February 20 & 21: Mark Leiren-Young

February 20 & 21: Happy Freedom to Read Week

Mark Leiren-Young


A Playwright
A Lawyer

Happy Freedom to Read Week

The lawyer holds a script (old-fashioned paper) at a distance like it’s contaminated.

PLAYWRIGHT: I just thought… because of the government’s new laws… that I’d better have you review the script first because it’s about the pi-

LAWYER: The P-Word.

PLAYWRIGHT: You mean the pipe –


PLAYWRIGHT: Okay, because it’s about the P-Word. It’s satire, so I’m sure it’s fine but –

LAWYER: Oh yes, absolutely, because this government is known for their fantastic sense of humour.


LAWYER: And their great fashion sense. Snappy dressers. All of them.

PLAYWRIGHT: You’re kidding, right?

LAWYER: (Whispers) They might be listening.

PLAYWRIGHT: You’re my lawyer. Don’t we have that confirmational, confi, privacy thing?

LAWYER: You mean confidentiality?

PLAYWRIGHT: Sure. I guess.

LAWYER: Not if you’re a person of interest.

PLAYWRIGHT: I write for the theatre. In Canada. My agent doesn’t even think I’m a person of interest.

LAWYER: But you’re writing about… (whispers) The P-Word.

PLAYWRIGHT: You can say Pipeli-


PLAYWRIGHT: So is there anything wrong with my script? Anything you think I could get in trouble for?

LAWYER: Depends. Do you like being audited?

PLAYWRIGHT: I’m a Canadian writer, why would anyone audit me?

LAWYER: Why does anyone audit anyone?

PLAYWRIGHT: Because they’re rich and they’re hiding money?

LAWYER: Bzzz. Wrong. Try again.

PLAYWRIGHT: Big company. Complicated taxes.

LAWYER: (Laughs.) You should put that in your play – big companies don’t pay taxes.

PLAYWRIGHT: Um.. So why would anyone audit me?

LAWYER:If you’re going to write about the P-Word.

PLAYWRIGHT: The pipe-li –


PLAYWRIGHT: I’m not allowed to write about the P-word?

LAWYER: Not unless you want people to think you’re an E-Word.


LAWYER: (whispers) Environmentalist.

PLAYWRIGHT: What’s wrong with being an environmentalist?

LAWYER: Nothing – as long as you don’t mind being audited.

PLAYWRIGHT: Did you have any concerns about my script?

LAWYER: Just a few. I crossed out anything that I thought might concern the Canadian government or the US government or Revenue Canada or CSIS or the shareholders at any of the oil companies. So just a few minor changes.

The lawyer hands back the script.


LAWYER: Not bad, eh? I studied writing in school. I’ve got this idea for a screenplay if you’re interested. It’s about a crusading lawyer who –

PLAYWRIGHT: The only world left in the script is “the.”

LAWYER: Keep looking.

Playwright flips pages.


LAWYER: Exactly. And.

PLAYWRIGHT: You crossed out every other word.

LAWYER: Not every other word. Keep looking – there’s a “he” and a “she” and there are several numbers.

PLAYWRIGHT: This isn’t my play anymore it’s like…

LAWYER: Beckett. Everybody loves Beckett. Sure, nobody understands him, but they all love him. And if the audience knows it’s about the P-Word, they’ll understand that it’s a statement.

PLAYWRIGHT: But what kind of statement?

LAWYER: Exactly.

PLAYWRIGHT: But how will the audience know what it’s about? You crossed out the title.

LAWYER: It was inflammatory.

PLAYWRIGHT: But all I did was name the pipeli- p-word.

LAWYER: Exactly. Inflammatory.

PLAYWRIGHT: So what happens if we just do the show as written?

LAWYER: We’ve never met. I was never here. You were never here. No one was ever here.

PLAYWRIGHT: But what about free speech?

LAWYER: That’s really a question for the auditors. Or maybe CSIS.

PLAYWRIGHT: (reading) The. The. The. And… She… Seven… The.

LAWYER: Sounds like Beckett to me.

Playwright gets up to go – shellshocked.

LAWYER: Break a leg. And if you win a Governor General’s Award I expect to be credited as your dramaturg!