Wendy Lill | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Wendy Lill

Wendy Lill's first stage play On the Line (Agassiz Theatre, 1982) was an agitprop piece about a strike by immigrant women working in the garment industry in Winnipeg.

Wendy Lill

 Wendy Lill, playwright, politician (b at Vancouver 2 Nov 1950). Wendy Lill was raised in London, Ont, and graduated in 1971 with a BA in political science from York University in Toronto. She was a community health worker in Toronto before moving to Kenora in 1977 to work as a consultant for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Resigning 6 months later, she became a journalist/broadcaster. In 1979 she moved to Winnipeg, where she covered news events and recorded documentaries including Who is George Forest? (1981), which won an ACTRA award. Her CBC radio drama Shorthanded (1981) also won an ACTRA.

Wendy Lill's first stage play On the Line (Agassiz Theatre, 1982) was an agitprop piece about a strike by immigrant women working in the garment industry in Winnipeg. However, it was The Fighting Days (Prairie Theatre Exchange, 1983) - about idealistic journalist Francis BEYNON and the darker side of the suffrage movement in Winnipeg - that brought her to national prominence and began a fruitful association with director Kim McCaw.

The Occupation of Heather Rose (directed by McCaw at the Prairie Theatre Exchange in 1986) is a monologue that charts the growth in understanding of a naïve nurse working on the Snake Lake Reserve in Northern Ontario. It was nominated for a Governor General's Award and a revised version was staged at TARRAGON THEATRE, Toronto, in 1988.

Memories of You (Prairie Theatre Exchange, 1988, directed by McCaw) is a more experimental piece that centres on the life of Canadian poet Elizabeth Smart, who is confronted by the angry daughter she has neglected while immersed in a tangled affair with poet George Barker. It was nominated for a 1989 Chalmers Canadian Play Award.

Wendy Lill moved to Dartmouth, NS, in 1987 and worked with director Mary Vingoe to dramatize local stories in Sisters (1989) and All Fall Down (Alberta Theatre Projects, 1993). Like Memories of You, Sisters moves between different time periods and keys on the 1972 conflagration of a residential school for First Nations children. It is told in the form of memories of Sister Mary, a nun who has confessed to arson. All Fall Down looks at the hysteria of a community in response to the arrest of a daycare worker for sexual abuse.

Corker (Eastern Front Theatre, 2000; Blyth Festival, 2000) spotlights society's treatment of the disabled while Chimera (Tarragon Theatre, 2007) scrutinizes the ethics of stem cell research.

Wendy Lill also turned Sheldon Currie's novel The Glace Bay Miners' Museum into a successful radio and stage play. She has been writer-in-residence at Mulgrave Road Theatre (1984) and NEPTUNE THEATRE (1991) and co-founded the Eastern Front Theatre in 1993 with Vingoe and Gay Hauser.

In 1997 Wendy Lill became New Democratic Party member of Parliament for Dartmouth and was critic for Heritage and Culture as well as for Persons with Disabilities. She was re-elected in 2000 and served until 2004, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She has drawn on her Ottawa experiences for a CBC radio drama series, Backbencher (2010, 2011).

Fuelled by heart as well as by deep political commitment, Wendy Lill's works explore the way ideology and convictions are shaped by history and memory.