Sharon Pollock regards writing a play as an opportunity to reject the world as it is and to recreate it, as well as chance to explore the bad decisions that people make and what happens when things spin out of control.
The future two-time Governor General’s Award winner and force of nature within the city’s and Canada’s drama scene penned her first play in Calgary in the late 1960s.
In her early thirties at the time, Sharon had already experienced a great deal of drama in her own life, both literal and figurative. Her mother had committed suicide when Sharon was 18, she had endured a multi-year abusive relationship with her first husband before fleeing with her five young children. Tragically losing her mother at 18 and experiencing an abusive first marriage were early struggles for the artist, but she persevered. Sharon remarried and travelled across the country from her hometown of Fredericton, NB to Calgary. Throughout it all, she had been involved in theatre as an actor and director. Now she picked up the pen, driven by her desire to bring Canadian voices and Canadian stories to the stage.
“I wanted other actors to stand up and say my words, to speak directly through an experience I shared with those other Albertans and Canadians,” she said.
The scant income from theatre made for a precarious existence for Sharon and her family, but she was unfazed by it and continued writing, creating dozens works, many of which are now classics of Canadian theatre. “Financial insecurity goes with being a freelance artist,” she says. “My independence has always been more important to me than financial security.”
Five decades on, the challenge of balancing family life and her career has eased from the hardscrabble days of the late 60s and early 70s, but the artistic challenge continues to burn bright in her own work and as she mentors up and coming playwrights.
“Theatre is a political act,” Sharon says, of her lifelong effort to propel Canadian theatre from entertainment to art. “It needs to be relevant as well as engaging and entertaining.”