Brad Fraser

Brad Fraser, playwright, director, filmmaker, media personality (b at Edmonton 28 June 1959). Brad Fraser grew up in various towns in Alberta and British Columbia; physically and sexually abused as a child, he was troubled as a teenager, failing in high school and accomplishing little. At 16 he saw a play at Edmonton's Victoria Composite High School and was immediately drawn to theatre. At 17 he entered his first play in a competition and by age 20 he had already won the Alberta Culture Playwriting Competition twice, with Two Pariah at a Bus Stop in a Large City Late at Night and With Love from Your Son. Both awards led to his participation in the Banff Centre's playwrights' colony.

Other early works were Mutants (1980) for Walterdale Theatre in Edmonton and Wolf Boy (1981), which was produced a number of times across the country, culminating in the noted production at Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille that introduced a young Keanu Reeves to the theatre. Chainsaw Love and Return of the Bride were hits in the early days of the Edmonton Fringe Festival (see Fringe Theatre Festivals). Brad Fraser also wrote and directed a number of shows for the Citadel Theatre's Teen Festival of the Arts, including Blood Buddies, Young Art and Prom Night of the Living Dead.

Brad Fraser first gained international attention with his play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (1989). Set in Edmonton, it featured a dark, twisting plot involving a serial killer. With its central gay character, its wit and its out-front sexuality, the play shocked and intrigued audiences and received many productions worldwide. Québec filmmaker Denys Arcand directed the film version, Love and Human Remains (1993); its screenplay by Fraser won a Genie Award for best adapted screenplay. The Ugly Man (1991), an adaptation of the Jacobean tragedy The Changeling, was also widely produced.

Poor Super Man (1994), set in Calgary, was in some ways a sequel to Unidentified Human Remains. Equally controversial and almost as successful, it featured even more graphic gay sex and sharp insight into contemporary urban mores, and was nominated for a Governor General's Award for drama. Martin Yesterday (1997), produced by the Toronto gay theatre company Buddies in Bad Times, was strongly criticized for its sensationalism and its comparison of the AIDS epidemic to the Holocaust. Fraser rewrote the play several times, and in its final published version it is one of his most insightful works, notable for its critical portrayal of the Toronto gay scene and its response to AIDS.

Brad Fraser became a well-known figure in the Toronto media; he was a writer/producer on the television series Queer As Folk and hosted a talk show, Jawbreaker, on the gay TV network. Many of Fraser's later works were not well received in Toronto; these include the musical Outrageous (1999), written with composer Joe Miller and based on the 1977 film of the same name starring drag artist Craig Russell, and the film Leaving Metropolis (2002), adapted from Poor Super Man and directed by Fraser. It won the Audience Favourite Award at the Sydney, Australia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and has distribution in the US, England, and France, a feat not achieved by some of the more high profile and well-reviewed Canadian films of that year.

Brad Fraser developed a creative relationship with artistic director Braham Murray and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England, where some of his plays have subsequently been popular and critically acclaimed. These include Snake in the Fridge (2000), a black-comic thriller and winner of the Manchester Evening Award for best new play (it has also been produced in San Francisco and New York); Cold Meat Party (2003), a somewhat more conventional drama set in England about old friends reunited at a funeral; and True Love Lies (2009), a family drama centering around the revelation that the father had a gay relationship prior to his marriage. True Love Lies opened to consistently laudatory reviews in England and has been successfully produced in Toronto.

Brad Fraser was the recipient of the 1993 London Evening Standard Award for most promising playwright and his plays have won the Dora Mavor Moore Award, London's Time Out Award for best new play, the Alberta Culture Playwriting Competition (5 times), and the Chalmers Award (twice).

Often called the "bad boy" of Canadian theatre and marginalized as the author of "gay plays," Brad Fraser has a reputation that has suffered from critical stereotyping and from his own propensity to speak his mind regardless of whom it might offend. His no-holds-barred directness and risk-taking mean that his work is never boring and at its best is fresh, original and insightful.