Film professor’s play reopens in Toronto

York film Professor Colleen Wagner’s play The Monument, winner of the 1996 Governor General’s Award for Drama, opens at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre on March 9.

Right: Yanna McIntosh and Garnet Harding star in Colleen Wagner’s The Monument

It is the first production by a non-black writer to be presented by the Obsidian Theatre Company, whose mandate is to promote and produce the black voice on the world stage.

The Monument explores the roles of victim and perpetrator, and of morality in the shadow of war. It focuses on a young soldier convicted of war crimes who, moments before his execution, is approached by a mysterious woman seeking revenge. She forces him to remember his torture and murder of countless young women, and must choose between vengeance and forgiveness.

The Monument speaks to the universal theme of war,” says Wagner. “The Obsidian production is located in the Sudan, which I think is a perfect choice because it speaks to the ongoing genocide in that country and the terrible suffering of its people.”

The play’s genesis occurred after Wagner’s year-long trip to Southeast Asia, where she experienced civil unrest in most of the countries she visited. “I didn’t intend to write about any of this,” said Wagner. “When I returned to Canada, I began work on a play about the northern explorers, but nothing was coming. Then one day I was sitting in my dining room, sipping a cappuccino and nibbling on a croissant while reading the newspaper. There was a press photo of a Somalian man being dragged across the street with barbed wire around his neck. I was outraged. Obviously, on a subconscious level, my trip had profoundly affected me. When I finally let myself write what was in my heart and soul, the opening monologue of The Monument emerged.”

The Monument opened 11 years ago at Toronto’s CanStage and has since played around the world. It has been translated into French, German and Mandarin. Its American premiere is slated later this year at Alliance Theatre in Washington, DC.

The Obsidian Theatre production of The Monument is directed by acclaimed actor Nigel Shawn Williams and stars Yanna McIntosh and Garnet Harding. Sets and costumes are by award-winning stage designer Shawn Kerwin, Chair of York’s Department of Theatre.

The Monument previews from March 4, opens March 9 and runs to March 25 at Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs, 26 Berkeley St. Showtime is 8pm Monday through Saturday, with Saturday matinees at 2pm. Tickets are available through the box office at 416-368-3110. For more information, visit

More about Colleen Wagner

Wagner teaches screenwriting in York’s Film Department. She is a professional playwright, film script and short fiction writer. Her first work for the stage, Sand, was shortlisted for best international play at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England in 1989. Her stage credits include Eclipsed and The Morning Bird, which premiered at the NotaBle Acts Summer Theatre Festival in Fredericton last summer. She is currently working on a screenplay adaptation of The Monument and a play called Home, and story-editing a documentary film Hallowed Be Thy Name.