Interview with Michael Melski

Feb 14, 2007

What inspired you to write Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad?
It’s interesting that the play has had such universal appeal because I wrote it from a very personal place– I remember witnessing a relationship between my hockey coach and one of the parents (not mine). To see that tenderness from a coach and know that in the same person could exist such anger and competitive fury struck me as a fascinating paradox in behaviour, and a significant metaphor for not just the game of hockey but small town life.
 Did you play hockey when you were young? If so, did you have experience with an overly competitive parent?
I played minor hockey for 10 years. I was pretty good– a couple of scoring titles– but never NHL worthy. My father was supportive without being extreme, though I remember many others who pressured me to live up to the legacy of my Uncle Ches. He was a great local player who made it to the Montreal Junior Canadiens. He later crashed into a goal post and died much later of kidney injuries. I dedicated the play to him.
Why do you think women’s response to sports differs from men?
I really don’t think it does. Women can be just as vicious as men when sports and children are stake. I’ve seen it first-hand. I don’t know if it’s as natural a state for women, which is something that I tried to show with the character of Donna. She learns, through Teddy and by osmosis, that passion for the game can lead to bad judgement and a loss of self.
 In 2002, Hockey Canada started the “Relax, It’s Just A Game” campaign, complete with a parent handbook, as well as video and print ads depicting children berating their parents. Why do you think parental violence in the stands is on the rise?
In this era of escalating player salaries (though not since the new NHL bargaining agreement), the stakes are very high in minor hockey. It’s the proving ground for the NHL, and many parents dream of that for their children. Also, it can be a very fast and rough game, and whenever children are put in jeopardy, parental instinct to protect kicks in, and that can lead to violence in the stands. Also the game is rising in popularity, which means more kids are playing, which means more unfortunate behaviour by parents.
In your opinion, what does hockey mean to Canada?
At its purest, it’s a vital beautiful part of our cultural identity, our collective dreaming. But there’s a danger of it meaning TOO much, especially on an individual, personal level.
When did you first start writing?
I was a strange child. Began my first novel at 7. Wrote my first play at 11. It toured the elementary school and the other kids loved me because they got class time off to watch it. I figured I was onto something.
What keeps you writing plays?
It’s a very pure form of writing. There’s an adrenaline rush from creating something out of nothing, images from a void, words that conjure and evoke feelings in an audience. The theatre is immediate in the way that film and television can never be.
Who/what are your biggest creative influences?
Sam Shepard, David Mamet, William Faulkner, Joyce Carol Oates, Horton Foote, David Adams Richards.
How does the Maritimes culture influence you as a writer?
All culture influences me, but the maritimes are home, and I have had a lot of experiences there, positive and negative. There’s also a tradition of great writers from here and that is always an inspiration.
 As well as theatre, you do a lot of work writing and directing for film. What do you enjoy most about both art forms?
Film is a much more controlled medium and I love it for that. Whereas Theatre is very uncontrolled, and I love it for that.
What projects are you currently working on?
Many. I’m preparing to direct my first feature film THE CON ARTIST, as well as lining up other films for 08 and 09. I’m preparing my recent play CORVETTE CROSSING for publication. I’m considering ideas for new plays, and enjoying the ongoing success of HOCKEY MOM, HOCKEY DAD.