An American Playwright in Canada (Post 2016 Election)

I meant to share this article, my latest contribution to HowlRound, a few weeks ago.

An American Playwright in Canada

It’s the first of a three part series about new play development in the United States and Canada. I straddle the border in many ways, and often wonder what it’s “really like” for artists on both sides.

I know where I’m supposed to be right now–here in Toronto, making connections, creating–but it’s hard to gauge from the constant complaints about “well, in the States they do this for new play development…” and then “but they have funding and government support for the arts in Canada! Why are they complaining?”

So I decided to ask two people even more immersed in new play development to weigh in for the next two installments. Stay tuned!

Somehow in the spin of getting the second installment up and running, I’ve let it slip away to the bottom of my to-do list.

And then the election happened.

So much has been said, so much will be said. Anger, hate, miscommunication, false information–it’s running rampant.

I feel like I should contribute my voice this time, but I don’t know what to say.

It’s odd being in Canada right now, still in flux as to whether I’ll get permanent residency. It’s scary to really feel like the place I come from is now dangerous, unwelcoming. It started this summer with all the shootings and violence, continued with the primaries, and is just spewing negative energy and actions into the universe right now.

No longer the refuge and safe space that home is supposed to be, America is my origin but at this moment, it is not my home.

A friend from Rice put this on my wall a year ago:


It’s even more true today. Don’t look to Canada to escape. Only come here if it’s where you need to be.

As I said in my article: the grass always looks greener elsewhere. It’s not that simple.

The people I’m proud of are the family, friends, and acquaintances working to create positive change NOW. Whether that means donating to organizations to protect the rights of everyone in the United States, writing to their representatives to voice their growing concerns, or sponsoring a bipartisan group hug (Go Rice Owls!!!).

I super respect the comments made by the Hamilton cast. They were respectful, but acknowledged the feelings of many Americans at the prospect of the new federal administration. I always knew the theatre was where it’s at!

Yelling and screaming to tell someone that their way of thinking is flat out wrong has never seemed effective to persuade anyone, at least not in my experience. Check out the NPR episode “Flip the Script” of Invisibilia for some pretty stark examples of how this works.

I’m trying to figure out now how best I can foster conversation and work to create the world I want to live in. I can’t control everything, but the small slice of the universe I do control will be welcoming, peaceful, optimistic, proactive, and supportive of others who want the same.


(or this other xkcd comic that I found today, of course)



About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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