Interview with Cathleen Rootsaert

Nov 01, 2007

When and why did you get involved in Theatre?
I was one of those kids that were always organizing neighbourhood plays for the parents to watch. Why? We didn’t have cable. I also remember seeing Mumenschantz as a kid and being totally amazed by it. So, I’m one of those ‘been doing it for as long as I can remember’ people, only now I make more money – slightly more.
At what point in your theatrical career did you begin writing plays? Why?
My very first play was for my Grade Seven class to perform at talent night. It was called Murgatroyd Fishbelly but I don’t think that’s your question… I began writing seriously as a member of the comedy troupe Three Dead Trolls in A Baggie – I wrote sketches and songs – at first, because they made me. I tried to convince them that I should just act funny and do the book keeping. In later years, after many sketch shows and after stints writing for TV and radio, Trolls began to co-write plays and to make narrative an important part of our work. My first solo play Mimi Amok grew out of that.
 What keeps you writing plays?
I have no other marketable skills.
What inspired you to write Choke?
The first few lines… I just heard them in my head one day. Does that make me sound crazy? I think it does, oh well… It started with the men – I know those men… and then Catherine and the stroke – which I also know… It was pretty organic, really.
Motherhood is a major theme in some of your work. How has having children affected your writing? How did it affect you, specifically when writing Choke?
I haven’t exactly set out to, but I think that I have used writing as a way to exorcise my parenting terrors. Mama Mia! Me a Mama? was born directly out of fear of my enormously willful three year old. Choke, I guess, touches on my relentless anxiety that I am raising a helpless human being who will need a prepackaged life and a series of disposable residences to survive.
Has your experience as a director, actor and improviser affected your writing? If so, how?
I have always maintained that improvisation trains writers. You’re improvising a scene and you’re in it – you’re writing it from the inside out. It’s a great place to learn the feel and rhythm of scene structure and the effect of different character choices.
What other projects do you currently have on the go?
Hey Ladies!, which I’m creating with Leona Brausen and Davina Stewart. We’re having tons of fun creating it and it should be tons of fun for the audience. We’re doing three shows here at Network this season and hope to develop it into something… more.