Guillermo Verdecchia

Guillermo Verdecchia, playwright, director, translator, actor (born at Buenos Aires, Argentina, 7 Dec 1962). Guillermo Verdecchia came to Canada as a young child, grew up in Kitchener, Ont, and studied theatre at Ryerson Polytechnic in Toronto. He is committed to theatre that resists and subverts social and racial stereotypes, and works to foreground the diversity of cultures in Canada through his own plays and through collaborative productions. He promotes immediate, local, socially and politically relevant theatre.

Verdecchia's first produced play, i.d. (1989), co-written with members of Canadian Stage Hour Company, is based on the shooting of a teenager by police officers in Toronto, and won the Chalmers New Play Award. His next play, Final Decisions [War], premiered at Calgary's Alberta Theatre Projects in 1990, directed by Sharon POLLOCK. It focuses on a woman's discovery that her husband has been involved in political torture in Argentina.

In 1990 he again won a Chalmers Award, for The Noam Chomsky Lectures, written with Daniel Brooks. Using a lecture format, Brooks and Verdecchia play themselves, and apply Chomsky's models of the political economy of human rights and of the mass media to Canadian foreign policy and media and to the Toronto theatre scene. Parts of the play were rewritten for each production in Toronto and Ottawa over a period of three years to keep it current and relevant.

In 1993 his one-man show, Fronteras Americanas, premiered at the TARRAGON THEATRE in Toronto, with Verdecchia playing himself and his alter ego, a flamboyant Mexican-American youth. The play examines cultural displacement, political and social geography, and the construction and performance of identity, and won a CHALMERS AWARD and a GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD. Verdecchia wrote and starred in a short film adaptation of Fronteras Americanas, called Crucero/Crossroads, which played at film festivals around the world and received 9 international awards.

In 1995 he wrote A Line in the Sand with Marcus Youssef for the New Play Centre in Vancouver. Two young men, one a troubled Canadian soldier, the other a teenage Palestinian smuggler, meet in the scorched Qatari desert during Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and become unlikely friends. The play is based on the torture and murder of a Somali youth at the hands of Canadian soldiers on a humanitarian mission in 1993. A Line in the Sand won a Chalmers Award for its 1997 Tarragon Theatre production.

Verdecchia's duet for voice and cello, The Terrible but Incomplete Journals of John D, was first produced as a live-to-air radio/theatre event by Rumble Theatre in Vancouver in 1996. It portrays the self-destructive guilt of a man, adrift in Mexico City, who can do nothing against the exploitative consumerist forces of Western society. Verdecchia again explores the spiritual emptiness of consumerism in Insomnia (1998), written in collaboration with Daniel Brooks, and in which both playwrights performed.

In 2004 Verdecchia co-wrote the political satire The Adventures of Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil with Marcus Youssef and Camyar Chai, and directed productions in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal, and at the Magnetic North Festival in Edmonton. Billed as a "divertimento for warlords," it takes a wild and wide swipe at American imperialism. His one-act play bloom (Modern Times Stage Company, 2006) questions the constant state of warfare in the world.

From 1998 to 2003, Verdecchia was artistic director of Toronto's Cahoots Theatre Projects, which has a mandate to create, develop, and produce new Canadian plays reflecting the country's cultural diversity. For Cahoots he directed Bhopal by Rahul Varma (2003) and Dreams of Blonde and Blue by M.J. Kang (2002). In 2010 he assisted in the development of Jovanni Sy's A Taste of Empire for Cahoots.

In 2009, for the STRATFORD SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL, he directed Rice Boy by Sunil Kuruvilla. For Neworld Theatre in Vancouver he co-created with Youssef and Chai Ali & Ali: Hey Brother (Or Sister) Can You Spare Some Hope & Change, an "Ali" sequel. Reconfigured as Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings, it opened at the FACTORY THEATRE in 2010.

Verdecchia has also written for radio and film, and has published a collection of short stories entitled Citizen Suarez (1998). He has been writer-in-residence at Memorial University and the University of Guelph, and a lecturer at University College in Toronto, while completing a PhD with the Graduate Centre for Drama, University of Toronto.