Goodnight, Desdemona (Good morning, Juliet)

The 1982 Theatre Company was on the last leg of its tour from England, performing at Harbourfront in Toronto. I didn’t know what I would do next – go back to England? Stay in Toronto? As we packed up the set, a stranger approached me. She was transported by our production and wanted to know how we’d done it. Her name was Ann-Marie MacDonald, and she’d recently graduated from the National Theatre School. 

In the time that followed, we forged a tight artistic bond. I invited her into the collective for This is for You, Anna; she was on stage in Smoke Damage and Boom, Baby, Boom, and she wrote the libretto for Nigredo Hotel. 

We were touring across Canada with This is for You, Anna. It was bedtime in some motel and Ann-Marie made a Shakespearean joke. She pressed a pillow to Maureen’s face and said “Goodnight, Desdemona.” 

“That’s going to be the title of the play you write, Ann-Marie,” I said. 

 And it was. That joke grew into a play that launched Ann-Marie’s career.

Goodnight, Desdemona (Good morning, Juliet) is a comedy about Constance, an academic who dives into her unconscious mind and turns two of Shakespeare's tragedies into comedies.

It was Ann-Marie’s first solo flight as a writer, and it was my directorial debut. I directed the premiere production for Nightwood in 1988. The rehearsals were not auspicious. All the company could afford was a dreary space with a big window through which we could observe a rat family. Someone’s father was dying, someone else had to wear a neck brace, and the lines were changed so many times that on opening night Tanja Jacobs lost her way and had to ask for the line from the stage manager in the middle of the show. Never mind. The show was a hit. 

Nightwood brought it back the next season and then produced a tour across Canada. We honed the jokes along the way and Desdemona was a sell-out success. It’s been directed by many others in the meantime, but I’m very proud of having been the first dramaturge and director. 

The play was designed by Sue Lepage with music by Nic Gotham. 

The photo is of Tanja Jacobs playing Constance.