“As a playwright and theatre director, Kent Stetson has been a vibrant creative force for decades. His plays, including the award-winning The Harps of God, have captivated audiences by depicting the social and cultural life of Atlantic Canada and by providing insight into what it means to be Canadian. As a dramaturg, he has mentored emerging and established playwrights through his stimulating and innovative workshops. He remains an inspiration for writers, actors and artistic leaders in Canada and internationally.”
Invested on February 22, 2008 at Rideau Hall.
Laureate: The 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award, English Drama.
“In The Harps of God, Kent Stetson creates a new theatrical language – both authentic to the Newfoundland idiom and as powerful and economic as poetry. An epic tragedy in three acts, the play explores faith and meaning and pays tribute to the survival of a people and a nation. With this masterful work, Kent Stetson has raised the bar to a new level in Canadian playwriting.”
Rideau Hall, November 14, 2001.
Laureate: The PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation’s inaugural Wendell Boyle Award.
“Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight is a lyrical evocation of the Island and a way of life that seems recent, (1950-2001) but that is swiftly fading from memory. Well researched and written with affection, Mr. Stetson’s play celebrates the richness and rhythm of everyday language and life in rural Prince Edward Island. For this outstanding contribution to both theatre and heritage, we are pleased to present the Wendell Boyle Award to Mr. Kent Stetson.”
February 18, 2002, The Arts Guild.
Laureate: 2002: The Canadian Author’s Association inaugural Carol Bolt Award for Excellence in Drama.
“The Harps of God is a carefully crafted play of survival that is an intelligent, poetic tragedy covering a wide sweep of the human condition, both on the large scale and on that of individuals. It is a masterpiece of reality in depicting the suffering of a group of sealers, adrift on pack ice in the Great Sealing Disaster of 1914, as they face the reality of their mortality. The author has successfully depicted the harshness of the elements, the inner truths of their personal beliefs, and the struggle to maintain dignity in establishing believable characters… The play is distinctly Canadian in all its elements, yet never forces this aspect on the reader/listener. This is a compelling drama that touches on moral versus survival issues.”
Sudbury, Ontario. May, 2002.
Distinguished Contribution to the Literary Arts On Prince Edward Island: Awarded by The Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts and the PEI Writer’s Federation.
“Not unlike many (Prince Edward) Islanders, Kent’s career has taken him away from home, to his current life in Montreal . . . In the decades since, he has never allowed himself to be too long away from this place. His roots are unmistakably in our red soil, from which he has drawn character and confidence. His integrity, and compassion for the human condition, informs both his work and his life.”
June 3, 2007. The Arts Guild, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Awards and Honors
Artist in Residence: The Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, McGill University.
Winner: The Governor General’s Literary Awards, English Drama; The Harps Of God.
The Canadian Authors Association Carol Bolt Award For Excellence In Drama: The Harps Of God.
The Prince Edward Island Museum And Heritage Foundation’s Inaugural Wendell Boyle Award For Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight.
Lifetime Member: Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre
Prize Winner: The Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition: New Arcadia
Recipient: Telefilm Canada Screenwritter’s Assistance Award, for Ringfinger
Composer in Residence Program: The Banff Centre, with Alasdair Maclean.
Playwrights Colony, The Banff Centre, with Eric Steiner.
Warm Wind In China/Comme Un Vent Chaud En Chine: Short List, Governor General’s Literary Awards, (WWIC in translation, in a bi-lingual edition)
Playwriting Residencies: The National Theatre School Of Canada, and The Canadian Stage Company.
Tighten The Traces, Haul In The Reins: Direction, best television program of the year, ACTRA, finalist.
Resident Playwright: Neptune Theatre, where Warm Wind in China premiered.
The Hangashore: best television program of the year; finalist, for direction, ACTRA.
Atlantic Film Festival: Screenplay, Prize Winner, P.L.F.
Resident, The Playwright’s Colony: The Banff Centre.
Governor Generals Literary Awards: Head Jurist, Drama.
Quebec Writers Federation Literary Awards: head Jurist, the novel.
National Theatre Advisory Committee: Playwright’s Representative, The Canada Council.
Senior Arts Awards: Jurist. The Canada Council. Service spanning multiple years and many competitions.
Distinguished Alumni Award, The University of Prince Edward Island, 2014
Recipient: The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2013.
“The one thing that all Canadians need to know about Kent Stetson is that he’s the author of The Harps of God, probably the best single play written about this country.” Matt Radz, Theatre Critic, The Montreal Gazette, Montreal, Canada.
“Magnificent … this year’s GG winner, The Harps of God, truly deserves the accolade; it is a terrific read, and theatrically its ambitions are breathtaking.” Gaetan Charlebois, Hour.
“Through his character and kindred devices, Stetson makes his play – Horse high, Bull Strong, Pig Tight – as thoughtful and intelligent as it is amusing. Stetson’s dialogue is sharp, his descriptive imagery is painterly in its artfulness whether he’s evoking the fiery demise of a tar paper shack or the sparkling ascent of partridges emerging from a snow bank.” Sean McQuaid, The Buzz
Queen of the Cadillac is . . . “An evening to remember. A definite winner. An important play by an outstanding playwright. A circus of enormous exuberance. A mixture of the magic mysticism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and black humor of Joe Orton. It succeeds in mixing fire and ice.” Ray Conlogue, The Globe & Mail
Warm Wind in China explores humanity “…with compassion and brilliance, rage and despair, love and courage in the face of death.” Ian McKay, New Maritimes
The Hangashore: (Pilot of the eight part TV comedy series ‘Tales from Pigeon Inlet’, CBC Newfoundland, writer by Tom Cahill) “Ingenious characterizations. It’s been directed with sweet spunk by Kent Stetson, who grabs the small town flavour.” Devo, Variety
“Stetson is a writer’s writer. The love and pain in his scripts is delicately wrought, the writing full of careful, shaped metaphors intelligently orchestrated beyond the bounds of notice. … He is not a romantic writer, not contemplative and self confessed. His work is full of practical passion.” D. R. Downton, The Canadian Theatre Review. (CTR 57)
“Another outstanding exception to the suffocating consensus of ideas is Kent Stetson’s Queen of the Cadillac … a poetic fantasy about the rupture between the past and the present.” Globe and Mail, Review of the best in Canadian Theatre.
Where Is Kabuki, by Don Druick: “Impeccably directed by Kent Stetson … intensely focused, rich in detail. It’s stunning. See it!” Robert Crew, The Toronto Star.
Playwright in Residence, Centaur Theatre with Playwrights Workshop Montreal, August 2016-June 2017. Complete 2 Monkeys. 1 Grape, a play in two acts for five actors. A staged reading of the fourth draft, directed by Roy Surette, concluded the residency.
The Torch: A Suite of sixteen monologues for four actors for the international television broadcast of the Commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9, 2017, in the presence of HRH Prince Charles, Princes William and Harry, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mme Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Their Excellencies David and Sharon Johnson, and Francois Hollande, President of France. At the Vimy Memorial, Vimy, France. Produced by Group Phaneuf for Veterans Affairs Canada. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSerGABNyL4
Three Seconds of Light/Un instant du lumiere at Place des Héros in Arras, France, April 2017. The 20-minute sound and light show combines digital technology with historical architectural design to explore Canada’s military history and long-standing relationship with France. https://vimeo.com/216301289
Plays Written and Produced
The Survivor Cycle: A trilogy of theme linked two act plays, including;
- Warm Wind In China; Tragedy, in two acts. (Fifteen North American productions. Staged readings in Britain and Europe. Published in a bilingual Edition by Nu-Age Editions, Montreal, and The Canadian Theatre Review)
- Queen Of The Cadillac; two act comedy. Alberta Theatre Projects, 1989. Eric Steiner directed. Developed with the assistance of the Canada Council of the Arts and Playwrights Workshop Montreal.
- Sweet Magdalena; Gothic Revival, with music. Developed with the assistance of the Canada Council of the Arts, Canadian Stage Company, and Playwrights Workshop Montreal.
Just Plain Murder; (where-in a cheesy Murder Mystery Weekend goes wrong) Comedy/satire. Developed with the assistance of The Atlantic Theatre Company.
The Harps Of God; a tragedy, in three acts. Rising Tide Theatre, Richard Rose directed. La Compangnie Éphéméride, Île du Roi, Normandy, France. Director Jos Hoben, translated as La mer de crystal by IslabelleFamchon. Winner: The 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award, and the inaugural Carol Bold Award, Canadian Author’s Association. Developed by Rising Tide Theatre, The National Arts Centre and the Canadian Stage Company, with the assistance of the Canada Council of the Arts and The Quebec Arts Council..
Caledonia; Musical Theatre, (book and lyrics). Music; Alasdair MacLean. Commissioned by the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown Summer Festival. In development.
New Arcadia; A Grail Romance, in two acts. Prize Winner: The 2001 Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition. Developed by The Atlantic Theatre Festival with assistance from Playwrights Workshop Montreal, Theatre Prince Edward Island, Theatre Antigonish.
The Eyes Of The Gull; two act Gothic Romance. And The Way of the Sea, Norman Duncan in Newfoundland. Rising Tide Theatre, Trinity, Newfoundland. with the assistance of the Canada Council of the Arts
Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight; A play in two acts for one actor. Comedy. Theatre Prince Edward Island. Directed by the playwright. Dancing Sky Theatre, Angus Ferguson, Director. La Compangnie Éphéméride, Île du Roi, France. Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris. French tour. Director Parick Verschereuren (Isabelle Fachon, Translator) Developed with the assistance of the Canada Council of the Arts.
Three One Act Plays; Woodlot Rap!, As I Am, and A Christmas Musical
Excess: A Post 911 Comedy about Sex, Shopping and War! In development, with the assistance of the Canada Council of the Arts and Playwrights Workshop Montreal.
Two Monkeys, One Grape: five short plays of varied styles (comedy, drama, clown, tragedy, and short musical) presented in standard two act format by five actors. In development.
Screen Writer/Story Editor
Ringfinger; Feature Comedy
Warm Wind In China; Feature adaptation from the play, for Atlantis Films.
Queen Of The Cadillac; Feature adaptation from the play, Birdsong/Cadillac Productions.
Various Titles; (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The National Film Board of Canada, CTV, video and 16 mm) Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Short Subjects, Industrials.
Telefilm Canada; Script reader, analyst.
BBR Productions; Wagner’s Will. Script Consultant/Story Editor
BBR Productions; Journey to the Heart, Story Editor.
Master Of The Phantom; five half-hour episodes on the life and Love of American painter Marsden Hartley. CBC Morning Side.
Three 1/2 hour Adaptations from Alasdair MacLeod’s As Birds Bring Forth The Sun; CBC Morning Side.
Jonah’s Eye; Five part series. CBC Morning Side.
Antinomy; adaptation of the Spider Robinson, ninety minutes, Vanishing Point. CBC.
Direction, Theatre (Selected Tittles)
Kill Zone, A Love Story: Wanda Graham, HeaTheatre
Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight: Stetson.
The Anchoress Brangena: premiere, by and with Wanda Graham.
Offensive To Some: Berni Stapleton. The National Arts Centre. Premiere.
Woman In A Monkey Cage: Berni Stapleton. Rising Tide Theatre. Premiere
Warm Wind In China: Stetson, Rising Tide Theatre, Confederation Centre (Theatre P.E.I.).
Where Is Kabuki?: Don Druick. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Premiere.
You’re a Good Man: Charlie Brown. Stage East.
Fat Woman and Sister: Kent Thompson, Pond Playhouse.
27 Wagons Full Of Cotton: Tennessee Williams. Charlottetown Luncthtime Theatre.
The Real Inspector Hound: Tom Stoppard. CLTT
Direction: Film & Television (Selected titles)
Tales From Pigeon Inlet: 8 half-hour film/video comedies, CBC Television. (See awards)
Tighten The Traces/Haul In The Reins: 1 hr video drama, CBC Television. (See Awards)
The Little Beggar Man: 16 mm short; comedy.
Clock Works: 16 mm drama; cinema for young audiences.
Jenny Koo Koo: 16 mm drama; cinema for young audiences.
Short Form Drama . . . various titles and genres, half hours for the CBC in the 1980s.
The National Arts Centre, Ottawa.
Rising Tide Theatre, St. John’s, Various titles.
Woman In A Monkey Cage, Berni Stapleton.
Rough Idle, Alan Hibbert.
Beinn Breagh, Cindy Cowan.
In My Father’s Footsteps, Robbie O’Neill.
A Tidy Package, Stapleton, House.
Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre, various titles.
Brangena, Wanda Graham, Theatre Antigonish.
Theatre P.E.I., various titles.
What Is A Canadian? Essay, McClelland and Stewart Ltd.
The Harps of God; Playwright’s Canada Press and in a new edition by MacArthur and Company.
Duncan MacIntosh’s Island Paradise, Canadian Theatre Review.
Warm Wind In China; Nu-Age Editions, in a bilingual edition (Comme Un Vent Chaud En Chine)
Warm Wind In China; Canadian Theatre Review, CTR 57.
Queen Of The Cadillac, Notes; The Pottersfield Portfolio, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A Leap In The Dark, Aids, Art and Contemporary Cultures; a collection of essays by international artists co-published by Vehicule and Artext, Montreal.
Offensive To Everyone; The Capilano Review.
Dramaturgy: Dreadful And Divine; Canplay, Playwrights Union Of Canada.
Canadian Theatre Review: various.
Clockworks (16 mm drama) National Film Board Archives
The Little Beggar Man (16 mm short) National Film Board
Walter Shaw – Portrait Of A Premier, (16 mm documentary) CBC Archives.
Public Libraries: five titles…
- Warm Wind In China, (Nu-Age Editions and The Canadian Theatre Review)
- The Harps of God: Playwrights Canada Press and MacArthur and Company
- The World Above The Sky: MacArthur and Company
- Meat Cove: MasterPlayWorks
- Maragraph: (Collection) Playwrights Canada Press
Workshops, Teaching, Education
The National Theatre School Of Canada: Advanced – script development, structure, character/plot.
Concordia University, Creative Writing: Advanced Play Writing
The Atlantic Film Makers Co-Op: Screen Writing.
The National Theatre School Of Canada: Character Generated Plot, Introductory Playwriting.
Bermuda Music and Drama Society: Hamilton, Bermuda.
La Roque Alric, Provence, France: With Marianne Ackerman.
Writers Guild of Alberta; Edmonton Alberta.
Education: Honors Bachelor Of Arts, Literature. Prince of Wales College (via: University of Prince Edward Island), Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Kent Stetson, C. M.
Kent Stetson’s work as writer, director, mentor and arts activist has taken him across Canada, to Bermuda, Paris, Rouen, Provence, England, Scotland and beyond.
Kent was born and raised in Marshfield, Prince Edward Island. He began his studies at Prince of Wales College in 1966, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, Honours, in Literature, in 1970. His early acting and directing career included theatre, radio, television and film. The playwright, director and novelist developed as a dramatist in Halifax, before moving to Montreal in 1989, where he became a full-time writer. His work as mentor at The National Theatre School, McGill and Concordia universities has helped to advance the work of dozens of Canadian playwrights and novelists at all levels of their practice.
Innovative, interactive workshops for writers of drama and prose fiction, given live online through his company, MasterPlayWorks, has extended his impact via the internet across Canada, into the United States and to Europe.
Kent Stetson’s first full length play, the tragedy in two acts Warm Wind in China, was also the first Canadian play to address the personal and social horrors of AIDS. Many hundreds of young men and their families drew comfort and the courage to fight social discrimination from Warm Wind in China, considered a landmark work in Canada and the United States for its compassion and drive for social justice.
Seven works followed in rapid succession. Plays such as Queen of the Cadillac, Just Plain Murder and Caledonia display his wide stylistic range, including comedy, tragedy, music theatre and drama. (see Resume, above)
The Harps of God, the true survival story of fifteen Newfoundland sealers adrift on North Atlantic ice in a savage storm in 1914, earned Stetson international success and won him both the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and the inaugural Carol Bolt Award from the Canadian Authors Association. An excerpt from the Governor General’s Award citation reads “In The Harps of God, Kent Stetson creates a new theatrical language – as powerful and economic as poetry. An epic tragedy in three acts, the play explores faith and meaning and pays tribute to the survival of a people and a nation. With this masterful work, Kent Stetson has raised the bar to a new level in Canadian play writing.” The Harps of God played Paris and Val du Roi in translation under the title Le mer du cristal.
Mr. Stetson was awarded the inaugural Wendell Boyle Award by The PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation for his one-man comedy Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight which, under the title Trop Haut Pour Le Cheval, toured France. Kent also received The Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts and the PEI Writer’s Federation awards for Distinguished Contribution to the Literary Arts on Prince Edward Island. Other recognition includes a top prize in the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Award for New Arcadia.
Mr. Stetson was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2007. “As a playwright and theatre director, Kent Stetson has been a vibrant creative force for decades. His plays have captivated audiences by depicting the social and cultural life of Canada and by providing insight into what it means to be Canadian. As a dramaturge, he has mentored emerging and established playwrights through his stimulating and innovative workshops. He remains an inspiration for writers, actors and artistic leaders in Canada and abroad.”
Kent has since written several novels including the 2010 critically acclaimed The World Above the Sky and the literary thriller Meat Cove. In 2013, Mr. Stetson was the inaugural Artist in Residence for the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas at McGill University. In the same year he received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to the arts in Canada.
Mr. Stetson is entertaining his largest audiences yet – more than 270,000 people, seven thousand Canadians and visitors per show. Kent served as Head Writer for the Montreal multi-media producer Idées au cube on the massive, moving ‘son et lumière’ production Northern Lights/Lumières du Nord, a dramatic, narrative-driven ode to Canada with great music, a compelling bilingual narrator and an evocative soundscape, projected in HD, employing 3d animation and laser mapping on the Centre Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa. See Heritage Canada for a preview. Northern Lights/Lumières plays nightly, summers, 2015-2019 on ‘The Hill’. Admission is free.
And an odd new play is emerging. 2 Moneys, 1 Grape, an evening of five, twenty-minute plays in varied styles linked by theme, will be presented in the standard two act play format.
Kent hopes a recent initiative will serve as template to other playwrights, novelist, memoirists — wrtiters in any genre. After the all too common collapse of his two main publishers, everything he has written will be offered for sale (ePub, mobi, PDF and audio book formats) in the Bookstore of his updated, visually pleasing website, www.MasterPlayworks.com.