Halifax playwright Hannah Moscovitch wins Governor General’s Literary Award for drama

November 19, 2021
Halifax playwright Hannah Moscovitch wins Governor General's Literary Award for drama

Acclaimed Halifax playwright Hannah Moscovitch was waiting for a routine call from her doctor when she picked up the phone and instead learned she’d been chosen for one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards.

“They got, like, a full-shocked reaction from me,” she told CBC Radio’s Information Morning on Thursday. “I cried. I told them how meaningful it was.”

Moscovitch is the winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for drama for her play Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, the story of a middle-aged professor who has an affair with an admiring, much younger student.

Moscovitch’s Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story has played all over the world, and she was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award in the drama category in 2019 for What a Young Wife Ought to Know, and in 2009 for East of Berlin.

But Moscovitch said the recognition that comes with winning the award is a big boost of confidence for a writer in the midst of a pandemic.

Information Morning – NS7:44Acclaimed Halifax playwright Hannah Moscovitch picks up this year’s Governor General’s Award for drama

Halifax playwright Hannah Moscovitch is the Governor General’s Literary Award winner for drama for her play “Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes.” 7:44

“You want to feel like your country thinks you’re doing well,” she said. “That’s so bizarre and obvious, but I think, you know, it did mean something to me.”

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are given out each year in seven categories, in both English and French, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama.

This year’s winners were announced Wednesday. The English-language fiction prize went to Edmonton writer Norma Dunning for her short story collection Tainna: The Unseen Ones.

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes

When Moscovitch wrote Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, which opened at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto the same week of jury selection in the Harvey Weinstein trial, she wasn’t sure people would respond well to it. 

“I thought, ‘Oh, no one is going to produce this or go with me,'” she said. “Everyone’s going to be really angry at the female character for what she does at the end. None of that has happened and I think it’s partly because there’s just been such a revolution in how people think.” 

People who work on productions of her play around the world often tell her how much audiences are impacted by the story well after the final curtain closes. 

Alice Snaden and Matthew Edison in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes. (Joy von Tiedemann Photography Inc.)

“They were flashing the lights because the lobby was full of people who were still talking about it, and the piece was meant as a conversation piece that would get people to deprogram how they think about this particular type of romance, and so I was happy to hear that people were spending time talking after the play,” she said. 

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes has been performed in Melbourne, Australia, and will be shown soon elsewhere in Canada.

Moscovitch said there are no plans right now for the play to come to Halifax, but she’s currently working on two new pieces with Halifax-based 2b Theatre Company.

She’s encouraged a play that flips power dynamics and perspectives on its head seems to be resonating with audiences everywhere. 

“When I started out, all artistic directors were men and all reviewers were men, and often when I would write plays about women there would be questions about their relevance and value up front,” she said. “And I’m finding that’s happening much less.”

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