Emil’s first produced stage play was a 45-minute two-hander he wrote for his lovely wife for the Fringe of Toronto. That was in 1991, and Sanctuary continues to be a staged at theatre and school festivals.
As a story editor at CBC Radio’s Morningside, Emil was commissioned to write a radio drama inspired by the story of Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who took the life of his severely disabled daughter. Produced by Gregory Sinclair and starring R.H. Thomson and Martha Burns, Mourning Dove was broadcast around the world in the inaugural WorldPlay festival, with an introduction by Anthony Minghella. Emil then adapted Mourning Dove as a stage play that premiered at GCTC in 2005 and has since been mounted across the country. The eighth production was presented at Sudbury Theatre Centre in January.
In 2005 Emil finally got his hands on a copy of Hana’s Suitcase, Karen Levine’s beloved non-fiction book that has struck a chord around the world with readers of all ages. Emil was struck by the possibilities of telling this story on stage. He saw it as a Holocaust story gilded with hope: a young girl is killed in Auschwitz, and some sixty years later a Japanese educator perseveres in uncovering Hana Brady’s story, leading her to the door of George Brady, Hana’s brother. The stage adaptation of Hana’s Suitcase premiered at Young People’s Theatre (YPT) in Toronto and has since toured the country and found a home at theatre in the U.S. (St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Lexington) and Israel. Hana’s Suitcase is being remounted at YPT in October 2015 in honour of the theatre’s 50th anniversary, followed by stops in Montreal (Geordie Productions) and Seattle Children’s Theatre.
Working with choreographer Lata Pada and director Lynda Hill, Emil wrote the script for Beneath the Banyan Tree, the tale of a young dancer from India adapting to her new life in Canada. Originally staged by Theatre Direct Canada, TDC toured Beneath the Banyan Tree across Canada and the U.K. It’s 10th anniversary production in 2015 garnered three Dora Awards.
Emil had the pleasure of transforming Marie Day’s colourful children’s book about the bond between a young boy and a homeless man living with schizophrenia into a play for Workman Arts, and Edward the ‘Crazy Man’ was subsequently produced by Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre.
In 2014 Emil adapted Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon, a searing and beautiful chronicle of raising a son with severe disabilities. The play premiered at GCTC in September 2014. Emil hopes it will have a long life, along the lines of Bluenose, a clown piece about three inept, bumbling pirates bent on ruling the world.
Other dramatic works include Derailed, created with Catherine Hayos and Rena Polley of Stiletto Company.