In Memoriam: Dramaturg and Playwright Iris Turcott

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Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is saddened to learn that on September 22, 2016 noted Canadian dramaturg and playwright Iris Turcott died. 

Iris worked with Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for many years, becoming an important figure in the Playwrights Colony, where she attended five residencies between 1999 and 2008 as a guest dramaturg. It was there that she connected with playwright and director Daniel MacIvor, whose play Arigato, Tokyo, was commissioned and published by Banff Centre for the Centre’s 75th anniversary. 

Iris went on to become the dramaturg for the show, which opened in Toronto in 2013 produced by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, after two Banff Centre workshops in 2009 and 2010. She was “a warrior woman, a theatre warrior, a goddamn theatre Goddess in fact,” wrote Daniel MacIvor in a tribute to Iris on Now’s website, September 23. 

Iris was the company dramaturg for the Canadian Stage Company for 14 years, as well as the co-founder and co-artistic director of Playbill Theatre. She was a major contributor to Canada’s theatre scene, and this loss clearly echoes through the many institutions she touched with her work, like the National Arts Centre which will fly its flags at half-mast this week in her honour.

Brian Quirt, the current director of Banff Centre’s Playwrights Colony counted Iris among his friends and trusted colleagues. “Dramaturgy lost one of its great practitioners and advocates today with the passing of Iris Turcott,” he wrote on the Facebook page of the Literary Manager & Dramaturgs of the Americas, of which he is also board chair. 

“We shall deeply miss her, as will several generations of Canadian writers and theatre makers whose works are richer for her insight, collaboration and vision of theatre.”

Her reputation in Canadian theatre, and here in Banff, is solidified as hardworking, energetic and dedicated above all else.

“She was clearly in her element in Banff, surrounded by playwrights, and her cheerleading was infectious,” says Bob White, former co-director of the Playwrights Colony from 1997-2009, and the current Director of New Plays at the Stratford Festival.

“She brought to the Colony an overwhelming belief in playwrights and the work. She truly believed we were forging the national culture and that it was all of our duty to be the very best we could be. She will be missed.”