Head in a Bag

As luck would have it, I saw the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. I hammered at it with my own two hands. Two years later, in the spring of 1991, I was directing a play in Latvia while the country defied the Soviet regime. That fall I trekked through Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania, marking the price of bananas, a fruit that used to be a rarity, noting the debris of a falling empire.

Head in a Bag is my response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of the Soviet Union. Part One is the true story of Igor Gouzenko, the Soviet spy who defected to Canada in 1945 and who claimed that he began the Cold War. (At the time of his defection, Gouzenko appeared on television with his head covered by a white bag.) Part Two is a series of harshly comic scenes set in the post-Soviet shambles, inspired by the events of 1989-1991, and performed by a cast of corpses.

I directed the premiere in 1992, at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. 

Part Two: Stone Age was published in Inter-plays: Works and Words of Writers and Critics, eds. Rolf Althof et al., Breakwater, St. John's, 1994.  An excerpt from Head in a Bag was published in Taking the Stage: Selections from Plays by Canadian Women, Playwrights Canada Press, Toronto,1994. The full script was published by Exile Editions, Toronto, 1995.


NICOLAE and ELENA CEAUCESCU lie on the ground, wearing winter coats, looking up at the sky. Gunshots in their chests and heads. They are covered in light snow.

ELENA:   You shoulda bribed the driver.  You shoulda bribed the pilot and the driver. You shoulda promised them something better.

NICOLAE:  What what what better to promise I promised!  Ten thousand Swiss francs isn't that enough?

ELENA:  You shoulda promised them something better, all the butter they can eat, exit visas for their second cousins, a year's supply of sausages, something to stop them thinking for one split second of the one thing they are thinking about all the time which is how to stab us in the back, stab us in the back, stab us, stab us, stab us in the back.

NICOLAE:  Well, now we're stabbed. 

Photo by Dina Almeida

Photo by Dina Almeida

Photo by Dina Almeida

Photo by Dina Almeida

Book cover

Donald Adams and Diana Fajrajsl as the dead Ceaucescus. Photo by Dina Almeida