Umbrella Talk with playwright Mark Leiren-Young

Welcome to our second Umbrella Talk with Canadian playwright Mark Leiren-Young. In the past five years, we've been pursuing to produce Mark's extraordinary play Shylock, which deals with the questions surrounding the perceived anti-semetic themes in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. This week, Mark talks to us here on our blog. He tells us what he's addicted to at the bar on opening night; what charcoal, crayons and lipstick might have in common with his plays; and how his experience as a reviewer helps him deal with praise and criticism.

A little bit about Mark Leiren-Young

Mark Leiren-Young has written for theatre, film and tv and leading magazines such as Time and Maclean's. Selected plays include Shylock, Articles of Faith, Easy Money and Dim Sum Diaries. Mark recently wrote and directed the feature film The Green Chain, which will be coming to a theatre near you this fall.

His new Local Anxiety comedy CD - Greenpieces -- is also being released this Fall.

Mark’s humourous memoir, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen -- Adventures of a Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo is being released by Heritage House this Fall.

For more on Mark and his work, visit his website at .

Umbrella Talk with Mark Leiren-Young

What do you drink on opening night?

My addiction is Coca Cola. The real thing... and when it's time for an opening I'm not goin' near none of that Coke Zero, Diet Coke stuff.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?

My dream director? Orson Welles... Living director... If I wrote the right piece I think it'd be a blast to play with Blake Brooker. Heck, if I wrote the wrong piece I think it'd be cool to work with Blake. I'm always inspired by his work. All time favourite director/mentor, John Juliani.

What scares you? What can't you write about?

I'm not a big fan of heights :)

I'm not sure there's anything I can't write about, just stuff I haven't written about yet.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?

Too many things to mention and I worry that if I do mention them in an interview I'll never write them. I've got a "to do" list that includes at least a half dozen plays I'd love to write.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)

I hope it'd be a comedy.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?

Having been a reviewer it's tough to take reviews seriously except in terms of how they're going to impact on ticket sales. I used to think anyone who said they didn't read their reviews was full of it. So I'm sure some people will assume I'm full of it when I say that I no longer read every review of my work.

Where would you like your work to be produced?

Everywhere! Okay... If you want me to be more specific I'd love to see Shylock done in New York and at the two Stratfords... But only with the right actor. Ditto my new play Yorick...

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?

When inspiration hits I'll write with charcoal, lipstick or crayon if I have to. But to seriously work on a project its gotta be my laptop...

What would you like academics to write about your work/play in 50 years?

How much they enjoyed the production of it they saw the night before...

What inspires you?

Life. People. The news. A lot of my writing tends to be inspired by something that really pisses me off or stories I think people should be talking/thinking about... But I write different pieces for all sorts of different reasons.

Thanks for reading this week's Umbrella Talk with playwright Mark Leiren-Young. On our next Umbrella Talk, we chat with Canadian playwright Andrew Moodie. If you are a playwright and want to talk with us, please e-mail us at