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Calgary's Natalie Meisner wins national playwriting competition for Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story

A drama about a Calgary bus driver who went to jail for being queer has won a national playwriting completion.

Calgary playwright Natalie Meisner was awarded the 2023 Carol Bolt Award by the Playwrights Guild of Canada for Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story.

The award, which was announced at the end of October, was part of the guild's Tom Hendry Awards, which recognize new works in a variety of categories, helping to promote Canadian plays find second and third productions across the country and around the world.

In the case of Legislating Love, it had its world premiere at Sage Theatre in 2018 in Calgary, before touring with Route 1 Productions of Calgary in conjunction with Lethbridge's Theatre Outre to the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival, where it won the Oscar (Wilde) Award for best script.

Legislating Love has also been made into an audio podcast during the pandemic by the Alberta Queer Calendar Project.

"It is always really special when a super local play, one set in Calgary, gets national recognition, but for me, receiving the Carol Bolt Award is next level," Meisner said, in a profile on the Mount Royal University website, where she works as an English professor.

"This is because I was lucky enough to meet and receive teachings from this literary lion, one of our prolific and legendary Canadian women playwrights. She was the kind of honest, engaged and generous mentor to me that I now strive to be for our own students at MRU in the creative writing classroom."

Calgary playwright, poet and academic Natalie Meisner won the 2023 Carol Bolt Award from the Playwrights Guild of Canada for her 2018 drama Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story, about the Calgary bus driver who was the last man tried, convicted and imprisoned in Canada for being queer (Photo: Mount Royal University)

Legislating Love tells the story of Klippert, who drove the No. 1 bus for Calgary Transit for many years, and his challenges as a queer man during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he became the last man criminally charged, tried, convicted and jailed for being gay. That led to Pierre Trudeau initiating a change in federal laws that was encapsulated by his legendary sound bite that, "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation."

The play jumps back and forth in time between the 21st century, and a queer relationship between a female academic and her Metis standup comedian partner, and the way in which society shifted for the LGBTQ2S+ community over the past 50 years – and how one of the pivotal turning points may have been the story of Everett Klippert.

The initial production featured a Calgary cast, including Matt McKinney, Mark Bellamy, Kathy Zaborsky and Jenn Forgie. It was directed by Sage Theatre artistic director Jason Mehmel after initially being developed by Third Street Theatre co-founder Jonathan Brower.

“I think of plays like a kind of exquisite blueprint. They need to be beautiful, truthful, strong, lean and efficient,” Meisner says.

“They begin with snippets of conversation, or stories told to me by family and friends. Gradually, characters take shape and begin to speak. I spend much time at the desk crafting the words … but the moment everything comes alive, is around the table and in the rehearsal hall in the company of a dramaturg and those fabulous beings, actors who breathe life into the script."

Meisner also wrote the comedy Speed Dating for Sperm Donors, which was a 2015 hit for Lunchbox Theatre and served a term as the City of Calgary's Poet Laureate, between 2020 and 2022. Top Stories

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