top of page

Marie Beath Badian, Filipino Canadian playwright

“You can’t take anything for granted that there is going to be an audience.”

Caroline Mangosing for Vinta Gallery

Joe Szekeres

Marie Beath (pronounced Mary Beth) Badian is a Canadian Filipino performing artist whose plays have been commissioned by The Blyth Festival, The Stratford Festival, Prairie Theatre Exchange, and Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre. (

Like any writer, she thinks very deeply about all her characters before she puts pen to paper.

Commissioned by The Blyth Festival, Badian’s play ‘Prairie Nurse’ opens Saturday, July 15, at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre. This play, along with ‘The Waltz’ (a terrific production staged at Toronto’s Factory Theatre earlier this year), is part of a multi-generational story spanning fifty years and set in rural Saskatchewan. The third, ‘The Cottage Guest,’ is in development 2.0 and has just been finished in draft form.

Badian had a workshop on ‘Guest’ in February of this year. The litmus test is to be in a workshop of the play and listen to the actors. If the characters are speaking in the way Badian imagined in her head, that’s a huge relief. ‘Guest’ needs a bit of tweaking and Marie Beath is hoping the play will hit the stage in the next couple of years.

We had conducted our conversation several weeks ago, and at that time, rehearsals for ‘Prairie Nurse’ were just getting underway on June 26. Badian would miss the first day of rehearsal because it was her ‘kiddo’s’ (I like that) Grade 8 graduation. Sometimes, the family unit must take priority, and I’m all for that.

Badian had completed her training and received her diploma from Toronto Metropolitan University. She was the second last of the diploma programme. She graduated in 1999 and then grandfathered into the Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2007.

Does Marie Beath consider herself a Toronto girl at heart:

“Oh, yeah. I was born and raised in Scarborough. I didn’t move very far. I’ve been living downtown since 1997. [Toronto] has always been my home and will always feel like that when I’m away.”

Badian calls it an exceptional privilege to return to live theatre. It’s still tremendously unique to sit in the audience beside people and experience the play. For her, it feels incredibly novel and fleeting. There’s joy in seeing people’s faces once again. Badian does not take this generosity in this return to the theatre for granted. To decide to attend the theatre is a crucial choice.

Before the lockdown, Marie Beath was feeling exhausted. Sitting in a theatre felt like a chore, and she now feels guilty that she went through that experience:

“You can’t take anything for granted that there is going to be an audience.”

Marie Beath and I both agreed on this point strongly. At one point, we wondered if the lockdown meant the end of the live theatrical performing arts because we are not essential workers. That’s the reality regarding sacrifice and heroism among the healthcare essential workers in the grand scheme of things.

Her mother was a nurse for forty years and Marie Beath worked at the Ontario College of Nurses for a long time. The community of nurses has always been a part of her community’s lifeblood. Knowing that their diaspora and the family legacy of these front-line individuals put into perspective what essential work truly meant, especially essential work for the soul.

On its website, the Capitol Theatre describes the plot of ‘Prairie Nurse’ as a laugh-a-minute comedy of confusion based on a real-life story. The story involves two Filipino nurses who come to work at a small-town Saskatchewan hospital in the late 1960s. Cultural clashes, personality differences, homesickness, and the amorous but dim-witted goalie from the local hockey team complicate the women’s lives and create chaos at the hospital. Add a doctor more concerned with fishing than his patients and an overly romantic candy striper. ‘Prairie Nurse’ is based on the true story of Badian’s mother’s immigration to Canada.

Confident that 'Prairie Nurse' is being well taken care of under Megan Watson's direction, the playwright is adjusting to the unusual experience of having one of her plays performed multiple times. Badian considers it a privileged position in Canadian theatre and is always amazed when her work is produced. Even with 'Prairie Nurse' no longer a world premiere, Badian still feels the same jittery excitement as before.

She is over the moon with the cast the director has assembled. It’s unique and exciting, and she was delighted to hear who they were after the fact. Megan and Rob Kempson (Capitol’s Artistic Director) have been so thoughtful about the casting process of the play.

What’s delightful about all productions of ‘Prairie Nurse’?:

“It gets to introduce me to new people in the Filipino diaspora that I hadn’t known before and that there is work for them. I don’t know the two actors who are playing the nurses. I think they are fairly recent grads. What’s exciting first is that this production [at the Capitol] marks the ten-year anniversary of ‘Prairie Nurse’. It’s also exciting that these two ladies who were in school when the play premiered now understand there is work for who they are authentically as part of the diaspora.”

For many years, Marie Beath has been friends with Rob Kempson. She is impressed with how he and Erin Pierce (Capitol Theatre’s Managing Director) have made their values of the live theatre performing arts come to fruition and how exciting it is to be part of the season. Badian holds Canadian actor Deborah Drakeford in high esteem and is thrilled to have her involved in the production as the ornery head nurse at the hospital. She’s a chain smoker at the hospital in the sixties, becoming a riot as the play unfolds.

What is a message Marie Beath hopes audiences will take away after seeing ‘Prairie Nurse’?:

“Joy, the joy and the laughter that I feel is so inherent about the story. I hope audiences will also take away a different perspective of the period piece of the fabric of Canada in 1967. It’s a gentle and loving way to remind people of the value of the Filipino diaspora in health care. It’s a way to reflect health care that if we have ever experienced health care in Canada, it has been at the hands of a Filipino caregiver.”

‘Prairie Nurse’ begins performances July 14 and runs to July 30. All performances take place at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen Street, Port Hope. For tickets call 905-885-1071 or visit

To learn more about Marie Beath Badian, visit her website:

Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png
bottom of page