Theatre people aren’t the only ones interested in plays, I’ve discovered. Academics are as well.
There exists an academic organization in the United States called the American Council for Québec Studies (ACQS), which publishes academic papers and hosts conferences on a wide range of topics relating to Québec. At its most recent conference, held in Montreal, there were two sessions held on the subject of “Québec Jewish Theatre.” I was invited to be one of the panelists, both as someone who grew up in Montreal even though I no longer live there, and as a playwright who has now written about the early history of Jews living in the province with my play about Ezekiel Hart. I also had the chance to participate in a separate session devoted to “Queer Performances, Inspirations and Sources,” which featured a number of presentations, including a staged reading of The Book of Daniel, a short play set in Montreal in the 1970s and is arguably shaped by the attitudes to homosexuality of the time.
What was interesting to me in the context of this conference, which had countless other sessions on countless other (non-theatre) topics, was the opportunity to hear and learn from people without a theatre background. What’s their take on the work we do? What resonates with them? What connections do they make? Since most of those present for the sessions I was involved with were academics, it fell quite naturally to them to look for meaning in a very different mode from that of the theatre artist. I left the conference feeling a bit more able to take a step back and consider my work (or the work of my colleagues) from other perspectives, and I hope that this will enrich my approach to my work in the future.