"Do maternity clothes
even come in leather
--Claire, The Family Way
Born in Peterborough, Ontario in 1964, Kathleen Oliver grew up in Quebec, in Shawinigan and Beloeil. She has lived most of her adult life in Vancouver, British Columbia, after a significant stretch of her twenties spent in London, Ontario, where she completed a Master's Degree at the University of Western Ontario. She has written and published short prose and poetry; one poem, "Custody" has been studied in select high schools. She has helped organize B.C.'s Women in View Festival, and contributes regularly to the Georgia Straight. Principally, however, Oliver has achieved notice as a playwright.
Swollen Tongues, a gender-bending lesbian twist on Restoration Comedy, won the 1997 Canadian Playwriting Competition and garnered acclaim for various Canadian productions and in London, England, where it played in 2000. The play, written entirely in rhyming couplets, focuses on a duel of wits between a brother and sister who have fallen for the same woman. Swollen Tongues uses the traditional conventions of comedy to unmask assumptions about gender and sexuality. At least, an academic essay on the play would make a statement along those general lines. A more typical audience member perhaps might say that it's just really, really funny. To hone her skills for writing verse dialogue-- not exactly a form in vogue-- she set up a stall Saturdays at a Vancouver market and sold Sonnets to Go, written on or for any subject selected by paying customers.
Oliver's other plays include Carol's Christmas (2002), The Family Way(2003), and a short piece intended to be performed on a small boat. She currently acts as the B.C. representative on the National Council of the Playwrights' Guild of Canada. In 2004 she abandoned her work Desire in Three Parts, based on the life of Colette, and continues to develop other projects. In 2006, Swollen Tongues was selected for the anthology Lesbian Plays: Coming of Age in Canada.