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Voices From the Workshops: Eric Morgan

December 9, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Monologue by Eric Morgan

I started with the letter “B” because “A” was too obvious, standing out right in front, showing off. I'm reading all the biographies of people with the last name starting with “B”. I have to go all round the library because Mr. Dewey and his decimals do not think like I think.

Bismarck, Otto von, was the first one I read. He had a mustache like my dog Sandy, a miniature Schnauzer. Sandy and my dad went to live on a farm near a town in the country. My mom told me the name of the town. I can't find it on any map. I haven't found the right map yet. But I will. One day.

Osama bin laden. Pearl Buck. Budha.

My dad looks exactly like me except he is forty-two years old and is a man. Maybe you've met him? He had a mustache, but he might not any more. People's looks can change a lot in three years, you know. Even grown-ups.

I come here a lot. Grade six is an important year. Iʼm going to a new school next year. I came here after I got my new braces on, when it felt like someone had kicked me in the mouth. I came here and read. It was better than tylenol.

Tony Blair. Sarah Bernhardt. Popes Benedicts X through XVI. Those are Roman numerals. I know all the Roman numerals, even the big ones. They made letters into numbers.

I come here a lot when my momʼs friend Todd comes over to our house. That's when my mom reminds me of all the homework I have.

Johann Sebastian Bach. Ludwig von Bethoven. Joan Baez.

Todd comes over to help her move the furniture in her bedroom. He doesn't do a very good job because when I come home the furniture is all still in exactly the same place as before, so it is all just a giant waste of time. My mom says he gets the job done.

Marlon Brando. Jeff Bridgs. Lloyd Bridges.

Her bedroom gets smokey when they move furniture. Todd says he has bad allergies. His eyes turn red, he laughs and eats chips. My mom has caught his allergies too. The smoke smells sour. My mom says it is the humidifier. But the humidifier is in the basement. I know
because I put it there, between the Christmas tree and the rowing machine because these things all have black metal parts.

Barbara Bush. George Bush. George W. Bush.

I like that it is a reference library. Nothing goes missing. No one goes missing. Everything is in its place. I like it here. No one shouts. No one yells at you, “Thank f__king Jesus Christ you're f__king going away next year to that shitty special school.”

I like it here. I have to go home now. I like it here. I don't want to go home ever.



This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Greta Papageorgiu

December 8, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Bethune: Doctor Under Fire  by Greta Papageorgiu


Before Wikipedia was misinforming the masses…if you had a project you, had to go to the library.  

I know it’s bad to procrastinate.  Okay fine, I’ve waited until the day before my 5-page project on Norman Bethune: Chinese hero, Canadian Unknown is due, but I’m here right now, at the reference library, early in the morning , and I’m going to write all day. 

617.5- that’s where the handy Dewey Decimal System said that I would find all the books about Norm that I needed. 614, 615, 616 a gapping hole, 618- the whole section is empty. Maybe I wrote down the wrong number. (Checks her notebook.  She looks around and spots someone at the other end of the library. Her face drops). Oh my God. Katie McClusky is sitting at the other end of the floor with all the books about Norman Bethune: all of them. She has them neatly stacked in piles three books high.  I’m trying to smile and look friendly as a go over although neither of us really likes each other. “Hi”, I say.  And then I can’t help it, the truth bursts out of me: “I really need these books”. Katie smiles her brown-nosing smile, “I’d love to be able to lend you some, but you see I’ve got a system going on here for my fact-cross-referencing and so I have to have access to all the books while I do this.”  “So how long’s that going to take?” She looks up at me,    “All day”, and turns back to her book.

This bitch was not going to help me out.

My options were limited.  I only had 24 more hours and Mr. Spratt never grants extensions…  Periodicals? No, she had them.  Wait until she goes to the bathroom and steal them?  I doubt she has bodily functions.  If only I had come 15 minutes earlier, I would be the one holding Bethune: doctor of the people (realizing) in my hands.  It dawned on me: you might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can cover up what you don’t know with its title. I repeated the title back to myself: Norman Bethune: doctor of the people.  It clicked!  Of course! Norman Bethune was a “doctor” of the “people”. I wrote it down. Bethune- Colon-China.  Bethune lived in “China”. This is too easy. I just went around turning the titles into perfectly composed sentences.  They were all true, after all. He was a man who lived a life of “passion” and “conviction”.  He lived in Montreal. He had a lot of character and conviction. Norman Bethune was a: doctor under fire.  I quickly wrote down all the other titles while Megan tutted with annoyance.  “Have you no shame?”, she asked. “At least I’ll get in on time”. I told her and slammed down my notebook and headed out of the library.

I’ll have you know that writing with very few facts can be surprisingly easy.  I just let my imagination fill in a few gaps and managed to come up with 5 pages (of 16 point font), Times New Roman and a lot of footnotes.  And I got it in on time.


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Bill Zagat

December 7, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Collage by Bill Zagat

It’s a cool place.  The renovation’s taking, like, for-ever, but except for that—oh, and except for the crappy photocopiers…I have a favourite machine I got dibs on.  Well, not dibs, just it’s better than most and rarely jams.  I like doing collages, you know, so I’m always copying a bunch of stuff, then cutting them up at home and assembling them into something new, then scan and upload them onto my blog.  So, anyway, except for some crappy machines, it’s a cool place.  All swirly, you know—the staircases.  Oh, and except for some of the homeless guys—I can live without them hanging about.  I mean, some of them are probably OK—harmless.  May have been like you and me at some point.  Sad.  But you never know what bugs they’re carrying.  I absolutely hate bugs.  See those plastic thingies under those cushy chairs over there—that their legs fit into?  I think they’re for bed bugs—yuck!  So except for all that, a cozy quiet corner is way nice.  Quiet, like I never get at home.  Big crappy family trying to out-yell each other—ha!  And school—don’t talk to me about school.  Totally bogus.  Here is like…an oasis or something.  No family, no rivals, no one trying to get into your pants—so far, anyway.  All hushed, except for all these minds humming away.  Busy little bees, I guess, eh?  And I guess I’m one of them—one humungous swirly beehive.  Hey, I gotta put that into my blog.  I love my blog—it’s like my lifeline and totally kickass.  What did I just say?—swirly…humungous…bees…zzzzzzzz—ha!


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Diana Manole

December 6, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (7)

Books, Blood, and Seagulls by Diana Manole

Old Diana (OD)
Young Diana (YD)

Both characters are performed by the same actress.

YD: I’m 24 years old and finally back to school. I’m taking night classes and working part-time in a bank. Three times a week.  Mopping, dusting, cleaning the toilets. Sometimes, I’m asked to count money. What a strange feeling: to hold in your hands stacks and stacks of money when you’re always broke. Some bills are wrinkled with dark spots like the skin of an old man. From all of them, the country’s great heroes stare back at me.

OD: It was the smell that drew me there. The smell of books crowded on the shelves and growing old together. Have you ever smelled a new book? My friend, the poet, was doing exactly that – every time he bought a book, he’d open it, stick his nose in it, and took a huge sniff. Yeah, like he was snorting cocaine or something. Last year he sent me a friend request on Facebook. The smell of his bloody clothes came back into my nostrils!

YD: When I’m not at school or at the bank, I’m at the library. Ironically, the librarian in the Old Novel section is an old lady with a huge nose and a lot of moles. Every time I go there, I can’t help staring at them. I end up giving them names. The pinkish one on the left cheek is Sleepyhead. The small one is Bashful. The huge one on the left cheek with two black tick hairs is Grumpy. When I’m waiting in line for my turn, I’m talking to the moles. “Hey, Sleepyhead…”

OD: In fact, I came to the library to study for the TOEFL test. The $12,000 I had to come with are almost gone and I haven’t even scored a job interview. I don’t even have the money to fly back home. Back to school, that’s all I can do! If I pass the test. Each morning at 9:30. Like a job. But it’s great. Something to do. Somewhere to go. My basement room is small and smells awful. They had a flood some years back and the smell of sewage never went away. I keep my clothes in zipped bags. (gesturing towards the audience) Do you think they smell anyway?

YD: The university library is in a royal palace expropriated in 1948. They took everything out but the ceiling lamps. And the wallpaper. I read. From open to close. I’m in modern languages and my reading lists are so long! I wear ski overalls and gloves. In winter, it’s like the national uniform. They only give us 2 hours of heat per day. The national austerity plan to repay the country’s external debt.  But you can’t stop shivering. I look at the dark red walls, the golden decorations on the ceiling, and the other students struggling to turn the pages with their mittens on, and I feel better.

OD: I’m on the fifth floor. I can’t help it. I have the TOEFL book and pretend to be reading. Staring out the window at the ravine and listening. I can hear words coming from the stairs. Or the performance section reception desk. Someone is asking for a book. Someone is answering a cell phone. Two men are whispering something as if having an argument. Or maybe not. A feeing of absolute peace. And safety. When I’m home, I always keep the radio on just to hear people talk. Or riding the bus to eavesdrop. Did you notice that people chat more on the bus than on the subway? I wonder why.

YD: “…we are a vegetal people/ Who has ever seen a tree rioting? ” And then… Crowds in the street. I’m in the crowd. Waves of people leaning towards each other. Loving each other. Two happy sunny days. And then… People arrested. Killed. Blood on the pavement. A 19-year old shot in front of the university. A wooden cross with a black and white picture. My friend, the poet, showing me his scars from his night in prison. Huge scars. Ceausescu flying away in a chopper. Crowds in the streets. “Olé, Olé, Olé   /Ceausescu is gone!” I’m chanting too. And then… Street fights. Bullets flying around. Terrorists or revolutionaries? “Death to the dictator!” On the 24th of December 1989. The library burning through the night. The red wallpaper, the tall windows, the books… all melting away… And then silence and the seagulls flying over the black walls, still smoking. It’s cold again, but I don’t know where to go.

OD: Suddenly, a pigeon is flying above the bookshelves on the fifth floor. I shiver. She’s circling me and then she flies towards the elevators above the people in the main lobby. “She’s smart! The Humane Society was here but they couldn’t catch her,” says someone.



This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Dominic Mann-Bertrand

December 5, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

A House of Ghosts by Dominic Mann-Bertrand

A man stands amidst a collection of thick, eco-friendly bags. They are full, but we can’t see what is in them. He wears what once was a very expensive long winter coat, now well worn and ragged. Though homeless, his hair and beard are rather well maintained. These are echoes of sentences spoken, for the most part, to no one person in particular:

    You know what the real problem is in this country? Too many damn people are coming here… and not enough folks recognize that as a good thing. Bigots, the lot of ’em! Bloated faces ‘n’ red necks—their ties are cuttin’ off the circulation, see? Shrinking their minds and making their asses bigger! Think I’m wrong? Just look at ’em all up there in Shitty Hall, nothing more’n a band of tyrannous twits with fat heads, if you ask me! The life of this town—its heart an’ soul—ain’t down there with the politicians, it’s right here with the people—the meat an’ bones of this melting pot. Look around here, you see this place? I mean really see it? They all end up here, the lot of ’em, the breathing beings of this machine: all walks a’ life, all skin colours, all ages—’course I could do without the packs of screechy, snot-nosed little shits who come tearing through the stacks playing hide-‘n’-go-seek, yelling their tiny pretty heads off while decent people are tryin’ to read. This ain’t no damn daycare, for Christ’s sake! (Someone shushes him, softly, as a warning.) ... Anyway, no, I’m talkin’ about—what was I talkin’ about? Ow right, all the people! The people who come to the library to study—learning English, or medicine, or lawyerin’—most of ’em ’ull probably go on to high-powered positions and be throwin’ me pennies or spittin’ at my feet in a few years, I bet. But in here, right now, we’re all equal, see? That’s the beauty. Don’t need no card to get in here, not nobody can take anything out no how. No one owns the truth—that Unbearable Lightness of Being guy said that—and everyone has a right to be understood. (Pause.) So here’s our home, together… homeless citizens of the universe travelling the world in the pages of this place. The Silent Equalizer of the marauding mass, that’s what this building is… Hey, you hear me? It’s the Great Goddamn Democratizer! (Someone shushes him, loudly.) Yeah, yeah… There goes another one, trying to shut me up ’cause I’m impartin’ the truth. That’s right, you heard me: Im-Par-Ting the truth. I went to college, buddy. I studied. I know exactly what I’m talking about. (Pause.) I even took classes from the big Bard a’ Victoria, Papa Frye himself! No joke. Me ‘n’ Peggy Atwood swapped stories an’ criticized each other’s shit, too, know what I’m sayin’? I practically launched her career, single-handed. Ain’t that a trip? (Pause.) But did I ever get a mention? A nod? Not a one. What, don’t believe me? Huh? Edible Woman, man, I came up with that! (Shhhhhhh!)

    Yep, that was my big mistake, brother, goin’ in to writing and doing the whole Rochdale thing! I mean I did all right, made a bit a’ dough working for the Communist Broadcasting Company with punks like Gzowski and frumpy Frum, then I got hung up on this chick who turned out granola lesbian and left me to go follow Jerry Garcia around; after that I got caught-up in a bunch a bad land deals, the Bay Street piggies started landing on my back, and while Mulroney was busy screwing the country I got—you guessed it—f__ked! (Shhhhh!) N’ah, well, easy come easy go they say. (Pause.) You want my advice, kid? Do what these people around here are doing and study for the big money useful stuff. I’m talkin’ ’bout the kinda things that getcha out to the suburbs and into a two-car garage, with a sweet-luck wife and 3. 27 kids. Yep, that’s what I’d do if the big-bearded dude upstairs gave me a mulligan and I had another go around. Only problem with the burbs, a’ course, is that ya gotta drive everywhere and they ain’t go no libraries, least no real decent ones like this. Down here I hand it to ’em, man, they know how a f__kin’ library’s supposed ta work. Reference! (Shhhh!) Shhhhhit, I don’t even mind the renovations, so long as they keep them puke-stained carpets been hear since the place opened back in the seventies, all those browns and beiges—it looks like one a’ them gawdawful Rothko paintings exploded over five floors! Take it from me, ya don’t need too many colours distracting you when you’re tryin’ ta study, bright colours and loud patterns’ll just send you on flashbacks and make you bad trip, man. (Pause.) The only thing is, if you ask me, this place sure knows how ta waste space. Blame that Moriyama son of a bitch for that (and for the Shoe Museum, too). I mean, just think a’ this whole middle part here, nothing but one huge gapin’ hole… Open-air concept my ass! But give the poor bastard a break, I guess, it was the 70s and maybe he was trying to say something metaphoric, you know, as in: it’s like the atrium of knowledge, drawing people in to the largest non-circulating library in the country! Ever think of that shit? No? Well, while you’re at it, think of Alexandria—hey, you listenin’ to me! (Shhhh!) All right, all right. Cool it! The Great Library at Alexandria, that’s what this place is like: the cure of the soul. It’s the whatyousay, the flagship of all the branches. And that may be a ship a’ fools, but anything you want—if it’s in the system—it’s here. Just don’t let the bureaucrats burn it down, like Caesar did to Alexandria in ’48. We’re standing in the repository of human understanding here people! (Shhhhhhhhh!) The confluence of language, in a cauldron of capacities to be cherished! (Shhhh!) I think Noam Chomsky said that, or was it his pal Richard Rorty? Ah, who cares? All this talkin’ is making me thirsty—spare a buck for a coffee? I promise I’ll go to that ex-hockey player’s place and not the Moby Dick multinational… if I make it through the security check with those bozos at the gate downstairs, that is. (He picks up his bags, on the verge of leaving.) A quarter? A dime? Nothing? Ah, forget it, I’ll just go ask some of the foreign language students down the street, they always help a brother out. (He begins to walk away, then stops for one final moment.) Whatever you people do, never forget this: we inhabit a house of ghosts here, who speak to us from the silent pages of these volumes. All you need to do is listen closely…


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.


This is a work of imagination and does not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Public Library

Voices From the Workshops: Melissa Allen-Anderson

December 5, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

The Toronto Reference Library – A Love Story of Sorts
By Melissa Allen-Anderson

     That silly little girl from my writers’ group – apparently there’s two at Toronto Reference Library – is cornering me in the Manulife Indigo bookstore. Some playwright-in-residence has specially chosen her and a select few to write about the everyday Torontotonian’s experience at the Toronto Reference Library.

    “Why don’t you go there and ask someone?” I say to her.

     “I did. It’s closed now, I forgot to check the hours,” she replies.

     “I’m in a rush, I have to go,” I try and side step her, but for a little girl, she is quick and swiftly blocks my path.

     Then, she does this thing where she shuffles her feet and collapses her knees like she had to use the ladies room. “Please,” she says. I couldn’t refuse anymore, so I just agree.

     “Great,” she says and jumps right into her first question: “Why do you come to the TRL?”

     “To use the interent, go to the events and of course, attend the Toronto Writers’ Co-op Workshops.”

     “Cool.” She continues, “Where do you see yourself in the future, in relation to the TRL?”

     What kind of stupid questions are these, I think.

     “What kind of stupid questions are these,” I ask and she just shrugs her slumped shoulders up and down. I press on.“Who came up with these questions? You?”

     “Nah, the mentor-slash-playwright-in-residence dude made us ask these questions,” she says, quickly adding, “but they’re probably just a guideline,” defending this so-called playwright-in-residence’s poorly thought out questioning.

     “Listen,” I tell her, checking my watch, “these questions you ask are pointless. What your audience is going to want is a strong interview with detail, not some vague, generic questions that don’t mean anything.”

      The little girl nods, agreeing with me. Maybe she’s brighter than I thought after all, so I continue. “Write something that the audience will love, like…” I pause and reflect, “…a day in the life of someone at the TRL. Someone like me, a newcomer, a Syrian-Canadian man. For example: It is morning and I enter the library right when it opens, it is already filling up with people and it’s noisy. I ask the librarian if the book I put on hold has come in yet, and she says no.
     “The librarian with the Russian accent?” the little girl says.

     “No, the one with the Canadian accent,” I say. “Anyway, she says no, it’s not back yet, and I am disappointed but she has the most beautiful smile, one that lights up the entire library, so I’m cheerful again, thinking to myself, ‘her smile is what the Toronto Reference Library is all about.’ I go to a free computer to check my email. When I leave, the security also gives me a big smile and asks to check my bag on the way out, so I open my bag and there’s a fish inside!”

     “A fish?” The little girl raises her left eyebrow. I’m losing her.

     “Yes, a fish. But it doesn’t have to be a fish, it can be anything,. The point is to make the story interesting and funny. Secure must find something bizarre in the bag.”

     Little girl nods. I’ve got her back.

     “Give security a funny reason for having a fish in the bag.” I say.

     “Like for example, I went to the farmer’s market to rescue the cod they were going to chop into fillets?” she says.

     “Sure, whatever,” I say.

     By now she is writing furiously in a little notebook. The ink of pen is purple. What a strange little girl.

     “You’ve been a big help,” she says.

     “Yes, I have,” I tell her. “One last bit of advice. You must end with a love story.”

     “A love story?” she says.

     “Yes. Everyone loves a love story. Now imagine one that happens at a library. Two people meet at TRL and fall in love.” I clap my hands together, “wouldn’t that be fantastic?”

     “At Toronto Reference Library?” Little girl and her freaking left eyebrow. “I dunno…meeting some random guy at the library? That’s kind of creepy.”

     I throw my hands in the air, she tries my patience.

     “There is nothing creepy about falling in love at the Toronto Reference Library,” I say.

     “What if I just end it by saying, ‘no matter where we come from, how we found our way to Toronto, or what’s in our bags, we will always love the Toronto Reference Library?’”

     “Perfect,” I say. I couldn’t have said it better myself.


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Tina Silver

December 4, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Quiet Lies by Tina Silver

I like her immediately.  She’s youthful and pretty but humble.   She’s copying show music; ‘What I Did for Love,’ from Chorus Line and ‘I Know Him So Well’ from Chess.  She says “The Chess song’s actually a duet but you can do it as a solo.”  I smile, because I’ve done it that way, too. 

She’s going on an audition for community theatre, her first.  She tells me, “I wasn’t meant to be in front of a computer all day.  Theatre is my love.  I was really involved in high school but in university I studied accounting.  I’ve had my desk job for three years.  My family are science people.  They would never support my theatre full time.  They did come to my school shows, but just to humor me.  You know, ‘get a real job’ and all that.     Only my friends really know how passionate I am.”

I don’t tell her that I’ve just copied sheet music, out of habit, for auditions I no longer go to.  I don’t say how I believe the things you love never go away, even if they’re forced to hide in dark, small places for years at a time.  I can’t speak, because if these thoughts come out as words they might scream.  They will nosedive through the library’s atrium, shaking every floor between fifth and the basement newspaper room.  They will rattle walls, quiver the building in its foundation and maybe even cause structural damage.  Slanted cracks on the walls.  Everyone will go running out to Yonge Street.  That’s what could happen because there is no quiet way to say ‘don’t listen to your family.  Live the life you want.’  Instead, I save my dignity and hers, keeping the building intact in the process.  Living a lie can be done quietly.    


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Sean Hingston

December 4, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Monologue by Sean Hingston

   I'm confused. That's why I'm here. If I knew everything I would have no need to surround myself with such an unfathomable mass of text. I came here this morning looking for answers and after a day of turning pages and scribbling notes, I feel like I may have a few.

I'm an undergraduate student in the midst of a crisis. I am a sociology major who is about to graduate and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do once they release me from the sheltered confines of the university. And I have debts! I did the math and I owe various parties a grand total of a 2012 Audi A5. The A5 takes sophisticated design to new heights. This modern grand touring coupe provides hour after hour of long distance comfort. Yeah. Needless to say, I'm in pretty deep.

I don't know why I studied sociology. Who is going to pay me to sociology? How do you sociology? So why have I spent the last four years of my life borrowing large sums of money and toiling away at some aimless pursuit? There is only one thing that can explain my absurd decision to embark on this path. Marketing. The story seems to go like this: Companies are competing not just for customers, but also for employees. Therefore companies need to market themselves too. One way of doing this is to implement hiring policies that are primarily geared towards building a strong corporate brand. So Company X only hires those with master's degrees and therefore must be an admirable organization that is worth working for. Some consulting companies go so far as to only hire those who have graduate degrees from ivy league schools. Whether or not such an education is necessary to do the work is secondary. Employer branding is the primary motivation and it continually raises the bar for us ambitious, approval seeking future members of the workforce.

Employers are not the only ones to blame for the cultural doping that has led to a university education being the now obsessively sought after prerequisite for a worthwhile human life. Universities themselves have adopted a marketing logic and given rise to what is called academic capitalism. A short ride on the subway is enough to take in a handful of aspirational marketing pieces telling you that a piece of paper from University X is a foolproof gateway to self-fulfillment and approval. Another aspect of academic capitalism is the construction of programs tailored to any potentially profitable segment of prospective students. I'm waiting for the day when I see an ad for a Master's of Science program in Timbit Management. That is when I'll be absolutely certain that we are doomed.

I must admit that for all my griping and as disconcerting as these ideas are, I do find this to be an interesting line of enquiry. A number of ambivalently executed internet searches have unearthed a few master's programs that would allow me to study this phenomenon in more depth. But now I can never know if I am truly interested in studying this at the master's level or if I am simply buying in to the dominant ideology that earning more degrees promises success and happiness. How can one understand their true motivations? Do we really make our own decisions? I guess I know what I'll be researching when I'm back here tomorrow.


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Risa Z. Klarman

December 3, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Monologue for a Man in a White Hat By Risa Z. Klarman

    The man is wearing a blue, single-breasted suit, a blue shirt, a striped tie.  His eyebrows are  white and wiry, as is his hair; the Trilby perched on top is the colour of cream. 

    The man seats himself at a desk in the first floor common area of the library and arranges his four shopping bags---not the plastic ones that cost five cents, but the heavy laminated ones, the kind you pay a few bucks for---beside him on the floor.  Rummaging  through the bags, the man  pulls out pocket books, sheaves of newsprint and notepads curled, softened, and smudged by repeated thumbing.

    No.  No, I can’t give these to you.  I need them to do the calculations.  You can get your own.  The Baseball Insider, it’s not that expensive.  They give you everything, see?  Look. Here, I’ve done the pitchers.  Tim Wakefield, he plays for Boston.  See, I’ve got all his stats.

    You can’t read those numbers?  Naaah, come on, they’re not so tiny.  I need to make them small, or they won’t all fit on the page.

     Ppfft, you need new glasses. 

    I do them all in pencil, so I can change them.  You have to wait until the end of the year, you can’t start this stuff early.  Here, look.  This is Tim Wakefield.   You heard  of him?  He’s 45.  A knuckleballer, the oldest pitcher in the Majors.  The oldest player  in the Majors.  After him, the next one is Halladay.  He’s pretty famous, Roy Halladay.

    Why do I do all these stats?  Because it shows you the exact order things are in, you can put your thumb on it.  You can put your fingers round the page and grip it to you.  And also, it encourages me to see them, I know who I want to see.  It doesn’t cost so much to go, I sit high up.  You pay bus fare, you buy something to eat, a hot dog, a drink, it costs me $250.  It’s not so much.

    I was born in Macklin, near Saskatoon.  My dad was a preacher, we lived in a lot of places.  I wrote a book once, you know---My Adventures in Thirty European Countries.  I spent a year in Europe, well, 365 days less ten, almost a year.  England, France, East Berlin---It was 1974, I was 34, 35… 

    Why?  Because I had the money.  I quit my job---I was in construction.  I had some money, but, well, a year’s a long time.  You work when you can get a job. There are youth hostels.  Or, when you really run out, you can sleep outside in a sleeping bag under the sky.  In the country it was okay, but it’s harder in the city, you can’t sleep out on the street, they’ll arrest you.  You have to hide in the bushes.  Sometimes, someone would see me and bring me a sandwich.  That’s what it was like, there. 

    The book?  Pfft, you wouldn’t find it in a library.  No, it’s not published.  I wrote it out by hand, twice.  Once in Spring Hill, Nova Scotia, once in Medicine Hat and Keswick.  Because they stole it from me, that’s why.  I gave it to a guy at the post office, he was a Scotsman.  No, he didn’t steal it, he put it up on some shelf somewhere, some dusty shelf.  He let them find it, though, those hoods from Quebec.  It was the airplane people, some shady outfit with the military, some criminal offshoot of the RCAF.  They took it in a plane to an underground facility somewhere.  Why?  They wanted to spy on me, probably… 

    Hey, here’s Omar Vizquel.  He’s a shortstop.  Not the best player in the Majors, but he’s played the longest, he’s got longevity.  I’ll give you a tip.  The Baseball Insider magazine.  It’s immensely valuable.  For $4.95, it gives you every single player from the oldest, 45, to the youngest,19, maybe 3,000, maybe 2,000 players.  I do them all, it doesn’t take so long. 

    I’m 71 years old.  I don’t drink.  I don’t smoke.  I sleep pretty good.  I eat proper, I eat food that really booms you up.  No, I don’t come here for the books.  These are my books, I bought these.  I come to the library because you’re free here, it’s less noisy.  They let you sit here and do your work, they leave you alone, not like in some places.  You have freedom in the library, that’s why I come.        


This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Voices From the Workshops: Johnnie Walker

December 3, 2011 | Dawn | Comments (2)

Monologue - By Johnnie Walker


A man of about 30 wearing a black pea coat with a Remembrance Day poppy on the lapel.

Welcome to the library. I'm not going to talk about the service cuts. Or the mayor's office. Or the Margaret Atwood thing, or any of that stuff. Unfortunately, I really cannot comment. I'm am employee of the city, actually. I work for city museums, small ones, the ones that...  So, but in terms of what's up for cuts, and that KPMG thing, and which libraries or museums might be affected, that's just... I can't really talk about... Welcome to the library! It's pretty big! I love it here, actually, although I've honestly only been a couple of times. I mean, obviously I've been to other reference libraries in other cities, we all have. But this one. It's big. iI's open. Although I haven't seen it out of construction, and I haven't seen what the plans are for the renovation, so I don't really know it in that context. It's quiet, though. No, actually, you'd be surprised at how noisy some libraries can get. Especially university libraries?

Yeah, so I've been over here are the microfilm station. Do you know microfilm? Similar to microfiche, but um, also different. As a historian by trade, I can tell you that as far as old documents are concerned, microfilm is the way to go. I'm doing research on the Holiday season in Toronto in the 1920s, so, I'm looking through old copies of Châtelaine from the 1920s and 1930s. Same Châtelaine we have today, yeah, the first issue came out September 1928, which actually surprised me, I thought it was earlier. So, I'm looking at ads, home decorating, holiday stories, and hopefully, we'll be developing programming with the museum. I'm working at Spadina [pronounced “Spa-dee-na”] Museum right now, and we're currently undergoing a massive restoration to return the house to the way it looked in the 1920s and 1930s. Cause now it's actually different rooms, different decades, you know? And ten, twenty years ago, museums were pretty static, and you wouldn't be making a change like this, but now things are starting to change, um, in museums, and we want to be able to show people a different section of Toronto history. Fortunately, when the house was donated, all of its contents were donated to the city as well, and the family kept everything, so there's really a lot to work with; we don't actually have to source anything from outside. Furniture, fabrics, decor, it's all there already. So, it should be something a little bit different, because as far as Toronto museums are concerned, you've already got Fort York, Colbourne Lodge, Mackenzie house, and they're all showing you the 1800s, so this is a chance for Spadina Museum to show you something... a little bit different.

So, welcome to the library. Um, enjoy the microfilm station. I'm sure someone who works here will be happy to explain how it works if you've never used it before, because it's not entirely intuitive. And I'm sure there's lot of other things the library has to offer. Just like the smaller museums of Toronto have, you know, a lot to offer. Provided they... but no, we're not going to talk about that. I really, really, really couldn't comment.

This monologue is reprinted with permission from the author. It was performed at the Toronto Reference Library as part of David Young's Writer-in-Residence workshop program, on November 30, 2011.

Playwright David Young will be blogging in this space from October - November, 2011 as Toronto Reference Library's Playwright-in-Residence.