“At the centre of all my plays is a question about difference.”
Montreal-born Marcus Youssef wears multiple hats: playwright, actor, artistic director, educator, and political activist. He’s a frequent performer in the plays he authors, many co-produced by Neworld Theatre, which he’s run since 2005.
Given his belief that “The minute politics are absent, you aren’t living in the real world,” Youssef tries to keep art and politics equally weighted in his work. Collaboration is one of his primary political principles. He co-founded Progress Lab 1422, a creative space in East Van shared by four cutting- edge companies and, since earning his M.F.A. in creative writing from UBC, has implemented the Bachelor of Performing Arts programs at four Vancouver-area colleges. He also co-writes many of his plays, including A Line in the Sand, The Adventures of Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil, Peter Panties, and Winners and Losers, the two-hander Youssef and James Long wrote and performed to rave reviews in 18 cities across Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.
His current collaboration, King Arthur’s Night with Niall McNeill, his Peter Panties co-creator, features four actors whose lives include Down syndrome, plus six neurotypical actors. Youssef stars as Merlin in the production, which has dates across Canada in 2017–18.
“At the centre of all my plays is a question about difference: who do we imagine ourselves to be and not be—and what does that tell us about ourselves?” Youssef’s plays for teens, such as Jabber currently touring with Green Thumb Theatre, are no exception.
Youssef is currently writing the 2018 East Van Panto and a commissioned Arts Club play. With these projects, like all his work, he hopes to meet his own challenge for theatre artists: “Be relevant, necessary, immediate, and interesting to someone who is not an insider.”
Jerry Wasserman is an actor, critic, emeritus
professor of English and theatre at UBC, and
editor of Modern Canadian Plays. He is editor
and producer of Vancouverplays.com.