Sit your butt down and learn your three Rs: ranting, resisting, and respect.
In two new plays, Canada‘s king of black comedy takes on the failing education system. Both Parents Night and The Bigger Issue are set in public-school classrooms after hours and involve confrontations between stressed-out teachers and ticked-off parents. Both sympathize with embattled educators and evince Walker’s trademark understanding of poverty and the working classes. In both, Walker’s signature moves work: the audience feels simultaneously complicit in and righteously angry about injustice and inequity.
Parents Night finds grade-three teacher Nicole caught in the crossfire between John, an arrogant executive dad, and Rosie, a ballsy, low-income mom. Both are meeting with Nicole to express concerns for their children, but class warfare quickly erupts, and the kids’ behaviour turns out to be a reflection of their parents’ messed-up lives. A harried Nicole is dealing with troubles of her own, but she makes a brave attempt to discipline these overgrown brats.
The Bigger Issue covers the same ground but digs deeper. Suzy, a novice middle-school teacher, has been called onto the carpet by the principal, Irene, for physically accosting a violent student. But when the boy’s parents show up, it becomes clear that Jack and Maggie are a middle-class couple reduced to abject poverty; the real problem isn’t their son or the school but a dysfunctional society.
Together, Parents Night and The Bigger Issue comprise the first instalments in a projected play cycle similar to Walker’s famous Suburban Motel. With an introduction by Toronto director Wesley Berger.
George F. Walker is one of Canada’s most popular playwrights and the king of black comedy. Since beginning his career in the 1970s Walker has written more than thirty plays, most of them fast-paced tragicomedies that expose and satirize the selfishness and aggression of modern urban life. Walker’s awards and honours include the Order of Canada, two Governor General’s Literary Awards, five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, nine Chalmers Canadian Play Awards, and the Governor General’s lifetime achievement award. He has been the subject of a volume of the series Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English, a collection of academic writing on his plays. Walker’s plays have been presented in more than seven hundred productions across Canada, the United States, and around the world; they have been translated into French, German, Hebrew, Turkish, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, and Japanese.Moore Awards; and eight Chalmers Canadian Play Awards.
Wes Berger was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario. As a director, he is recognized for his direction of Rukmini's Gold (2015), Mamma's Boy (2010), and Larger Than Life: The Musical. As an actor, he is known for The Incredible Hulk (2008), Bridal Fever (2008), and Love You Like Christmas (2016).
"As in all of Walker’s best work, there is a lot happening here on several levels. We laugh at the foibles of parents and teachers as Walker piles misfortune on coincidence on looming disaster. It is extremely funny and bitingly satirical. But then we are aware of a deep sadness under the surface. These are human beings struggling to survive against harsh odds and in the most taxing of circumstances. There is also abundant compassion for teachers. Deeper still is Walker’s smouldering anger at the floundering educational system and at a society that actively discriminates against the poor and the marginalized ... extremely funny and bitingly satirical ... see it and rejoice; a new George Walker cycle is something to be celebrated." —Robert Crew, Toronto Star
"George F. Walker’s plays don’t allow audiences to simply sit back and be entertained. Satiric, questioning, occasionally absurd but always with sympathy for his characters, Walker focuses on our social frameworks and the ways we’re messed them up." —Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine