Umbrella Talk with playwright Mark Brownell

Welcome to this week's Umbrella Talk with playwright Mark Brownell. Mark tells us why he doesn't write about personal family stuff; why he's not immune to both criticism and praise; and what two muses inspires him.

A little more on Mark Brownell

Mark Brownell is a Toronto-based playwright and co-artistic director of the Pea Green Theatre Group with his wife and partner Sue Miner. Awards: Nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award for his play, Monsieur d'Eon. He also received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for his libretto Iron Road and a Dora Mavor Moore Award Nomination for Medici Slot Machine. Other work includes The Barbecue King, The Martha Stewart Projects, Playballs, High Sticking - Three Period Plays, The Chevalier St. George, The Storyteller’s Bag and The Weaving Maiden.

Umbrella Talk with Mark Brownell

What do you drink on opening night?

I usually hide behind a bottle of Stella.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Sue Miner has always been my coolest director. If she were to finally come to her senses and leave me then I would love to work with Robert Lepage.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper scares me. But I’m not afraid to write about what a douche bag he is. I never write about personal family stuff. I've seen a few writers dig a little too deeply into their personal lives with embarrassing results.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Well, I have this really cool new idea for an opera that's set in…oh wait. I see what you are doing. Nice try.

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

It would probably be one of those dreary kitchen-sink Canadian dramas where characters break out of their naturalistic environment to deliver earnest, exposition-stuffed monologues directly to the audience. And if that were the case then I would walk out of my own life play well before intermission.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Both are ego traps. Too many Canadian artists look to others for approval. It's pathetic and I am not immune to it. With regard to criticism I believe John Gielgud put it best: "A bad review can spoil your breakfast, but you should never let it spoil your lunch."

Where would you like your work to be produced?
In the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
I write in a quiet little closet that is not in my house. I use a desktop PC. Laptops drive me crazy. If you ever see me using one in a Starbucks please shoot me on the spot.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I'll just be happy if they spell my name right.

What inspires you?
Music and history are two of my muses.

Thank-you again for reading Umbrella Talk here on our blog. We invite you to revisit our past Umbrella Talks with playwrights such as Marjorie Chan, Linda Griffiths, Norm Foster, Daniel MacIvor, Janet Munsil, Justin Fleming, Brendan Gall, Mark Leiren-Young, and many more who have talked to us here since July. If you are a playwright who has been produced a few times here in Canada, or eleswhere, and would like to talk to us too, please send us an e-mail to Please also join our blog network on facebook at