A collection of four works written for the stage, including the popular and highly acclaimed play Thirteen Hands plus Anniversary, Departures and Arrivals and Fashion, Power, Guilt and the Charity of Families.

The theatrical form allows Carol Shields’ strength as a master of dialogue to shine at its brightest, as she returns to themes she explores in her prose: love, family, friendship, and the hidden meanings and larger truths found beneath the surface of the minutiae of daily life. Thirteen Hands and Other Plays is an exhilarating introduction to Shields’ considerable achievements as a playwright.

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Before becoming a playwright I was a novelist, and one who was often impatient with the requisite description of weather or scenery or even with the business of moving people from room to room. I was more interested in the sound of people talking to each other, reacting to each other, or leaving silences for others to fall into."
- Carol Shields

Production Information

For those who may be interested in producing one of Carol Shields' plays at your theatre or school, please contact Great North Artists Management, Inc. regarding rights and reading scripts.

Literary Department
Great North Artists Management, Inc.

     350 Dupont Street
     Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 1V9
Contact: Rena Zimmerman
     Telephone: 416-925-2051
     Fax: 416-925-3904

Women Waiting - 1983

A radio drama which won First Prize, CBC Annual Literary Competition, 1983.

Departures and Arrivals - 1990

In 22 vignettes set in an airport departure and arrival lounge, the play captures a spectrum of travelers awakening to contemporary limbo. Available in the collection Thirteen Hands and Other Plays.

....the seeds of change are planted by both the simplest and most exotic travels, from the fantasies of a would-be widow with her insurance policy to Myra's and Wesley's lasting vacation from loneliness."

Arrival of the Fittest
The BHTC's Departures and Arrivals is an engaging, intelligent spectacle

The Manitoban, Winnipeg, MB November 23, 2009
Review by Daniela Smith-Fernández

Departures and Arrivals, the opening play of The Black Hole Theatre Company's 2009-10 season, is one production where you get a lot of play for the price of admission. With 22 separate scenes unified essentially only by being situated in an airport, this play could have easily fallen into fragments. Instead, every aspect was so well considered that it felt like you got deep insights from, versus unsatisfying excerpts of, many stories. It was delightful to jump from watching melodramatic scenes with frenzied vaudeville energy to more subdued moments in which characters were deeply moving, sometimes sad and always painfully human. The decision to make use of such a wide emotional palette is to be commended; not only is it gutsy, but it also results in an engaging performance.

Community Theatre REVIEW
Vagabond Theatre of Cornwall Ontario
Aultsville Theatre, March 31 - April 8, 2006
Directed by Michael Togneri
Produced by Rick Jodoin

Given Carol Shields' witty, intelligent script and Michael Togneri, a director who understands it, this production was already half way towards being a good afternoon of theatre. Add to that a slickly maintained pace, some effective sound effects and musical background, some very nice ensemble playing, and you pretty well have the package. I have some quibbles, but I'll get to them later.

The concept is simple: we are watching an indeterminate length of time in a typical airport public area. The set proclaims such with very familiar signage overhead directing us to Departures and Arrivals (of course), washrooms, baggage and so forth. Through the course of the play, we see silent actions and we hear conversations and interior monologues all of which tell us snippets of the lives of the passengers and crews who pass though. The tone varies from melodrama to touching reality, comic to passionate, surprisingly outspoken to sly innuendo. The style from the opening cinematic vignettes to surreal visitations from "above".

Thirteen Hands - 1993

Set around a bridge table, through different generations of players, the women in the play discover family histories, the tricks of getting old and a companionship that gets passed on, like an exquisite heirloom, to a next generation of bridge players. Available in the collection Thirteen Hands and Other Plays.

Suburban, middle class, and for the most part, middle aged, a group of women welcome a once-a-week gathering at a bridge club as a time to momentarily suspend feelings of loneliness, isolation and fear. It is during these bridge games, that they begin to indulge, revel and celebrate the wonderful intimacy they form."

Air-Talk - 1993

During an airplane flight, two men have a conversation about the mysterious Joanna.

Air-Talk can be found in Instant Applause: 26 Very Short Complete Plays, published by Blizzard Publishing, Winnipeg , 1994. It is a collection of twenty-nine complete plays lasting no longer than ten to fifteen minutes each.

Fashion, Power, Guilt and the Charity of Families - 1995

Carol Shields collaborates with her daughter, Catherine Shields, to explore the social and private worlds of the modern family in this funny, poignant and gently challenging play. Available in the collection Thirteen Hands and Other Plays.

A uniquely contemporary celebration of our oldest and most universal institution."

Poignant and comic insights into family life."
- The Globe and Mail

Anniversary - 1995

Co-written by Dave Williamson. Dianne and Tom, recently separated, get together to divide their assets on - of all days - their anniversary and old friends, who don't know they've parted, pay them a surprise visit. Available in the collection Thirteen Hands and Other Plays.

A send up of life, love and the destruction of furniture in the 90s, the play puts accepted notions of relationships - married or not, friendships new and old - to the test."

A compact little gem of a play... tense, comic and poignant."
- Winnipeg Free Press

Larry's Party: The Musical - 2001

Larry's Party was made into a musical written by Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman. Brent Carver starred as Larry Weller. The show premiered in Toronto and was also produced in Ottawa and Winnipeg in 2001.

The bestselling novel has been transformed into a musical which equals the charm, humour and compassion found in the original by award winning novelist Carol Shields. The story of Larry Weller, the master mazemaker, is a rich source for Ouzounian's thoughtful lyrics and Norman's moving score. Nine performers play the wide range of characters who Larry meets on his unique journey through life. The libretto features music for four of the songs featured in the show. Larry's Party moves audiences to laughter and tears while experiencing a journey common to many.

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Thirteen Hands and Other Plays - 2002

From one of Canada's most beloved authors comes a collection of four delightful plays written for the stage, including the popular and highly acclaimed Thirteen Hands.

The theatrical form allows Carol Shields' strength as a master of dialogue to shine at its brightest, as she returns to themes she explores in her prose: love, family, friendship, and the hidden meanings and larger truths found beneath the surface of daily life.

Departures and Arrivals dramatizes how lives are heightened and enlarged when taken within the frame of public spaces -- airports, train stations, public streets -- so that we all become, in a sense, actors.

Thirteen Hands, a musical, valorizes a consistently overlooked group in our society, "the blue-rinse set" -- also known as "the white glove brigade" or "the bridge club biddies" -- and has had the strongest professional run of all Shields' plays.

Fashion, Power, Guilt and the Charity of Families, written with daughter Catherine Shields, interrogates the ambivalence felt towards families, the drive we all share to find or create some kind of family, and the equally strong desire to escape the family's fury.

Anniversary, written with Dave Williamson, is a domestic drama of discontented, middle class suburbanites. One couple in the play are married and pretending to be close to separation. Another couple, who are separated, are pretending to be married. The irony is that the separated couple are still emotionally together, while the married couple have already emotionally separated.

A treasure for those who work in the theatre or simply love going to it, as well as for those who appreciate Carol Shields's fine writing, Thirteen Hands and Other Plays is an exhilarating introduction to Shields' considerable achievements as a playwright.
- back cover

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Unless: The Play - 2003

Carol Shields adapted her novel Unless for a stage play with her youngest daughter Sara Cassidy. It was produced in Toronto and Vancouver and Scarborough, England in 2005 and in Victoria in 2006.

Play Reviewed By Colin Thomas
Publish Date: April 21, 2005

By Carol Shields and Sara Cassidy. Directed by Roy Surette. An Arts Club Theatre Company and CanStage coproduction. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until May 1

Carol Shields and Sara Cassidy's Unless sits between the sensibilities of the novel from which it was adapted and the play it is trying to become. The script's meditative quality offers unique pleasures, but I sometimes wanted that meditation to be more thoroughly grounded in action and interaction.

In Unless, Reta Winters, an author of light fiction, is in pain. Her eldest daughter, Norah, who is just 19, has suffered a mental breakdown that has left her speechless and sitting on the northeast corner of Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto, wearing a sign around her neck that says "Goodness".

Through Reta, Shields, who adapted her novel for the stage with her daughter, takes a feminist angle. Without telling us much about Norah, and therefore without much justification, Reta puts forward the argument that Norah is giving extreme expression to "the big female secret of wanting and not getting". Norah is protesting her exclusion as a woman from intellectual and moral life. Paradoxically, she is asserting her existence by publicly denying it.

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