A new book edited by School of Dramatic Art professor Michelle MacArthur brings together three Canadian plays that crack open millennial stereotypes and reveal a generation’s varied experiences.
Voices of a Generation got its start through support from the Humanities Research Group (HRG) and will take centre stage on Friday, April 29, at the Playwrights Canada Press spring launch.
While definitions vary, millennials are generally understood as those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. As a self-proclaimed “geriatric millennial,” Dr. MacArthur has an intimate understanding of the stereotypes of this generation, from avocado toast to phone addiction.
“There’s a lot of research on millennials in fields like business and sociology, but a dearth of work in the humanities, and specifically in my discipline of theatre and performance studies,” she says. “I’m interested in how plays and performances can complicate our understandings of generations and generational divides.”
MacArthur was inspired to create the collection by The Millennial Malcontent, written by Governor General Award-winning playwright Erin Shields, which she saw at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in 2017. After successfully pitching her idea for the book to Playwrights Canada Press, she applied for the HRG fellowship in 2019-20 to develop the project, which included a staged reading of Shields’s play during Humanities Week.
The Millennial Malcontent is one of three plays included in the book, which also features works by Anishinaabe playwright Frances Koncan and Alberta-based writer and performer Elena Belyea, critical introductions to each play, and MacArthur’s general introduction about millennials in drama.
“In addition to laying the groundwork for further research on representations of millennials, I’m excited by the roles for young people offered in these plays,” she says. “So often my students have trouble finding scenes and plays with characters close to their age. This book gives them some great options.”
Playwrights Canada Press’s virtual book launch of Voices of a Generation and other titles begins at 7 p.m. April 29. Shields will read from her play with UWindsor acting graduand Sophie Bouey. Register to attend here.