Published on January 31st, 2013 | by Biz Books

The Biz Interview: Lucia Frangione – Writer and Co-Star of Leave of Absence

Lucia Frangione is the writer of Pacific Theatre’s current production, Leave of Absence, as well as a co-star. She spoke to us about her specific inspirations for writing the play and her challenges as an actor.

What were the elements that drew you to write this play?

This play is my love letter to the kids and young adults who wrote me after Espresso, looking for a compassionate voice to tell them they weren’t shameful, they weren’t disordered, they shouldn’t die for being a sexual being that didn’t fit neatly into the “straight” jacket. I realized addressing the huge issue of bigotry towards homosexuality (be it cultural or religious) was absent from my work. Like most people I suspect, I did not feel qualified to have the conversation. But I am realizing the lack of action is a lack of love. Time to love. Children are dying. Artistically, I wanted to put this conversation into a world full of provocative unexpected humorous flawed and gorgeous souls.

Can you share some of your creative process in writing a play, from the initial idea to opening night?

I met a priest through Michael Kopsa named Rob Repicky: a beautiful articulate immensely intelligent and compassionate man who worked at the Newman Centre: a very progressive Roman Catholic community in Toronto. He took a leave of absence and did a pilgrimage to Spain. He walked the Camino to Santiago and shared his journal with me. So, he became Father Ryan. I was doing A Streetcar Named Desire with Craig Erickson at the time and he said “Cia, write me a part in a play.” I said “What do you want to be?” He said “A boxer.” And that is how the character of Leap was born. Blake is a fifteen year old girl who is right out of a page of my own journal at that age. Many of her poems are mine, many of her experiences are right out of my high school. I had a “best friend” like Tracy and my Mom did do handwriting analysis and so forth, haha. Greta started off being a real ball breaker based on a woman I knew and I could not STAND the way she treated men and I had to exorcise my frustration with her by making fun of her in a play. As you can well imagine, that just made for shitty art. So… I changed Greta into someone much more like myself, exposing the most moronic of all my behaviours. It’s embarrassing, but ultimately I suppose I hope to learn something. Finally, I created Martha as the main antagonist. She was the hardest for me to write. I didn’t want to give her a reasonable voice because in real life, I don’t agree with her. But I worked very hard to love her and now I do and she has immense humour, love, wise and sensual things about her spirit and some arguments that I just don’t have the answer to. That’s risky theatre to write but the most exciting, ultimately. Do any of us think we’re doing harm to children? Most of us act out of love. And sometimes we just frankly screw up.

Are there any books or specific authors that have been influential to you so far in your creative journey?

Father Rob Repicky. But the first person who got me rethinking sexuality was Colin Thomas and his play Flesh And Blood, about twenty years ago. It changed my life.

What were the biggest challenges for you as an actor in preparing to perform in your own plays?

It’s hard to memorize because I remember all sixteen drafts. Once in a while I’ll come out with a cut line and my scene partner is like “what?!” There comes a time when I really have to stop giggling with glee when a great actor can deliver a humorous line exactly the way I hoped they would. I feel dreadfully exposed. This time around I am playing Greta and Greta has some faults similar to my own. The other day, Tom said “I’m not sure why he says he loves her” and it was hard for me not to fall through the floor, into the basement and crumple up into a ball and say “just let me die right here, I know, I know, I am completely unloveable!” But then that’s when the director comes in. The director says “because blah blah blah” and Tom goes “aha, of course!” and then all is well in the world. Yeah, mostly it’s working up the courage to be so exposed. But I only write about things I believe in. So, passion quickly out rules fear.

What can you share about any future projects that are in development?

The Arts Club Theatre has a play soon to be produced called Frankie Armitage. I’m working on an experimental operetta with Fugue Theatre called Dog Park. I’m writing a pod play for The Gateway with Neworld. Horseshoes & Hand Grenades have called me in as script editor for their Forgiveness Project. Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg is developing Diamond Willow with music by beloved genius John Mann. And last but not least, I’m premiering a new play this summer at St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, Ontario called Maid for a Musket: a real fun little romp about the war of 1812.

Leave of Absence is now on at Pacific Theatre.

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