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Athabasca University

Judith Thompson

The emotional impact of her dramas has earned Judith Thompson many awards as a Canadian author and playwright. Her work White Biting Dog (1985) won a Governor General’s Literary Award and she  received a second Governor General’s Award in 1989 for The Other Side of the Dark. Her other awards include the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize; the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts for achieving the highest level of artistic distinction in Canada. She has also received the Canadian Author’s Association Award and multiple Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Awards. In 2006 she was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

Thompson grew up in Kingston, Ontario and Middletown, Connecticut. She was born in 1954 in Montreal, Quebec. Her family is highly educated; her father W.R. Thompson was a geneticist and also the head of the Psychology Department at Queen’s University in Kingston. Her mother also worked at Queen’s University in the Department of Drama. Her brother Bill Thompson has composed music for some of Judith’s work and is a Professor of Psychology. In 1976, Judith received her B.A. in English from Queen’s University and then enrolled in the acting program at the National Theatre School in Montreal. Her first, The Crackwalker (1981) is a very tragic and violent depiction of the lives of two struggling youths. Her second play White Biting Dog is a dramatic and visceral comedy which deals with themes of family dysfunction. Her plays are known for having violent and graphic content and she has dealt with issues such as suicide, sexual abuse, death, sickness, infanticide and spousal abuse. Her characters are developed based on emotional and mental constitution and her work often confronts the fact that anyone is capable of doing wrong in this world. Thompson is able to express empathy and wit through the characters in her plays by the use of their personal struggles. Most of Judith Thompson’s life has been spent writing; with the exception of one year which she spent acting. She can be described as a prolific writer of plays, many of which have been staged but not yet published. These include Harrow Hill, Instruments of Yearning, and White Sand.

Thompson has also written feature films, radio drama and television movies. Some of her other plays include I am Yours (1987), Lion in the Streets (1990), Sled (1997), Habitat (2001) and Palace of the End (2007). Her film Lost and Delirious (2001) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won a Genie Award in 2002 for best screenplay. Her other film; Perfect Pie (2000) was originally a monologue which Judith changed into a play and then adapted into a screenplay. Her work has been performed in both French and English around Canada and she has worked as a playwright-in-residence at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario where she lives with her family and is a professor of drama at the University of Guelph. (J. McKay)


  • Received an Honorary Doctorate from Thorneloe University
  • Selected for the Sundance Festival and Berlin Film Festival (2001)
  • Susan Smith Blackburn International Women’s Playwright Award (2008)
  • Governor General’s Award for White Biting Dog (1985), and The Other Side of the Dark (1989)
  •  Her play, Sled won a Toronto Arts Award (1997)
  • The Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts (2007)
  • The Canadian Author’s Association Award
  • Has received multiple Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Awards
  • Best play of Summerworks for Enoch Arden 2004
  • Made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006


Updated February 12 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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