It’s tiring just reading Fraser’s list of accomplishments. Living them out must be exhausting. The openly gay Canadian playwright bounces between his home in Toronto and Los Angeles, the latter of which he finds increasingly disdainful. He also juggles a number of projects that would wear out and befuddle a lesser individual.
Like his travels, Fraser’s work is and has been all over the place. He’s written plays as well as television and film scripts, most notably as one of the producers and writers for the TV show “Queer As Folk” and the film “Leaving Metropolis,” which is based on his play “Poor Super Man.”
Fraser also finds time to speak at universities and art institutions on subjects like “Why I Hate The Theatre” and the effect of AIDS on his work. He has also written extensively for print publications and dabbles (quite well, actually) in artwork and photography.
With all that activity around him, we were surprised that Fraser had a spare minute to answer some of our questions about his career and provide his take on one of his most popular plays.
PGN: Why do you think “Unidentified Human Remains” has endured for 20 years? BF: Because it’s a provocative, well-written play whose ability to entertain audiences and anger or confuse uptight or closeted gay reviewers has never wavered.
PGN: Do you think it worked better as a film or a stage production? BF: As a stage production, although I think a better film version than the one that currently exists might change that.
PGN: Which of the characters do you find the audience identifies with the most? BF: I think the fact there are gay, straight and lesbian characters as well as characters that range from 17-30 means most people have someone to identify with.
PGN: As someone who splits his time between Los Angeles and Toronto, which city do you like more? BF: Toronto. I find L.A. to be a vile place and not a real city at all.
PGN: You aren’t the first — and probably won’t be the last — person to describe L.A. as vile. Considering how respected and revered you are in Canada and the U.K., why even bother with Los Angeles? BF: If one seriously wants to work in U.S. film and TV, being in L.A. is pretty much necessary. However, given the recent law that was passed banning same-sex marriage, I have no desire to go to California at all.
PGN: When it comes to your speaking engagements, do you still hate theater? BF: I don’t hate the theater; I hate the incompetence that permeates the theater, particularly in the administrative and publicity areas. If you don’t have the money or imagination to promote a play properly, then there’s little point in producing it.
PGN: Do you think Canada and its government are more supportive of the arts that the United States is? BF: Of course. Even with our current ridiculous and laughable conservative government, there is still a much stronger support and respect for the arts beyond their commercial possibilities than I have ever seen in the U.S. I think this can be attributed to the fact that clearly half of the U.S. population is crazy, racist and too stupid to see the negative loop their leaders have led them into. There are huge parts of America that seem very much like Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan to me. A specific example would be California, where the majority has recently voted to deny rights to a tax-paying minority because of a difference in morality. These kinds of repressive and controlling regimes are rarely interested in art or anything that might elevate the human spirit, and I’m very proud that Canada isn’t one of them.
PGN: What advice would you give to aspirng playwrights/television writers?
BF: Find something else you like to do just as much that pays well. Chances are you’re never going to work enough to make a real living [in writing].
PGN: As far as television ideas go, “Retail” sounded like a great premise. Did that ever get beyond the script-writing phase? BF: It got as far as a badly shot and acted pilot, which was the point at which I withdrew from the project.
PGN: Do you think there has been, or will be, a show that can fill the role “Queer As Folk” did in the United States? BF: I hope so, but it would take someone with vision and some commercial acumen to realize it, which is totally lacking in television.
PGN: Are you still a big comic-book fan? BF: I no longer collect but I do read regularly.
PGN: Would you ever want to be involved in writing a comic-book-related film? If so, which hero would it be? BF: This has come up before and many years ago I pitched both a Watchmen and Sandman project, although neither came to fruition. I’d like to write the “Wonder Woman” movie, as I think I have a great idea for it, as well as a Doom Patrol film, which I’ve been toying with for years.
PGN: Are comic books in any way an inspiration for your artwork? BF: Yes. As a writer, a director and a graphic artist, comic-book storytelling and stylists such as Frank Miller, Will Eisner, Neal Adams and many others have been a constant source of inspiration for me. I am of course excluding Frank Miller’s vile films.
PGN: You seem to have a very fruitful relationship with The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, which has hosted many of your most recent plays. How did that come about? BF: Artistic director Braham Murray saw a production of “Poor Super Man” in Edinburgh and became an immediate fan and called me offering to produce whatever I cared to write. It is a beautifully appointed and run theater with excellent staff, and has now produced nearly all of my plays and has made me their most produced playwright next to Shakespeare. It is my artistic home and I appreciate it immensely.
PGN: Can we expect any of your current productions in the U.S. anytime soon? BF: Yes, there are productions currently slated for Houston and Los Angeles with more to follow. Perhaps it will be done in your city, as it is a sequel to “Remains.”
For more information on Brad Fraser, visit www.bradfraser.net.