Glendon grad gives preview of her absurdist play

Melissa Major took centre stage at Theatre Glendon last week to give a preview of her absurdist, one-act play Unicorn Horns, now on at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille.

The Glendon grad emerged from backstage dressed as the shaggy, androgynous character Quiche to perform an excerpt from the play.

Right: Melissa Major as Quiche

Afterwards, she and Glendon drama studies course director Aleksandar (Sasha) Lukac, her former professor, mentor and director of the current production, talked about the play.

Unicorn Horns lurches back and forth between characters and events, comedy and tragedy. Quiche’s love for the totally flat Alexander Alexandrovich seems ludicrous. We are not sure whether Quiche is a man or a woman, or who’s crazier, Quiche or the world.

The play started out as a short monologue, an assignment in Lukac’s course, Approaches to Theatre. Major was inspired by the Russian absurdists of the 1920s, whose style aimed to mirror the absurdity of lives spent in fear and political terror.

Unicorn Horns debuted two years ago at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche Festival and won York University President’s Prize for Playwriting the same year. Major then took it to IDEA 2007, last July’s international theatre festival in Hong Kong, to great acclaim (see YFile July 25).

Major’s Glendon sample of Unicorn Horns was meant to entice that audience to come and see the whole show, running to Nov. 18 at Theatre Passe Muraille. She also came to share her insights and technique with current students and to affirm the quality of theatre training they are receiving at Glendon.

Right: Aleksandar Lukac and Melissa Major  

Lukac and Major work together as a creative team. What was once a teacher-student relationship has grown into an equal partnership. "The fact that Sasha would work on these crazy projects of mine – we have now collaborated several times – is very lucky for me," says Major of Lukac, a seasoned director who earned an MFA in theatre from York in 1995 and also teaches English in the Faculty of Arts. "He has a highly developed directorial instinct which helps to shape the production. And he gets these ridiculous and hilarious ideas that somehow always make it into the show. He trusts in the fact that what we find funny other people will, too."

"I ended up at Glendon almost by mistake, the best mistake I ever made," she said. "Instead of the theatre schools I was looking into, my parents were pushing me towards something more realistic." She studied psychology and drama at Glendon, completed a BA in 2004 and a BEd in 2007. In the process, she became fluent in French.

"On the theatre side, I couldn’t have been more fortunate," said Major. "I must have worked on over 20 productions during my time here, six of which I wrote and produced myself. Glendon gave me the opportunity to play, to try things out on stage. It was certainly a case of learning by doing, which is a rare experience for school."

Left: Melissa Major as unicorn

As for making a living in the theatre, Major is currently stage-managing Bathurst Street Theatre’s upcoming December production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Unicorn Horns runs as a double feature with Joe: The Perfect Man to Nov. 18 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave. Glendon students are eligible for a reduced ticket price. For information about the double feature, visit The Cheshire Unicorn Web site. For tickets, call 416-504-7529 or visit Arts Box Office Web site.

Major’s performance and talk were sponsored by the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada and, the Canada Council for the Arts.

Story submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny