Playwright Novelist Screenwriter

Magpie at FemFest

magpiejoelreggiecropped1Nan Fewchuk, Karl Thordarson and Adam Charbonneau in Magpie; Photo by Janet Shum

“Magpie” is my third play to be produced at FemFest, following ”Cowboy Boots and a Corsage” in 2003 and “Abby’s Place” in 2006. These three plays share roots as original radio drama scripts for the CBC, which I later adapted for the stage. An audio clip from the 1995 CBC national broadcast of “Magpie” featuring Valerie Pearson is available on my website ( “Magpie” is about a parolee surveillance officer, code named Magpie, who has her own agenda. She doesn’t like the guys she mentors in her halfway house, but Reggie, the new guy, gets under Magpie’s skin. She’s got to give in, give up or give back.

This play was written after a woman I knew was slain in an Edmonton subway station. She was a young mom, and had just had lunch with her husband downtown, and kissed him goodbye. I wrote this play in memory of her and also to try to understand why anyone would hurt her and what I could do with my own hurt knowing that some people kill other people without intending, without thinking, without cause. I also had to deal with my own feelings of revenge, and that’s when the character of Magpie came to me.

How does a woman work with rapist-murderers? In some research I did with the Edmonton Police Service on another project, I met one particular amazing woman who worked with men like Reggie, and she inspired the character of Magpie. “Magpie” first appeared on stage ten years ago at Jagged Edge Lunchbox Theatre in Edmonton, which makes its appearance at FemFest a tenth anniversary production! Magpie-and-Mom-ghost-1024x682

Katherine Koller’s play, Magpie, directed by Hope McIntyre, is running at FemFest from September 19 to 23 in Winnipeg.

Nan Fewchuk and Jane Burpee in Magpie; photo by Janet Shum


Theatre festival’s fare should appeal to fans of the fringe


Magpie Winnipeg Free Press Photo Phil Hossack








Karl Thordarson gets between Adam Charbonneau (left) and Nan Fewchuk in FemFest’s Magpie.

IF you’re one of the thousands who line up every July to take in diverse, affordable plays and solo performances at the fringe festival, Hope McIntyre has a message for you. “Good theatre doesn’t end at the fringe,” says the artistic director of Sarasvàti Productions, which puts on the week-long FemFest celebration of theatre by female playwrights. “People who enjoy the fringe should come and check out FemFest.”


Magpie by Edmonton’s Katherine Koller is about a woman who takes in paroled ex-convicts and tries to teach them life skills so they can reintegrate. The local four-actor production stars Nan Fewchuk as Magpie and Adam Charbonneau as a convicted rapist and murderer under her roof.

“Throughout the play, you really start to change your sympathies,” says McIntyre. “You think she’s doing it to help these men along… but you soon learn that she has a different agenda.”


Staging inspiration

FemFest, Sarasvàti Productions’ annual theatre festival, offers eight days of transformative theatre

BY: J   – UPTOWN  Winnipeg’s source for arts, entertainment & news.

FemFest, Sarasvàti Productions’ annual celebration of women theatre artists, promotes social equality through socially conscious theatre.

“Sarasvàti’s mandate is transformative theatre,” says artistic director Hope McIntyre. “We always make sure our shows are somehow engaging the audience, whether it’s with dialogue or thought or just letting them look at the world from a new perspective.”

The festival’s showcase production, Magpie, certainly keeps with that theme. Written by Edmonton-based playwright Katherine Koller, the play is about a woman who takes in rapists and killers in an attempt to reintegrate them into society.

“She’s got a personal agenda with these guys,” Koller says. “Yes, she’s there to help them, but she really thinks the best way to help is to send them back to jail. She does things to mess up their progress, but this guy Reggie really challenges her. He’s really good looking, he comes on to her and he treats her in a way none of the others ever had, so she’s really challenged.”

The audience is also challenged. Directed by McIntyre and featuring Jane Burpee, Adam Charbonneau, Nan Fewchuk and Karl Thordarson, Magpie blurs the lines between good and bad.

“Audiences sometimes identify with Reggie,” Koller says. “He almost becomes the victim when, in essence, he’s the victimizer. It turns the tables a little bit and it’ll be interesting to see who people root for.”

A black comedy, the story is told in a surrealistic style, but was inspired by a real event. Koller wrote Magpie, which debuted as a CBC Radio drama in 1995, after a friend was murdered on Edmonton’s LRT system.

“I had horrible feelings about who would do this to her and why,” Koller says. “I didn’t try to make a docudrama, I just tried to follow in my own head. ‘Who would do this? Why and what do we do with them afterward?’ Her father, who was a high-profile clergyman and politician, had this huge outpouring of forgiveness, which was remarkable. With that kind of pressure from the father, I really had to work out my own feelings of, ‘What do we do with a guy like this?’”

FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration runs Sept. 17 to 24 at the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film. In addition to fully realized pieces, the festival also features play readings and workshops, skill-development seminars and cabarets. It’s that combination of events that keeps FemFest going after nine years.

“Year after year, the message we keep hearing is ‘You have to keep doing this,’” McIntyre says. “The women artists have learned to depend on it as a showcase opportunity, as a way to get work and as a way to develop their plays — and our audiences just love the diversity of it all.”