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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Finalist Dwayne Brenna



Dwayne Brenna is the versatile author of several books of humour, poetry, and fiction.  Coteau Books published his popular series of humorous vignettes entitled Eddie Gustafson’s Guide to Christmas in 2000.  His two books of poetry, Stealing Home and Give My Love to Rose, were published by Hagios Press in 2012 and 2015 respectively.  Stealing Home, a poetic celebration of the game of baseball, was subsequently shortlisted for several Saskatchewan Book Awards, including the University of Regina Book of the Year Award.  His first novel New Albion, about a laudanum-addicted playwright struggling to survive in London’s East End during the winter of 1850-51, was published by Coteau Books in autumn 2016.  New Albion won the 2017 Muslims for Peace and Justice Fiction Award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards.  It is one of three English language novels shortlisted for the prestigious MM Bennetts Award for historical fiction.  His short stories and poems have been published in an array of journals, including Grain, Nine, Spitball, and The Antigonish Review.

Brenna has acted at the Stratford Festival and has appeared on television in various nationally and internationally broadcast programs including For the Record, Judge (CBC Toronto), The Great Electrical Revolution, and The Incredible Story Studio (Mind’s Eye).  His movie credits include The Wars, Painted Angels (with Kelly McGillis), Black Light (with Michael Ironside), and The Impossible Elephant (with Mia Sara).  A series of character-based vignettes called The Adventures of Eddie Gustafson, written and performed by Brenna, had a five-year run on CBC Radio.

He is also the author of several books on theatre research, including Scenes From Canadian Plays (Fifth House) and Emrys’ Dream: Greystone Theatre in Words and Photographs (Thistledown).  His book Our Kind of Work: the Glory Days and Difficult Times of 25th Street Theatre (Thistledown 2011) was subsequently nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award in Non-Fiction.  He has contributed articles on theatre to Theatre Notebook (London UK), The Dictionary of National Biography (London UK), The Canadian Theatre Review, and the Czech journal Theatralia.

Having completed his PhD at the University of London (England), Dr. Brenna is an active proponent of internationalization at the University of Saskatchewan, where he is employed.  He was involved in the development of an exchange with Mazaryk University in the Czech Republic, where he taught a module on Canadian theatre.  He has taught (and learned) mask in the aboriginal village of Boruca in the mountains of Costa Rica.  Most recently, he taught a course in mask at the University of Hyderabad in India, the first step in developing an exchange between that university and the University of Saskatchewan.  He regularly leads a study abroad course in London and Stratford-upon-Avon for students at the University of Saskatchewan.

His stage plays have been produced at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham, 25th Street Theatre in Saskatoon, and the Neptune Theatre in Halifax.

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New Albion follows the lives of the employees of the New Albion theatre in London, England, in 1850, through the journal entries of the stage manager, Emlyn Phillips. Fighting its own reputation, hindered by its location and ""sketchy" (at best) audience, as well as a police commissioner who demands "morally upstanding" plays, and a playwright so decrepit and addicted to laudanum that the actors of the New Albion are never sure what to expect, the troupe attempts to put on the best show possible, each and every night. The reader is introduced to the entire company of actors, all of whom have their own set of issues, who consistently band together as a community and family in the face of every obstacle - and there are more than a few of those. As the theatre encounters problem after problem, Phillips must decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of his passion.

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