I was sitting nervously in the department’s library before the encounter with most important person of my life so far; I upped my head on every entrance while struggling hard to remember the interview questions and to recollect myself so I would not seem like an overtly zealous fan of hers (even though that is what I am) who attacks with completely lay questions.
When she finally entered the room her charisma filled the place instantly; the only thing bringing me back to earth from this delirium being her firm handshake, large smile and introduction: “Sharon Pollock, nice to meet you!”
The self-acclaimed nonconformist playwright, director, actor, teacher and the winner of the prestigious Governor General’s Award, Sharon Pollock is the contemporary Canadian theatrical scene’s pride and joy. As a socially committed playwright she has consistently focused on ethical and historical enigmas that eventually led to individual choices resulting in personal and social disasters: Major Walsh's denial of the right of Sitting Bull's people to remain in Canada, the Canadian government's rejection of Punjabi refugees in The Komagata Maru Incident are just a couple of her plays that embrace the core problematic of her literary legacy.
On the 20 April she paid her very first Romanian visit to the English Department of the Partium Christian University, held an unforgettable lecture and attended the English TDK session as well. Sharon Pollock is hardly a conventional playwright, she demystifies the stereotypes related to dramatists in one moment; one would expect someone of her caliber to be reserved, eloquent and “untouchable”. Instead she is loud speaking, down to earth and oozes contagious life-affirmation. As the privileged one I had the chance to have a nice chat with her (yes, chat, as it cannot possibly be called a strict interview) on sources of inspiration, theatre, current pursuits and forthcoming plans.
Firstly I enquired about Miss Pollock’s art, primary sources of inspiration and certain aspects that she focuses on. “I love to read and I love history”-she confessed, whenever she finds an interesting topic she starts researching and digs up the truth, but most importantly she writes from her own perspective, especially when it comes to history, of which everybody has a different opinion. She also mentioned that the fact that she initially started out as an actress in a small theatrical group enabled her to have a taste of every kind of theatre related activity. She managed to act, direct and to write: “Playwrights usually graduate with a lot of theoretical knowledge. Being an Actress made it easier for me to write because I knew the practical side of writing.”
My next question was understandable; on the apropos of the play Blood Relations, which nurtures some serious feminist agenda I intrigued whether Sharon Pollock considers herself a feminist playwright or not? Interestingly enough the answer was negative, moreover she added that until Blood Relations she avoided female protagonists in her early plays; as she has explained, she could not refrain from judging them, and she is “a great believer in not judging her characters”, but Pollock also mentioned that a few years later did she realize that the character of Lizzie represented nobody else but herself. Sharon Pollock is widely known in Canada for writing the so called radio dramas. “I used to write radio dramas, but not anymore” she said; why? The answer is simple, even though they paid well, the amount of time dedicated to such a radio drama was minuscule compared to a one evening long show in a theatre. Limiting herself to writing only a few minutes long drama where the story cannot be expanded properly and the visual experience is lacking as well is not an option for a nonconformist individual, like Sharon Pollock.
As an outsider I could not miss the chance to find out about the current situation of Canadian theatre and about the forthcoming playwright generations. After this question a brief pause followed…. She concluded that without a doubt regional theatres like …… are the most frequented, but minorities are represented too, so is not difficult to find feminist or even Polish plays on show. Regarding the new generations she mentioned her contract signed, according to which she reads plays from young dramatists: “Some of them are good, some of them not….I read forty plays this month and I said to myself that’s too much (laughter)”; although there are many gifted youngsters, Pollock is absolutely sure that the production of their plays will be difficult; she also defied that on her next project she will work with Igor, an aspiring and hard working Ukrainian talent.
After tuckering out these serious topics I got the chance to ask some questions related to the private side of being Sharon Pollock. As I enquired about what it’s like to be a dramatist, director, and actress this time I was curious on how does it feel to be the part of the audience and to see a really bad production of one of her plays. Pollock answered with stoical patience claiming that essentially the problem is not with the production, but with the directors’ view; he or she is unable to fully comprehend the message that the play conveys. On the apropos she added that she is a bit anxious, as her next play will premier in May and she has not yet managed to see the rehearsal of it and to discuss with the director; according to her working with male directors is much better, as “ you can be straightforward with them, which thing eases the process”.
Her answer given to my last question characterizes her best; her easygoing attitude and relaxed way of perceiving the world make her an outstanding figure. In retrospective, would you change anything in your career, did you have enough time to your family? “No, I wouldn’t… my children would not be who they are today without theatre”. Then she adds with a large Pollockean smile “if I had not done so many things I would have had more time to make cookies.”
ENGLISH MAJORS MAGAZINE OF PARTIUN CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY
VOLUME 5 – ISSUES 2 AND 3 APRIL, MAY 2007