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Bitter Medicine

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

Monsters can be beaten.


Bitter Medicine changed my life. In 2010, I was in the campus bookstore and saw a copy of a new book by a colleague and his brother. Clem Martini is an exceptional writer, but also one of the most prolific artists I know. It can be hard to keep up with everything he is doing. He is shockingly good at writing in different genres, as well as teaching writing to others. Clem is one of the best reasons for being at the University of Calgary. He is as good as it gets, and his work and results prove it. That said, Bitter Medicine was different. When I picked up the book, I could not put it down. I got about twenty pages in, went to the cashier, paid for it, and left campus. I read it straight through, then stayed up all night and read it again. The next morning I was waiting outside Clem’s office to ask him if I could create a show based on the book. I have done four separate shows based on Bitter Medicine so far, and I am not finished. During the course of this work I have collaborated with Brian Smith, Colin Barden, Owen Brierley, Dan Perry as well as with the authors at different points. The book, and its successor The Unravelling, are so powerful they changed me. I cannot stop thinking about them, and continue to create work inspired by them. The next steps for this work should be an animated show (to fully engage the power of Olivier Martini's illustrations), and we have taken initial steps to prepare that approach, and now need to either pass off our work or start a new collaboration. The books are perfect on their own, but I really want to see their reach extended. Oh, and as a final note: if you want to dig into Clem's writing, here are few suggestions: as a playwright he's won a ton of awards, but I love Three Martini Lunch. Few writers can tackle the one act structure, and Clem is a master of it. It was reading his one acts that first caused me to seek him out. For writing check out his Blunt Playwright, which is as clear and effective a writing book as you will find. A personal favourite for all audiences are his Crow Chronicles - an all-ages trilogy that is a beautiful, page-turning adventure. Finally, to get at the scope of his work, check out the line of research he's done on Greek and Roman playwrights (Ancient Playwrights) followed by a novel that captures the work in a different form (The Comedian).

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