Umbrella Spoke: "What inspires you?"

It's been almost five months since we've launched Umbrella Talk with playwrights from Canada and elsewhere on the one big umbrella blog. We've chatted with 18 playwrights and now have a rich collection of responses that are often witty, insightful and honest to the same 10 questions that we ask each playwright on Umbrella Talk. We thought it would be fitting to take this week and highlight some of the responses to one of those questions: "What inspires you?"

"Music and history are two of my muses." Mark Brownell

"I am inspired by overheard conversation on the bus, by my childhood, by the true stories of family and friends, by terrible boyfriends and passionate love affairs, by my daughter, by the utter stupidity of mankind, by the bizarre and the trifling, by minutae and by great ideas. And by the many wonderful talents that have come before me. Luckily I was raised in the UK and I am inspired every day by the amazing sense of humour that exists there. Everyone you meet is funny, sarcastic, bitter, fantastic and truly inspiring!" Alex Dallas

"So many things. I am curious about Chinese history, but also how our world works, how people behave in different many things. My favourite work and inspiration comes when I care, when my heart yearns to tell the story. So things that do that." Marjorie Chan

"Courage. People rising up in the face of terrible odds. I’m a sucker for cheesy movies on this subject. Sometimes I cry. Whenever someone is shit on and doesn’t go down the tubes, that is inspiring. " Linda Griffiths

"Books, art, actors in rehearsal. I like to make pilgrimages to the places historical figures in my plays lived, or see the artifacts of their daily lives. Relics and haunts are magical and profound to me - a painting, a street, a lock of hair - or a skull and the iron rod that passed through it - nothing will top that. Well, I almost licked the door frame of John Keats' bedroom, but was glad I didn't when I went downstairs to the gift shop and realized they had surveillance cameras. " Janet Munsil|

"Good writing. Good theatre. Good movies. Anything that has a ring of quality to it." Norm Foster

"In no particular order: music, books, newspapers, blogs, overheard conversations in restaurants, cashiers, waiters, shamen, killers, dentists, doctors, vets, dinner parties, fairytales, the Bible, hotel rooms, how people treat animals, mistakes, coincidences, bar fights, death, biology, birth, fanaticism, apathy, sugar, pipe fitters, bank tellers, greed, kindness, people's various concepts of "God", dreams, going to the gym, the faces of people on public transit, my family, misery, joy, autumn, teenagers, children over the age of 5, the elderly, people's search for romantic love, divorce, mid-level government workers, the search for meaning, my friends and being asked questions." Daniel MacIvor

"Everything inspires me but particularly non-fiction books - history, bio, ideas. Wikipedia. The news. I get very inspired by seeing particularly good theatre and particularly bad, movies good and bad... I get awfully inspired by going to art galleries. I think if I could have an alternate career it'd be as a painter. Travelling is inspiring. I sometimes wish things were less inspiring. It gets noisy in my head with all these plays clammering around wanting to be written." Stephen Massicotte

"Deadlines." Brendan Gall

"The stupidness of mankind. The need to be the storyteller. " Ben Noble

"Good stories, good wine, good friends, and Stephen Lewis." David Copelin


The anomaly.

Love." Jon Lachlan Stewart

"newfoundland. the people who live here. love." Robert Chafe

"People who have their act together, especially at a young age." Marcia Johnson

"People, mostly. What we do, what we don't; how wonderful we can be, and how horrible. I'm obsessed with our potential to be great and our constant failure to achieve it." Nicolas Billon

"Everything and everyone." Andrew Moodie

"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." Mark Leiren-Young

" Most forms of audacity. The company of brilliant people. The coming together of big ideas and big emotions. New and exciting directors. Vodka and Tonic. Red wine. And bold enterprises like one big umbrella." Justin Fleming

If you wish to read each playwright's entire Umbrella Talk, please click on their names on the right side of this blog or the label Umbrella Talk. If you are a playwright who has been produced a few times here in Canada or elsewhere and would also like to talk to us, please send us an e-mail to


lindsay said…
Awesome. I love hearing what inspires other writers. I did almost choke on my coffee at 'licking John Keats bedroom door frame' but only because I almost did something similar to Walt Whitman's pen in the Smithsonian...