Talkin’ ’bout that other gen­er­a­tion

Erin Shields looks un­der the hip­ster hood in new play at Tar­ragon The­atre

Bayview Post - - Arts - by Ron John­son

Pok­ing fun at mil­len­ni­als has de­vel­oped into some­thing of a pop­u­lar pas­time around town, es­pe­cially with the boomer set who takes great plea­sure from ob­serv­ing the hip­ster, screen-swip­ing, so­cial me­dia–ob­sessed hordes.

But how unique is this group when we look past the de­signer beards? And just how many of these stereo­types ring true? That’s what Toronto play­wright Erin Shields set out to un­der­stand. The re­sult­ing work, The

Mil­len­nial Mal­con­tent, has its world pre­miere at the Tar­ragon The­atre on March 8.

“It seems like there are a lot of as­sump­tions about this gen­er­a­tion but also a num­ber of very true ob­ser­va­tions,” says Shields, who is five years past be­ing a mil­len­nial. “And I thought I’d delve into it in a comedic kind of way.”

As it turns out, Shields sees a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween mil­len­ni­als and Restora­tion Eng­land in the 17th cen­tury. They were al­ways per­form­ing, as she says, putting for­ward their most ap­peal­ing as­pects, while un­der­neath there was a lone­li­ness.

She chose an adap­tion of the Restora­tion com­edy The Pro­voked

Wife, by Sir John Van­brugh, to pro­vide the frame­work for her new play.

“Restora­tion plays are sort of come­dies of man­ners with fans and corsets, and they are very witty,” she ex­plains.

“On the sur­face, the plays are hi­lar­i­ous, but there is a sort of sad com­edy un­der­neath, a lone­li­ness to the char­ac­ters.”

The Mil­len­nial Mal­con­tent be­gins with the char­ac­ter Moxy walk­ing on­stage and say­ing “Mar­riage sucks.” It’s that kind of play, with lots of in­ter­twined love sto­ries in­volv­ing ev­ery­one from yoga in­struc­tions to YouTube stars.

This will be Shields’s third pro­duc­tion to pre­miere at the Tar­ragon, along with Solic­it­ing

Temp­ta­tion in 2014 and If We Were Birds in 2010, which won the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Award for English-lan­guage drama.

That’s a fine track record con­sid­er­ing she started her ca­reer as an ac­tor af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Rose Bru­ford Col­lege of Speech and Drama in Eng­land.

“I grad­u­ated and moved to Toronto and didn’t know any­one, and I got au­di­tions but no roles, so I said, ‘Well then, I’ll just write my own play and per­form it my­self,’ ” says Shields.

“So first it was me, then me and friends, and then the shows were even too big for me to per­form in them, and that’s when I started play­wright­ing more than act­ing.”

The Mil­len­nial Mal­con­tent,

Play­wright Erin Shields launches new work at the Tar­ragon this month

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