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Parsing the prolific output of playwright John McGie

The Chair Series returns to The Point on Saturday, Oct. 23
Chair Series May 15 2016
John McGie’s popular Chair Series will again grace the stage at The Point Artist-Run Centre in Whistler on Oct. 23, 2021.

To get just a small glimpse into Vancouver playwright John McGie’s prolific output from the past five years or so, one need only track down his book—I Really Don’t Care If You Buy This Book—on Amazon.

The preview section for the book, a collection of more than 300 monologues McGie wrote for his ongoing Chair Series productions, showcases the wide- ranging eccentricities that make up the playwright’s consciousness.

Reading the list of titles alone conveys the entire spectrum of emotion McGie’s work spans—from absurd humour to romantic despair to existential doubt and dread (and everything in between).

Monologues with simple titles like “Sexy” or “Divorce” exist alongside outputs such as “Kindergarten Coup” and “Douche Canoe”—but in every instance it takes only a small amount of effort to imagine the content of each.

From the outside, it’s a lot to take in— and that’s to say nothing about what’s actually happening inside McGie’s brain.

“Literally, I can’t not do this,” he says, adding the caveat that he’s perfectly aware of how “wanky” that sounds.

“I don’t really wanna go down that road, but it is the old, ‘even if nobody looked at or read anything I do, I’d still be doodling on a napkin somewhere’—because you can’t help yourself.”

Where artists and their observers often tend to view that kind of compulsion through a romantic lens, McGie almost sees it as a curse.

“I really wish I didn’t have it, because my life would be a lot easier,” he says.

“I’d be very happy playing video games. I’m not altruistic, I don’t read lots of books—I read Archie Comics. I’m not a deep person. I’m very, very superficial,

but for whatever reason I’ve got this little thing that’s built into my DNA that I have to exercise, and that’s all it is.”

In the Chair Series—which returns to The Point Artist-Run Centre in Whistler on Saturday, Oct. 23—McGie asks performers for a single word, which he then uses to craft a monologue for them.

When the actors take the stage one at a time, a single, solitary chair is the only prop they have to work with.

McGie likens the process to a tailor custom-fitting a suit to a customer.

“If I do my job right, it’s fun for them. It fits them well, so they can really sink themselves into it,” he says.

But given the format of the show, the opposite is just as true.

“If I haven’t done my job right as a writer, and they haven’t done their job right as a performer, there’s no hiding. Like, it will be bad,” McGie says.

“Because all you’ve got is the words and the performance.”

But when things go sideways in a performance, as they sometimes tend to, McGie is never shy in doling out encouragement, or bringing the audience itself onside to help.

“More often than not you can jump-start the engine and then off they go. And actually I think the audience likes that too ... because they are very much a part of the performance,” he says.

“We don’t need more pretense in the world. I don’t want to be pretentious. You have to dress so well when you do that.”

This year’s Chair Series features seven actors from Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver: Dea Lloyd, Amy Reid, Susan Hutchinson, Kathy Daniels, Janice Hayden, Angie Nolan and Jacques Lalonde, as well as a surprise musical performance.

Proof of vaccination and ID are required for entry, and a cash bar and snacks will be offered on site.

Tickets (which are limited) cost $20 plus tax and are available at thepointartists.com.