults and children, or by adults doubling as children), Schoolhouse has been embraced by school and community groups across Canada as well as by professional theatres. It remains Brodie's most produced play.
Cast size: 10+, FLEXIBLE. • In some productions of the play, actors of all ages portay the children, and then double as their own parents. The minimum number of performers in this scenario is 10. • In other productions, 7 children (ages 5-17) play the students, while a minimum of 6 adult actors (3F/3M) play all the other characters. • Age, gender, ethnicity, and disability are particularly flexible in this play.
"Under the (quite-skilled) storytelling, the play is an exuberantly theatrical and moving tribute to the schoolhouse itself, filled with memories and local details distilled from Brodie’s extensive interviews with former teachers and students who shared the experience of the one-room school." – Canadian Literature
“A thoughtful … well crafted … beautifully inspired piece. Like the Blyth Festival, Schoolhouse is a Canadian story. It is an excellent choice to mark the theatre’s 100th milestone, compelling and richly rural.” – The Citizen
"A moving piece that brought the audience to its feet." – The Ottawa Citizen
"A thoughtful … well crafted … beautifully inspired piece. Like Blyth Festival, Schoolhouse is a Canadian story. It is an excellent choice to mark the theatre's 100th milestone." — The Blyth Citizen
"Playwright Brodie has penned an inspiring, metaphoric work that deals with issues of rejection, isolation, compassion and hope." — The Sault Star
"Its appeal proved enchanting, not only to those who remember the one-room schoolhouse, but to all who have attended this vibrant production." – The Valley Gazette
"Leanna Brodie’s rollicking Schoolhouse may be new to the Blyth Festival, but it is clearly already an audience favourite." – Clinton News-Record
Directed by Kim Blackwell. Costumes by Angela Thomas. Photography by Wayne Eardley.
Festival Players of Prince Edward County (2009)
Directed by Jennifer Brewin, with Christine Brubaker as Miss Linton. Set design by Glenn Davidson, and costumes by Jennifer Triemstra-Johnson. Photography by Michael Grills.
For Home and Country
When prickly urbanite Judy inherits her Aunt Kate’s little farm, it seems like the perfect time to change everything: to raise her two young daughters in the fresh country air; to hide away from anything connected with her soon-to-be-ex-husband; and most of all, to be alone. Then she meets Lorna.
Lorna, a lifelong local resident (and local historian), reaches out to Judy by introducing her to the story of her beloved Women’s Institute. As the pages of Lorna’s community history come alive, she spins wonderful tales of women pulling together and beating the odds. But when Judy is finally ready to take a chance on other people again, she discovers that Lorna’s enchanted world is not quite what it seemed: and that finding her place in it is going to be more difficult than either of them imagined.
Founded in Stoney Creek, Ontario in 1897, the Women’s Institute helped lay the foundations of the modern feminist movement. From their humble beginnings, Women’s Institutes spread across Canada and around the world. At their height of popularity, Ontario could boast 1,449 branches with more than 47,000 members; Canadian membership climbed to 87,000 by 1953.
For Home and Country is Leanna Brodie’s reclaiming of this unsung and fascinating piece of herstory: It's also a joyful homage to some great Canadian classics of collectively created, populist theatre— from Paper Wheat to The Farm Show —with their emphasis on lives that had not previously been considered worthy of being celebrated on stage.
Cast size: The minimum size is 7F/1M/2 children with doubling. There are many speaking roles, and a chorus of women who can also play multiple characters if desired, so the play can be scaled up if needed.
"Ms Brodie ties together the history of the organization with a compelling tale of two women trying to bridge a generation gap. The play works on two levels: it is a tongue-in-cheek history of the Women's Institute and a tale of a dynamic relationship between two very different women. Somehow, neither story drowns the other out... This isn't so much a play about empowerment as it is about bonding. And that's its strength." – The Peterborough Examiner
Directed by Robert Winslow, set by David Skelton, costumes by Angela Thomas and Kim Dooley, sets and props by Samantha Turnbull. Photography by Wayne Eardley.
A young woman has disappeared at the edge of the city. Four women are drawn into the race to find her. As we watch them grid-search the fields for traces of her passing, we move through the shattering events of their recent lives that have left them as lost as she is. Mentor and protégé, lovers and sisters, they explore one burning question: who’s got the power, and what is s/he going to do with it?
Cast size: 8F
"Leanna Brodie has made a promising debut, and her best work here shows real talent." – The Toronto Star
"The drama follows four different yet related storylines involving eight women and explores the concepts of the victim, victimization and power dynamics... While the messages are somber, there are moments of humour and the overall tone is uplifting."– Halifax Chronicle-Herald
"A good play crawls under your skin and leaves you uncomfortably alive with possibility. The Vic does all this and adds an itch you don't want to stop scratching." – Review Vancouver
At the Women's Institute Cairn on the Georgian Bluffs.
Leanna Brodie is an actor, playwright, and translator. Plays: The Vic, For Home and Country, The Book of Esther, and Schoolhouse, published by Talon Books,are regularly performed across Canada. Opera libretti: David Ogborn's The Translator, Craig Galbraith's she sees her lover in the light of morning (Tapestry), and the New Zealand composer Anthony Young's The Angle of Reflection (Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra). Their Flourish Prize-winning Ulla’s Odyssey premiered at Kings Place, London in 2015 (OperaUpClose), and is currently touring the UK. Translations: Louise Bombardier, Rébecca Déraspe, Sébastien Harrisson, Catherine Léger, Philippe Soldevila, Larry Tremblay, and Hélène Ducharme of Théâtre Motus (whose acclaimed, Dora Award-winning Baobab continues to tour North America after over 550 performances). Residencies: Blyth Festival, 4th Line Theatre, Lighthouse Festival Theatre. Since moving to Vancouver, Brodie has written for Boca del Lupo; translated Christian Bégin's After Me for Ruby Slippers Theatre (5 Jessie Award nominations including Best Production); and been Jessie-nominated for her performance in Pi Theatre's Terminus. She is the only Canadian to have been invited to Seattle's Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival (twice), and was recently part of the Banff Playwrights Colony. She is currently translating Olivier Sylvestre's La Beauté du monde for Pi Theatre, and is one of the Associates of Vancouver's Playwrights Theatre Centre, where she and Jovanni Sy are collaborating on a new play, Salesman in China. Two of her translations will receive their premieres in the 2017-18 season: Rébecca Déraspe's You Are Happyat GCTC (Ottawa), and Catherine Léger's I Lost My Husband at the Gateway Theatre (Vancouver).
Leanna is a member of CAEA, ACTRA, SOCAN, and the Playwrights' Guild of Canada. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Playwrights Canada Press, and on the Women's Caucus Steering Committee for the Playwrights' Guild of Canada.