Proud, by Michael Healey: An Excerpt
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Proud, by Michael Healey: An Excerpt

The controversial play (sort-of-but-not-literally) about Stephen Harper opens tomorrow night. Here's a sneak peek at the script.

A staged reading of Proud earlier this year. Photo by Amanda Lynne Ballard.

In 2011, Toronto’s theatre community experienced some off-stage drama, when playwright Michael Healey broke with his longtime home at the Tarragon Theatre (where he had been playwright-in-residence for over a decade) over their refusal to produce his latest script. Called Proud, that play was the last in a trilogy, the previous instalments of which had been staged by Tarragon. Tarragon’s artistic director, Richard Rose, declined to comment on the matter, while Healey said he was told the play—a satirical take on someone who bears a very close resemblance to Stephen Harper (though he is referred to in the script only as “Prime Minister”)—was considered libelous.

If fears of a legal suit were what stopped Tarragon from producing the play, those concerns didn’t turn out to be universally shared. An early version of the script got its first public reading back in March at Theatre Passe Muraille, and the full production, with an updated script, opens tomorrow night.

In advance of tomorrow’s opening, here is an excerpt from Proud, featuring a scene with the prime minister with no official name.

PRIME MINISTER
Now. There are certain things the press pays attention to, and certain things they don’t. Sometimes we have a little trouble figuring out which things they’re going to pick up on, and which things they are going to ignore.

JISBELLA
That must drive you nuts.

PRIME MINISTER
The long-form census is an example of this. We thought we could kill it without the press noticing. Turns out they noticed. That took us by surprise.

JISBELLA
The long-form… what?

PRIME MINISTER
Never mind. I’m trying to make a point.

JISBELLA
Go ahead. Can I just get a coffee?

PRIME MINISTER
Absolutely not. So, in looking ahead, there are programs I want to enact, programs that I feel might raise the ire of the press, and I want to do what I can to minimize that.

Fortunately, the first thing I want to do is spectacularly dull. The odds are good that it will go unnoticed.

JISBELLA
What is it?

PRIME MINISTER
Well—

(Jisbella’s phone rings.)

JISBELLA
Hang on.

(She picks up.)

Hey! Good morning, mister! How are you? I had to sneak out before you woke up.

Because I have a meeting with an old, crazy person. He’s right here, do you want to say hello? Okay.

(She hands the PM the phone.)

It’s my son. He wants to say hello.

PRIME MINISTER
(Taking the phone…)

Hello. Is this—

Yes, sorry your mum had to come in early. I—

No. No, I don’t. Do you want to ask your mother? Okay. Bye.

(Handing the phone back.)

He wants to know how to make a latke.

JISBELLA
You want a latke for breakfast? Are you crazy? Have some cereal like a normal person.

What do you mean there’s no cereal?

Oh, right, okay.

Okay, okay: take a potato—

(The Prime Minster rolls his eyes, sits.)

JISBELLA
—and take the grater. Grate the potato. Squeeze out the water, then grate a bit of onion in there too.

I don’t know, a bit. Peel the onion first. Then, you know where the breadcrumbs are? Take a handful of breadcrumbs, mix it all together. Put oil in the pan, get it nice and hot, and CAREFULLY put the latke in the oil. Flip it when the edge is brown. That’s it. Is there applesauce? Okay. You got it? Good. Don’t make a mess. Call me back before you leave for school.

Because it’s a new school and I need to make sure you remember how to get there.

Okay.

Okay. I love you too. Enjoy that latke.

(She hangs up. A beat.)

PRIME MINISTER
Your son is how old?

JISBELLA
Jake is seven. What did he say to you?

PRIME MINISTER
Is he alone?

JISBELLA
He better be. He loves to cook. Where were we? How’s your coffee.

(Rising)

Can I get you another—?

PRIME MINISTER
No. So the strategy is: we want to make sure the press doesn’t focus on the thing that I’m going to do.

JISBELLA
Which is what?


CORRECTION: September 19, 2012, 4:09 PM This article originally stated that Proud was produced by the Canadian Stage Company, when in fact it is self-produced. We apologize for the error.

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