Jordan Tannahill

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Jordan Tannahill
BornMay 19, 1988
Occupationauthor, playwright, film and theatre director
Notable worksLiminal, The Listeners, Concord Floral, Botticelli in the Fire

Jordan Tannahill is a Canadian author, playwright, filmmaker, and theatre director.

His novels and plays have been translated into twelve languages, and honoured with a number of prizes including two Governor General's Literary Awards.[1] His debut novel, Liminal, was honoured with France's 2021 Prix des Jeunes Libraires.[2] His second novel, The Listeners was a Canadian bestseller, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Giller Prize.[3]

Tannahill has been described as "the enfant terrible of Canadian Theatre" by Libération[4] and The Walrus,[5] "one of Canada's most extraordinary artists" by CBC Arts,[6] and "widely celebrated as one of Canada’s most accomplished young playwrights, filmmakers and all-round multidisciplinary artists" by the Toronto Star.[7] In 2019, CBC Arts named Tannahill as one of sixty-nine LGBTQ Canadians, living or deceased, who has shaped the country's history.[8]

Early life[edit]

Tannahill was born and raised in Ottawa, where he attended Canterbury High School. He moved to Toronto at the age of eighteen, and began making short films and staging experimental plays, often with non-traditional collaborators like night-shift workers, frat boys, preteens, and employees of Toronto's famed Honest Ed's discount emporium.[9][10][11][12]

Theatre and performance[edit]

Tannahill's plays frequently explore the nature of belief, queer identity, power relations, and the body as a political subject.[13] His work has been performed across North America and Europe, particularly in Germany, where several of his plays are in state theater repertory.[14][15]

He received the Governor General's Award for English-language drama in 2014 for Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays,[16] and again in 2018 for his plays Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom.[17] His play Concord Floral was a finalist for the award in 2016. He has been nominated for five Outstanding New Play Dora Mavor Moore Awards, winning in 2013 for his live-streamed monologue rihannaboi95, and in 2015 for Concord Floral.

Tannahill's production of Sheila Heti's play All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, which he directed with collaborator Erin Brubacher, premiered in 2014 at Videofag, more than a decade after Heti first began the script. Heti's struggle to write the play is one of the central plot-lines in her bestselling novel How Should a Person Be?.[18] The production, which featured original songs by Dan Bejar, was remounted at The Kitchen in New York City in 2015.

In 2017, Tannahill's play Late Company transferred to London's West End.[19][20][21] In the same year, his virtual reality performance Draw Me Close, co-produced by London's National Theatre and the National Film Board of Canada, premiered at the Venice Biennale.[22]

Tannahill's work in contemporary dance includes choreographing and performing with Christopher House in Marienbad for the Toronto Dance Theatre in 2016; and writing the text for Xenos in 2018, and Outwitting the Devil in 2019, two shows by choreographer Akram Khan, which have toured internationally to venues including Sadler's Wells Theatre, Festival d'Avignon, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Now (newspaper) listed both Marienbad and Xenos as Top 10 dance shows of the 2010s decade.[23]

Tannahill's book of essays on theatre, Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama, first published in 2015,[24] was called "essential reading for anybody interested in the state of contemporary theatre and performance" by The Globe and Mail.[25] In 2022, Playbill listed the book as one of fourteen essential books on theatre.[26]



Liminal is a work of autofiction which follows the character Jordan as he reckons with the nature of consciousness and the abject, precipitated by the sight of his mother's sleeping - or possibly dead - body.[27] In her review of the novel, Martha Schabas of The Globe and Mail wrote "Tannahill's lushly intelligent debut... captures something illuminating and undefinable about the present moment; it speaks in the code and cadences of the late 2010s and paints an incisive portrait of the demographic we call millennial", and compared it to the work of authors Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk and Karl Ove Knausgaard.[28] In Le Devoir, Anne-Frédérique Hébert-Dolbec called the novel "a prodigious odyssey that tests the limits of reason and materiality."[29] Liminal won the 2021 Prix des Jeunes Libraires.[30]

The Listeners[edit]

The Listeners follows Claire Devon, a woman whose life and beliefs are irrevocably altered after she starts hearing The Hum. The book was a Canadian national bestseller, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Giller Prize.[31] In their citation, the Giller jury called the novel "a masterful interrogation of the body, as well as the desperate violence that undergirds our lives in the era of social media, conspiracies, isolation and environmental degradation."[32] It forms the basis of an opera by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, which premiered at the Norwegian National Opera in 2022.[33]


In 2012, in collaboration with his then-partner William Ellis, Jordan founded and ran Videofag, an alternative arts space operated out of a defunct barbershop in Toronto's Kensington Market. The space doubled as the couple's home and became an influential hub for counterculture in the city, until its closure in 2016.[34][35]

Political views[edit]

Tannahill is an anti-monarchist, and has written about the need for Canada to sever ties with the British Crown.[36] He is also a critic of Brexit.[37]

On November 23, 2018, Tannahill read the entirety of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble over nine hours outside the Hungarian Parliament Building in protest of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's decision to revoke accreditation and funding for gender studies programs in the country.[38][39]

On April 4, 2019, Tannahill and three collaborators staged a protest action during high tea at The Dorchester Hotel.[40] The action was in response to Brunei's proposed introduction of laws that make homosexual sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death.[41] The Dorchester Collection is a luxury hotel operator owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. Video documentation of the protest action, and Tannahill's forceful removal from the hotel, went viral soon after it was posted online.[42]



  • The Listeners, 2021
  • Liminal, 2018


  • Is My Microphone On?, 2021
  • Declarations, 2018
  • Botticelli in the Fire, 2016
  • Sunday in Sodom, 2016
  • Concord Floral, 2014
  • Late Company, 2013
  • rihannaboi95, 2013
  • Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes, 2013
  • Post Eden, 2010
  • Get Yourself Home Skyler James, 2010


  • The Videofag Book, 2018
  • Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama, 2015


  1. ^ "Thomas King wins Governor General’s award for fiction". The Globe and Mail, November 18, 2014.
  2. ^ "Prix des jeunes libraires". Prix des jeunes libraires, June 16, 2021.
  3. ^ "What you need to know about the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists". CBC Books, November 5, 2021.
  4. ^ "Liminal: en un laps d'antan". December 20, 2019.
  5. ^ "Play Fighting". April 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Our very personal picks for the best movies, music, theatre and art of 2018". December 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "Marienbad Enigmantic but Compelling". Toronto Star. May 27, 2016.
  8. ^ "Super Queeros!". CBC Arts. Jun 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "SummerWorks 2009: The Graveyard Shift". Torontoist, August 8, 2009.
  10. ^ "Takes Two Men To Make a Brother at The Harbourfront Centre". The Harbourfront Centre, February 6, 2009.
  11. ^ "Biting Into Rhubarb: Part Two". Torontoist, February 19, 2010.
  12. ^ "Honesty". Now, October 22, 2012.
  13. ^ "Signs of good things to come". The Globe and Mail. January 10, 2013.
  14. ^ "Concord Floral (Das Gewächshaus)", Deutsches Theater.
  15. ^ "Ist mein Mikro an?", Residence Theatre.
  16. ^ "Governor General's Award winner Jordan Tannahill's rainbow connection". National Post. November 18, 2014.
  17. ^ "Book about campus rape and an Indigenous memoir win $25,000 Governor General’s Literary Award". Toronto Star, October 30.
  18. ^ "How Sheila Heti's long-abandoned play went from her bottom drawer to a Toronto stage". The Globe and Mail. June 17, 2014.
  19. ^ "Late Company, Trafalgar Studios - this play is unapologetically conventional but utterly transfixing - review". Go London. August 26, 2017.
  20. ^ "Late Company, theatre review: Nimble study of a prickly subject". The Telegraph. August 25, 2017.
  21. ^ "This is theatre in its purest form: a cathartic cleansing". The Independent. May 3, 2017.
  22. ^ "The Films of Venice Virtual Reality Selection". La Biennale di Venezia.
  23. ^ "The 10 Best Toronto dance shows of the 2010s decade". Now (newspaper), December 9, 2019.
  24. ^ "The 50 most anticipated books of 2015 (the first half, anyway)". The Globe and Mail, January 2, 2015.
  25. ^ "Jordan Tannahill’s Theatre of the Unimpressed is essential reading for anybody interested in contemporary theatre". The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2015.
  26. ^ "14 Essential Books for Theatre Students". Playbill, September 10, 2022.
  27. ^ "Jordan Tannahill’s Liminal paints an incisive portrait of millennials" The Globe and Mail, February 8, 2018.
  28. ^ "Jordan Tannahill’s Liminal paints an incisive portrait of millennials" The Globe and Mail, February 8, 2018.
  29. ^ "«Liminal»: entre la vie et la mort, un temps suspendu" Le Devoir, December 28, 2019.
  30. ^ "Prix des jeunes libraires". Prix des jeunes libraires, June 16, 2021.
  31. ^ Adina Bresge, "Two-time runner-up Miriam Toews among authors on Giller Prize shortlist". The Globe and Mail, October 5, 2021.
  32. ^ "What you need to know about the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists". CBC Books, November 5, 2021.
  33. ^ "The Listeners at Den Norske Opera & Ballet". Den Norske Opera & Ballet, November 11, 2022.
  34. ^ "Videofags: A new queer art space in Kensington - ready to blow your mind". fab, October 17, 2012.
  35. ^ "Video fags: Couple creates queer Kensington salon". Xtra!, October 16, 2012.
  36. ^ "Canadians are not vassals of the British crown - it's time we severed our ties". The Guardian, September 27, 2016.
  37. ^ "Love in the time of Brexit". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, December 16, 2016.
  38. ^ "No problem: a Canadian writer protested against the abolition of gender studies at Parliament". Merce, November 24, 2018.
  39. ^ "On a Friday for seven hours, a Canadian writer in Parliament was reading one of the most well-known books of gender studies". 444, November 24, 2018.
  40. ^ "LGBTQ+ Activists Just Invaded Dorchester Hotel to Protest Brunei". Out, April 4, 2019.
  41. ^ "Protester pulls out megaphone and interrupts patrons at Brunei-owned hotel". Gay Star News, April 4, 2019.
  42. ^ "Gay rights activists infiltrate Dorchester Hotel in protest over Brunei death penalty". Metro, April 6, 2019.

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