How/Where did you first get the idea to write this play? Or, how did you first learn of Anne Lister and the coded diaries? I wanted to write a play about a historical woman and found out about Anne Lister through my initial research. I wanted to write a play that could be performed by myself and my friends that would be filled with juicy, dramatic, and funny performances. At the time when I first started writing, my collaborator Franziska Glen and I were starting to dream about creating a theatre company together, which became Gale Force Theatre. I've always loved costume dramas but their lack of critical context or perspective, or if I'm being honest...girls kissing, felt like an opening for me to play with the form.

How long have you been working on it? It took four years to get from the initial idea to our first full production at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax last Fall. It's been on and off! I've gotten a lot of support through Playwright Atlantic Resource Centre (PARC) and Eastern Front Theatre's Emerging Playwrights Unit. There've been lots of COVID related delays.

Was anything particularly challenging in writing Crypthand? So many things! I had never written a play before. I was so scared to even try. I had never had to think about a single project or story for that long. I don't think I knew how hard that would be.

Was there any character who stood out as the most fun/difficult to write? I knew that I would need support to write the character of Eliza as she's from a different cultural background than myself. I ended up working with the incredible playwright/performer/dramaturg/cultural consultant, Anita Majumdar. It was an amazing experience. Anita provided invaluable historical research and brought her deep cultural knowledge to the work. We spent about a year on and off working on developing Eliza's character. Eliza Raine was Anne Lister's first girlfriend and born in Madras, India in 1805 to a Tamil mother and a British father. She came to England as a child. We also got to work with Suba Sankaran, an amazing musician who's provided support to Oksana Sirju and Mara Teare who have both played Eliza in our productions and have supported them in their performance singing in Tamil.

Who are some of your favourite playwrights/authors? Oof--so hard, so many! I love Ruth Ozeki, Sue Goyette, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Lauren Groff, Maggie Nelson, adrienne maree brown, Sarah Ruhl, Miriam Toews, Lynda Barry, Don McKay...

Is there a play or book you feel is underappreciated or undervalued? I would love to see more playwrights from the Maritimes get opportunities to show their pieces across Canada. It's very rare to get a second production and I feel so lucky that Ship's Company Theatre wanted to bring Crypthand into their season. There's so much talent here that the rest of the country deserves to see!

How long have you been writing? I've been writing stories since I was a kid and I wrote very silly Christmas pageants when I was a teenager. But Crypthand is my first full-length play!

What is the best or worst writing advice you've gotten? I have a little cue card above my desk that has the quote from Mary Oliver: "Attention is the beginning of devotion." I'm often very distracted! I try to remember what I wish to be devoted to.

Do you have a preferred genre for your writing, or any genre you hope to try writing? I'm currently working on a collection of poetry for two-voices geared towards kids.

Coffee or tea?


January 15, 2024 — Vonda Hazzard

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