UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A balancing act : the canonization of Tomson Highway Covert, Jennifer Lee


In this thesis I will examine the critical and popular success of playwright Tomson Highway. Highway's two published plays, "The Rez Sisters" and "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing", are taught on university and high school syllabi across the country and abroad, as far away as Copenhagen. These two plays have also been performed in Canada virtually from coast to coast. These facts are interesting in and of themselves, but specifically when taken into account with the fact that Highway is a Cree playwright, born in northern Manitoba, who didn't become fluent in English until reaching his teens. Moreover, Highway is the only native playwright to have achieved this level of wide-spread acclaim. In this thesis I will examine how and why this phenomenon came about and posit some hypotheses to help to explain it. I will take three steps in dealing with the sudden rise in popularity of Highway's work. In Chapter One I will trace the roots of his success through a selective production history of his two published plays across the country. It will also be important in this chapter to give a brief personal history of the playwright as this will prove an integral reference point. In the second Chapter I will firmly situate Highway within the Canadian dramatic canon, such as it is, through an investigation into where and in which contexts Highway's plays are taught and where they are currently being produced in Canada and abroad. In the final Chapter I will provide some reasons that may account for his success and his rapid canonization. In the conclusion I will discuss the ramifications of his canonization and some of the larger implications of his rapid rise to fame.

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