Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Playwright, actor, and director Sharon Pollock was born Mary Sharon Chalmers in Fredericton, New Brunswick, on April 19, 1936, the eldest daughter of Dr. Everette Chalmers, physician, a version of whom is the central character in Pollock's most personal play, Doc. She was involved in theater in school and in amateur companies, ran a box office, and did considerable acting, winning best actress in the Dominion Drama Festival in 1966. She began writing children's plays and plays for radio and television and in 1971 wrote her first stage play, Compulsory Option. She moved in 1976 to Calgary, which has been her home since, though among other positions she was for two years artistic director of Theatre New Brunswick.

Pollock made her name with two historical dramas: Walsh (1973), about the relationship between a Mountie and Chief Sitting Bull and the betrayal of the Sioux by the Canadian government (the 1983 version is the anthologized version); and The Komagata Maru Incident (1976), about the rejection by Canada in 1914 of Sikh refugees aboard a Japanese ship in Vancouver harbor.

Pollock's best year was 1980, when she produced three plays. One Tiger to a Hill is again based on an historical event, a 1975 hostage-taking incident at a maximum-security prison. Both Blood Relations and Generations are more personal stories. Blood Relations is based on Lizzie Borden, acquitted in 1882 in Massachusetts of the axe murders of her father and stepmother. Generations is the story of a southern Alberta farm family and the first of Pollock's plays not based on external sources.

Of these plays Blood Relations has become the most famous, with productions across Canada and in other countries. It won Pollock her first Governor General's Literary Award for drama, repeated in 1986 with Doc. Whiskey Six Cadenza, an extravaganza about the 1920s Crow's Nest Pass, was produced in 1983 and Doc, a version of Pollock's family life, in 1984, both in Calgary. Doc became a nationally produced play. Since then a one-woman show, Getting It Straight (1990), has had a Toronto premiere, and until recently Pollock has been running the Garry Theatre in Calgary.

Donald C. Kerr University of Saskatchewan

Rudakoff, Judith, and Reta Much, eds. Fair Play, 12 Women Speak, Conversations with Canadian Playwrights. Toronto: Simon and Pierre, 1980: 208-20.

Zimmerman, Cynthia. Playwriting Women: Female Voices in English Canada. Toronto: Simon and Pierre, 1994: 61-97.

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