Michael Healey | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Michael Healey

Michael Healey's career as a playwright began in 1996 when he premiered a one-act solo performance called Kicked at the Fringe of Toronto Festival.
michael healey
michael healey wrote The Drawer Boy, one of the most-produced plays in Canadian theatre history (photo Tim Leyes, courtesy Gary Goddard Agency).

Michael Thomas Louis Healey, playwright, actor (born at Toronto 25 Aug 1963). Michael Healey was raised in Brockville, Ont, where he attended Brockville Collegiate Institute and pursued an interest in theatre through his involvement with the Dramatic Arts Club and the Brockville Theatre Guild. He studied acting at Ryerson in Toronto and graduated in 1985. He became a regular actor in Toronto's independent theatre community almost immediately, appearing in numerous plays including The League of Nathans (1992) and Better Living (1998-99).

Michael Healey's career as a playwright began in 1996 when he premiered a one-act solo performance called Kicked at the Fringe of Toronto Festival. This first play, about a detective investigating the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, toured across Canada, had a limited run in Australia, and won the Dora Award for best new play in 1998. The next year Healey with Kate Lynch wrote Yodellers and Kreskinned, a pair of one-act comedies under the title The Road to Hell, produced at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre.

The Drawer Boy (1999) centres on an interview conducted by an aspiring playwright from the city with 2 middle-aged farmers who live a quiet and modest existence together. A combination of subtle humour with life-sized family drama was the heart of Healey's style as a writer. Originally presented by Theatre Passe Muraille, The Drawer Boy has been remounted on numerous occasions and is one of the most-produced plays in Canadian theatre history. It has been translated many times for its international presentations. Winning 4 Dora Awards including the prize for outstanding production in 1999, The Drawer Boy won the Governor General's Literary Award for best English drama that year and was one of 4 recipients of the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Awards in 2000.

Plan B was produced in 2002 at Tarragon and again in 2003 at Alberta Theatre Projects with Healey as lead actor. The play, set in the near future, is about the negotiations for Quebec's departure from Canada after a successful referendum there. Negotiators from both sides begin an affair and artificially prolong the talks so they can carry on with it.

Rune Arlidge (a story which, according to Playwrights Press, "takes us on a 25-year-long trip to the family cottage") came out the following year and Healey's two-act comedy Generous (Dora Award for best new play) was produced in 2006; all premiered at the Tarragon Theatre. In 2009, Healey teamed with Kate Lynch as director of his summer vacation romp The Nuttals before premiering the Dora Award-winning Courageous (2010). The second in a trilogy that begins with Generous, which examines problems arising from the impulse of generosity, it is followed by Proud; the trilogy observes the challenges and rewards of participating in Canadian society.

Healey collaborated with dancer Peggy Baker in Radio Play in 2008 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, which describes the production as an "absurdist dance romance that comes down to two people, a table and a future that is waiting." The two worked together again in Are You Okay, a play focused on the changes in life as one ages. Produced in 2011 at Factory Theatre and directed by Daniel Brooks, the monologue is written and performed by Healey, accompanied onstage by Baker performing her choreographed dance.

For Soulpepper Theatre Michael Healey has adapted The Evils of Tobacco for "Absolutely Chekhov," an evening of Chekhov shorts, and Molnar's Olympia. For the Shaw Festival he has adapted George Bernard Shaw's On the Rocks. Michael Healey was writer in residence at Tarragon Theatre from 2001-12.

Fellow playwright and occasional collaborator George F. Walker cast Healey in the CBC television series This is Wonderland as the interminably worn-out attorney James Ryder, a role for which Michael Healey earned 2 Gemini Award nominations for best supporting actor in a dramatic series. He appeared in the series Living in Your Car, co-starred in the short Family First, and portrayed a kidnapped marriage counsellor in the short Counselling.