Martini has over thirty plays, and ten books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit, including the Calgary Book Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness and the internationally acclaimed young adult trilogy, The Crow Chronicles. He has served on the boards of numerous writing organizations including the Alberta Playwrights Network (Vice President), the Playwrights Guild of Canada (President), and the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (founding President). His texts on playwriting, The Blunt Playwright, The Greek Playwright, and The Ancient Comedians are employed in universities and colleges across the country. In addition to writing, he is the Former Chair, now Professor, of Drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.
From the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia:
Playwright, screenwriter, and fiction writer, born in Calgary, Alberta, Clem Martini has written over thirty plays, many of which have been produced nationally and internationally, including: Afterlife (Lunchbox Theatre 2005, directed by Johanne Deleeuw); The Secret Life of the Octopus (Quest Theatre 2005, dir. Duval Lang); The Replacement (Lunchbox Theatre 2004, dir. John Cooper); Turnaround, co-written with Cheryl Foggo (Lunchbox Theatre 1999, dir. Duval Lang); Selling Mr. Rushdie (Workshop West Theatre 1997, dir. David Mann); Bite Me (Lunchbox Theatre 1997, dir. Bartley Bard); Borrow Me (Lunchbox Theatre 1997, dir. John Cooper); Exit Othello (Workshop West 1996, dir. Mann); Illegal Entry (Alberta Theatre Projects 1995, dir. Daniel Libman); Up On The Roof (Lunchbox 1995, dir. Bartley Bard).
The Devil We Know, co-created with Cheryl Foggo (Blyth Festival 2012, dir. Eric Coates) is set on the edge of Regina in 1944, the home of a small group of African-Canadians determined to live with dignity despite hard times. When teenage twins, Vivian and Verna are left home alone for the weekend, they share stories of their hardships and romances, and tales of murder and hidden treasure right in their own neighborhood.
Then evil comes calling on them.
Martini’s plays exhibit a strong social conscience, and a quirky sense of humour, often focusing on the lives of troubled teens. They also have a fine sense of the absurd, expressing the world as unconventional and fantastical. Selling Mr. Rushdie (published in The Alberta Advantage, Playwrights Press, 2008) explores Western culture’s obsession with fame and wealth. Three teens from a residential school for young offenders, working in a seedy bar, kidnap a man who claims to be Salman Rushdie. They stash him in a barn and attempt to figure out how they will claim the million dollar fatwa reward, even though the man now denies that he is Rushdie; however, he proves to be a formidable opponent. The play challenges the notion of freedom of speech – whether it can go too far, or whether it is ineffective compared to violent action. The director of the Rogues Theatre production (Calgary 2004) compared the characters’ patter to the dialogue of Quentin Tarantino and of playwright-filmmaker David Mamet.
Martini is a three-time winner of the Alberta Writers Guild Drama Prize, and a Governor General’s Award nominee for his anthology, A Three Martini Lunch (Red Deer Press, 2000). Martini With a Twist: 5 Plays by Clem Martini was published by NeWest Press in 2012.
Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness (Freehand Books 2010) recounts his two brothers’ 30-year struggle with schizophrenia and with the health system. His novel, The Comedian (U of Calgary Press, 2018), an imaginative interpretation of the life of the Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus as he tries against all odds to mount a play, was nominated for an Alberta Literary Award in 2019.
Martini is a professor in the Division of Drama at the University of Calgary, where he teaches Playwriting, Screenwriting and Theatre for Young Audiences. He works with troubled youth as a drama consultant through the charitable organization Woods Homes. He is a past President of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and author with Kathleen Foreman of an “unauthorized” oral history of Theatresports, Something Like a Drug (Red Deer Press, 1995); and of the playwriting texts The Blunt Playwright (Playwrights Press, 2006) and The Greek Playwright (Playwrights Press, 2009).
He lives in Calgary with his wife, Cheryl Foggo.
I was a sales rep for the new Calgary publisher, Freehand Books, when Clem Martini and his brother, Olivier Martini, published their collaborative Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness. They have since released a second book with Freehand, The Unravelling: How Our Caregiving Safety Net Came Unstrung and We Were Left Grasping at Threads, Struggling to Plait a New One. I have read both books and thought them to be excellent! I displayed the first at library conferences and conferences. (I was also a sales rep for The University of Calgary Press, which has since published his novel, The Comedian, and for Red Deer Press and Kids Can Press that have also published books by Clem Martini.) I had known of Clem Martini prior to this, of course, as he was (and still is!) teaching at the University of Calgary. But I also came to better know him when I began promoting his wife, Cheryl Foggo, who is also part of this Authors-Readers International series.
Published by The University of Calgary Press
edited by Aritha Van Herk (also an A-RI author!)
Titus Maccius Plautus’ career is on the decline. Once renounced for bringing Greek comedies to the Roman world, now he struggles to stage a single play. Unlucky with money and unlucky in love, Plautus faces the world with wry dignity. This could be the performance that brings back fame and fortune, or the one that ends it all.
Engaging, thoughtful, and funny, The Comedian dives into the rough and tumble world of arts in its infancy. Clem Martini draws on his talent and experience to bring to life the signs and sounds of a world where playwrights suffered and succeeded–but mostly suffered.
What Clem Martini is working on now: I’m presently working on a theatrical adaptation of The Unravelling.