Thirteen Hands and Other Plays
From one of Canada's most beloved authors
comes a collection of four delightful plays, including the
popular and highly acclaimed Thirteen Hands
plus Anniversary, Departures and Arrivals
and Fashion, Power, Guilt and the Charity of Families.
The theatrical form allows Carol Shields' great strength
as a master of dialogue to shine as she returns to themes
she explores in her prose: love, family, friendship and
the hidden meanings and larger truths uncovered beneath
the surface of daily life. A treasure for those who work
in the theatre or simply love going to it, as well as for
those who appreciate Carol Shields fine writing, Thirteen
Hands and Other Plays is an exhilarating introduction
to her considerable talents as a playwright.
here to order.
Preface by Carol Shields
Before becoming a playwright, I
was a novelist, and one who was often impatient with the
requisite description of weather or scenery or even with
the business of moving people from room to room. I was
more interested in the sound of people talking to each
other, reacting to each other or leaving silences for
others to fall into. Always while writing I felt a quickening
of interest when a patch of dialogue was about to erupt
in my novels. I noticed, too, that the books I loved to
read were full of human speech.
For those who may be interested
in producing one of Carol Shields' plays at your theatre
or school, please contact Great North Artists Management,
Inc. regarding rights and reading scripts.
Great North Artists Management, Inc.
350 Dupont Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Contact: Rena Zimmerman
In Thirteen Hands, Pulitzer Prize
winner Carol Shields creates a voice for a whole generation
of women overlooked. The women in Thirteen Hands
welcome a once-a-week gathering at a bridge club as a
time to momentarily suspend feelings of loneliness, isolation
and fear, and begin to indulge, revel and celebrate the
wonderful intimacy they form. An intimacy that gets passed
on, like an exquisite heirloom, to a next generation of
Carol Shields' dialogue blends a rich
alchemy of gentle flowing interaction with a subtle avant-garde
that turns the seemingly mundane into the extraordinary.
This is storytelling that circles time and delivers memories.
- Back cover
of original print version
Thirteen Hands was originally commissioned
by Agassiz Theatre and workshopped by the Manitoba Association
of Playwrights. It was first produced at Prairie Theatre
Exchange in Winnipeg and went on to be produced by professional
theatres in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver, to considerable
box-office success, and has been produced by amateur theatre
companies across the country.
Excerpt from the Winnipeg Free Press
review of the World Premiere of Thirteen Hands
Life unfolds at cards
By Kevin Prokosh, Theatre Writer
In Carol Shields's lovely new play, Thirteen
Hands, four generations of "white glove ladies" kibbitz
around the bridge table, dealing cards and sloughing off
No one keeps score in the Prairie Theatre
Exchange production, but Shields must be congratulated
for bringing home a cleverly played small slam, worthy
of Goren himself. This thanks primarily to her trump card
- that rare gift of making the mundane seem exceptional.
My mother belonged to a bridge
club, as do the women in this play, and I remember
being kept up by the sound of hysterical laughter,
the acrid smell of cigarette smoke wafting up the
stairs and that sickly sweet (but delicious) taste
of bridge mix. However, I don't think you need to
have had any experience with bridge to enjoy this
work, since it is at heart a celebration of women
and friendship. The story, which spans several generations,
is told in a series of vignettes. Some of the most
memorable are: four teens smoking up and discussing
how different their lives will be from their mothers';
four near-strangers speaking cordially across the
bridge table yet revealing their inner thoughts to
the audience; and a poignant four-generation bridge
- Kate Watson,
The Coast, Halifax
Anniversary, written with
Dave Williamson, is a domestic comedy full of insight
and revelation. Dianne and Tom, recently separated, get
together to divide their assets on - of all days - their
anniversary. Ben and Shirley, old friends they have not
seen for several years and who don't know that Dianne
and Tom have parted show up unexpectedly, as does Dianne's
current boyfriend Garth. An earlier version of the play
was produced entitled Not Another Anniversary.
A send-up of love and life and
the destruction of furniture, Anniversary puts accepted
notions about relationships to the test. A bit raunchy,
a bit serious and wonderfully hilarious, it is sure
to join Carol Shields' other plays as a classic."
Anniversary is a fast-paced
comedy built on a triple narrative irony. One couple in
the play are married and pretending to be close to separation.
Another couple, who are separated, are pretending to be
married. The third and overriding irony is that the separated
couple are still emotionally together, while the married
couple have already emotionally separated.
Notwithstanding the comical nature
of the piece, a number of serious questions are put before
the audience: What does friendship mean and what are its
obligations and loyalties? What does marriage involve,
and can original marriage vows sustain renegotiation?
When is a marriage or a friendship over? What is the nature
of pretence and how damaging is it? And, finally, are
we all, in some sense, pretenders?
Each of the five characters in
the play behaves foolishly at times, but it is not the
playwrights' intent to mock them or their enthusiasms.
Tom's passion for the environment, Dianne's redemption
through crafts and coffee, Ben's and Shirley's confusion
over their private/public lives, Garth's attempt to mask
his pain with irony - each of these characters deserves
a presence on that narrow and difficult balancing beam
of respect and humour.
Anniversary is particularly
suitable for summer theatre and for dinner theatre. Its
two acts can easily be rearranged into three acts, and
a suggestion for this kind of alteration is made in the
It is taken for granted that geographical
references will be changed to suit particular audiences.
We like to think this play will bring pleasure, laughter,
recognition and perhaps even a little reflection.
- Carol Shields and Dave Williamson,
from the original print version of Anniversary
Winnipeg Free Press review of
the premiere of the updated version of Anniversary
Clever writing makes breakup fun to
By Linda Rosborough
Anyone who has ever gone through a breakup and
is there a soul who hasn't? knows it is a sad,
bitter and lonely place to be.
It can also be incredibly funny, at least
when it happens on stage the snappy dialogue is supplied
by a pair of clever playwrights.
Anniversary, penned by Pulitzer
Prize-winner Carol Shields and fellow Winnipeg Novelist
David Williamson a decade ago, is a compact little gem
of a play.
Departures and Arrivals
In 22 vignettes set in an airport lounge,
Departures and Arrivals dramatizes how lives are
heightened and enlarged when viewed within the frame of
public spaces - airports, train stations, streets - so
that we all become, in a sense, actors.
It was delightful to jump from
watching melodramatic scenes with frenzied vaudeville
energy to more subdued moments in which characters
were deeply moving, sometimes sad and always painfully
human. The decision to make use of such a wide emotional
palette is to be commended; not only is it gutsy,
but it also results in an engaging performance."
- Daniela Smith-Fernández,
Through the course of the play,
we see silent actions and we hear conversations and
interior monologues all of which tell us snippets
of the lives of the passengers and crews who pass
through. The tone varies from melodrama to touching
reality, comic to passionate, surprisingly outspoken
to sly innuendo."
The play's structure (twenty-two vignettes)
is intended to be open so that separate scenes can be
omitted to meet time requirements or reshuffled to suit
the demands of an individual director. The scenes are
not distinguished in the text, and directors should feel
free to adjust the stage directions and transitions between
The play is designed so that the many
parts can be taken by six actors, three men and three
women. Costumes are minimal: a hat, a coat, a prop and
so forth. In addition to the six actors, there is an offstage
public address (PA) voice, which announces flights and
provides connections. (In the Black Hole production, this
"voice" was an onstage presence, an actor/musician who
also provided musical accompaniment on an electric piano.)
Although the play is not a musical, some
form of musical connection (organ, piano, flute, etc.)
helps to join the separate scenes.
It is my hope that all the elements of
the play will contribute both to a cyclical sense of arrival
and departure, and to the human appreciation of the public
place-be it airport, train station or city street-as a
venue for the theatrical sense that enlarges ordinary
lives. It is also my hope that the play will realize a
fusion of the real and the surreal, the naturalistic and
the fantastic. This is a comedy with edges.
- Carol Shields, from the original print version of
Departures and Arrivals
Fashion, Power, Guilt and the
Charity of Families
Carol Shields collaborates with her daughter,
Catherine Shields, to explore the social and private worlds
of the modern family in this funny, poignant and gently
challenging play. When a department of government bureaucrats
begins to receive widespread complaints of loneliness,
it attempts to legislate a remedy by creating a "family
unit" which appears, on the surface at least, to be a
stereotypical suburban family. But it is not until the
"family unit" looks inward and addresses its problems
- including the unspoken secret which has haunted the
parents for years - that they become a real family. A
uniquely contemporary celebration of our oldest and most
universal institution. - Back
cover of original print version
Poignant and comic insights into
- The Globe
Family is the most universal of
our institutions, and the most mysterious and private
in its workings. It seemed important to question the basic
assumptions about the nuclear family by placing abstract
commentary margin-to-margin with the ongoing life of a
"real" family, and bringing music and drama edge-to-edge
in order to open that question as far as it would allow.
- Carol Shields
I am fascinated by the power behind the
drive we all share to find or create some kind of family
(whatever form that may take: two people or a commune).
Yet the desire to escape the fury of family is just as
strong. What's the deal here? -
These are the ideas that brought
us to the beginning of our play.
- From the original print version of Fashion, Power, Guilt
and the Charity of Families
the book | Top ]