Talkin’ ’bout that other generation
Erin Shields looks under the hipster hood in new play at Tarragon Theatre
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