Interview with Sterling Lynch about Prisoner’s Dilemma

I wrote Prisoner’s Dilemma for a bunch of reasons. There are many more female actors than interesting roles for them to play; so I’m always on the look out for ideas that give me an excuse to write interesting female characters. Some philosophers claim that females employ a fundamentally different form of moral reasoning and I think that’s totally false. I attended a talk on the dilemma given by a leading expert in rational choice theory and his inability to recognize the actual cause of the dilemma was dumbfounding. A woman from the floor nailed it: “Clearly your definition of rational is wrong.” I also think it’s a mistake to tell people they will always be rewarded in the end for doing the right thing.

I had these ideas on slow boil in the back of my head when I performed at the 2001 Toronto Fringe Festival and discovered the twenty-four hour writing contest. The inspiration items worked with the beginning, middle, and end roughly implied by the Dilemma, I went to work, and twenty-some hours later I had a play. I didn’t win the contest. A couple of years later I reread the play, liked it, and fleshed it out a bit.

Hidden Insanity Theatre, a company I performed with when I was in Calgary working on my M.A. in Philosophy, was the first to produce it at the Pumphouse Theatre in 2006. The director was Amanda Chapman and, unfortunately, the record of who was in the show was lost somewhere along the way. I didn’t get to see the production because I was living in New Zealand, finishing my Ph.D. in Philosophy. In 2010, Wayne Current produced and directed the play for the Ottawa Fringe and it featured Nadine Thornhill, Brianne Tucker, and Jody Haucke. I saw it and enjoyed it!

Because people often have strong opinions about the play (there’s too much X, not enough Y, and what’s with the Z?), whenever I reread it, I’m always a little worried that maybe in the end I will decide I don’t like it. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

If you enjoy the play, you will enjoy my blog ( and I’m on Twitter (@SterlingLynch). If you think there’s anything in the play worth talking about, I’m always happy to have that conversation with you!

— Sterling

Prisoner’s Dilemma will air on next week on C’est La Vie’s Podcast. So make sure to subscribe so that you get it!


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