Interview with Nadine Thornhill about Oreo

Where do you live?

Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA

Where are you from? Hometown?

I was born in Toronto, Ontario. My parents moved our family out to Ajax, an east-end suburb, when I was a toddler, which is where I grew up.

When did you start writing?

As soon as I learned how to print, I began writing stories.  Of course, I only had about a dozen words in my person lexicon, so those early tales all had to do with “Nadine” “breakfast” “cat” and “spaceship.”

Why did you start writing?

By the time I started kindergarten, I’d already been reading and writing for a couple of years. My teacher was impressed and kept giving me gold star-shaped stickers, so I kept cranking out the stories. Even as a five-year-old I was a slut for validation.

What inspires you?

I think everything I write is some variation on the importance of living authentically.

My parents had a difficult marriage – one that ultimately ended.  When I was growing up, they spent a lot of time and energy trying to make their lives and marriage conform to an ideal that didn’t suit either of them. They were very loving, kind parents, but they were also unhappy which affected me profoundly.  After I grew up and they parted ways, they both found the happiness that had eluded them for all of those years when they had tried so hard to make this “perfect” family.  They have a much more functional relationship with each other as friends than they ever did as a couple.  My relationship with each of them is much healthier than it was when I was young.

My two big guiding principles in life are, “try not to screw over other people” and “live your life the way it makes sense for you.” I write about that last one a LOT.

What inspired this play?

A few years ago, I remembered how, growing up, people would occasionally call me ‘Oreo.’ I thought, ‘That would be a GREAT title for a play!”  I have the worst time coming up with titles for my plays, so once I had a name I pretty much had to write the script.

I used to be very self-conscious, sometimes to the point of being apologetic, about the alleged incongruity between my ethnicity and my behaviour.  Oreo is largely (but not completely) autobiographical. Writing about those experiences and putting that story in front of an audience went a long way towards helping me feel better about a lot of that stuff.

What do you write other than plays?

I write and perform spoken word poetry.  I have a blog, Adorkable Thespian, and I write a sex-advice column for an Ottawa-focused website called Apartment 613.

Do you have a day-job? What do you do other than writing?

During the day I work as the Insight Theatre Co-ordinator at Planned Parenthood Ottawa.  I have a four-year-old son, an amazing partner, Phil, and a surrogate family of dear friends.  I’m training for my first half-marathon, so I run several times a week.

What time of day do you write best?

When my son is sleeping, napping or at preschool.

Where do you write? (coffee shops, home etc.?)

At home.  I try to write in coffee shops, because it seems cool, but when other people are around I want to talk and when baked goods are around I want to eat, so it’s not a productive environment for me.

How long did it take you to write this play?

About eight months.

What do you like best about writing for theatre compared to other mediums?

I can produce my scripts quickly with relatively little money.  I’m all about cheap, quick gratification!

What is the greatest challenge you think writers face today?

I think it’s the greatest challenge most writers have always faced: getting out of your own way and writing.  I’ve been writing virtually my whole life.  I’ve dreamed of being produced or published since high school.  But I didn’t do it until a few years ago.  I started things and didn’t finish.  Sometimes I’ve never started at all.  Even now, I agonize over every script I write and I’m never fully convinced I can finish, until I do.  Writing, at least for me, can be scary, risky and rather than face the fear, it’s sometimes easier to tell myself I can’t do it.  But I can.  It’s just a matter of putting words on the page.   It’s simple, but it isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Do you have a website/blog? Can I contact you?

My blog is (watch out for typos!) I’m also on Twitter as @NadineThornhill


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