Theatre alumna writes of The Last Days of Graceland

Elvis died on the toilet, wrote Bert Archer in a review for The Globe and Mail March 14. He may have been the king of rock ‘n’ roll, the man who brought black music to the white masses and paved the way for everyone from Buddy Holly to My Chemical Romance, but the fact that the king died on his throne will always be part of the story.

It’s an idea that fascinates Toronto playwright Franca Miraglia (MFA ’07), possibly because she was also on the toilet when Elvis left the building for the last time. "I was working at an old-age home when I was in my late teens, as a housekeeper," Miraglia, 47, says, making it clear with every well-expressed anecdote and bullet point that she’s probably very good at her day job as a corporate publicist. "I was scrubbing down the toilet and I heard on the radio that Elvis had died.”

But she wants to make one thing perfectly clear about her third play, The Last Days of Graceland: “The play is not actually about Elvis.” And though this will come as a disappointment to those who celebrated the 30th anniversary of the king’s death this past summer, it’s just as well Miraglia lays it out before her play debuts at Theatre Passe Muraille on March 19. There’s no point in making these people any sadder than they already are.

It’s not a happy play; it’s not even funny. But it is a play that deals with mature themes, as befits a playwright who’s come to her art relatively late in life. She had her first play produced at Toronto’s Fringe Festival when she was 37, and The Last Days of Graceland was written as part of her master’s degree at York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

York professor wrote about former premier’s sexploits

York University professor John Saywell chronicled former Ontario premier Mitch Hepburn’s riotous living in his biography, Just Call Me Mitch (U of T Press, 1991), and recounted how he once went missing on an official visit to New York – and was later found in a brothel, wrote columnist Christina Blizzard in The Toronto Sun March 14. Hepburn was married with three children.

Interestingly, the newspapers of the day didn’t report on any of this – although Saywell suggests the Toronto Star had details and photos of him with his girlfriends and used them as a hammer to bring about his downfall. My, my. How times have changed. And aren’t we all the better for that?

Novels set in places people long to leave

For this reviewer, the best of Canadian fiction are those novels that not only tell their stories well, but place them in a setting that becomes part of a reader’s memory bank, long after the last page is turned, wrote the Owen Sound Sun Times in a book review March 14. There is something of value in the hours it takes to get to know a Newfoundland outport, roam some down and out streets of Winnipeg, or pay an extended visit to Cape Breton. No Beautiful Shore (Cormorant, $21) is Beverley Stone‘s debut novel. Stone (LLB ’93), who grew up on Random Island, NL, moved to Toronto (where she still lives) to attend York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

A budgetary shell game

Toronto budget chief Shelley Carroll applauded the move by Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to share provincial budget surpluses with municipalities as providing "stable" funding, but was vague about what the city would use the money for, wrote columnist Christina Blizzard in the Woodstock Sentinel-Review March 14. Carroll mentioned the subway expansion to York University and beyond and upgrades to bus fleets. Except the funding is hardly stable if it relies on incompetent budgeting and an unexpected bonanza in tax revenues, said Blizzard.

On air

  • David Wiesenthal, professor of behavioural psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about road rage, on Vancouver’s CKNW Radio March 13.