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Playwright explores rules of breaking up with friends

The first time a friend wanted to break up with Deb Williams, she admits she was angry and confused.
Taking off
Deb Williams wrote Taking Off

The first time a friend wanted to break up with Deb Williams, she admits she was angry and confused.

It was roughly 10 years ago, when one of Williams' friends started seeing a therapist and told Williams their friendship was being examined and potentially removed. If Williams didn't become a better friend, she was going to pull the plug on the relationship — friendship off.

At first Williams was angry and upset that was one of her friends would consider cutting ties with her, but then it dawned on her — she didn't need people in her life that didn't appreciate and value her friendship.

“I thought if you're not interested, I'm pulling up anchor on our friendship first,” said Williams. “I don't need anybody who isn't really there. If it's not a two-way street, let's not.”

The break up was painful, Williams said, and caused her to doubt everything she knew about herself and reexamine what she believed. But now, almost a decade later, Williams feels she's a better friend because of it.

It's Williams' experience with friendships that is the centre of a new play on at the Belfry Theatre.

Taking Off, which is written by Williams who also plays the lead role, is a one-woman comedy featuring Minnie, a middle age, middle-class woman struggling with career, relationships, weight and family demands.

It explores the rules of friendships, asking questions about how to break up with a friend — something Williams said both men and women of all ages can relate to.

“There's a lot of pressure to keep friends forever. We don't give our young people rules for friendship. It's an amorphous thing and it can really hurt,” Williams said. “They're (relationships) the huge anchor in most women's lives and yet we don't really know what the other person is thinking about a friendship.”

But Williams didn't just base Taking Off on her own experiences. During the seven years (on and off) it took her to complete the play, she gathered stories from other people's relationships as well.

If she was at a party, she'd strike up a conversation with someone and tell them she was working on a play about friendship, in which people would often open up about their personal experiences, and feelings of guilt and betrayal.

While Williams has written a number of plays for young audiences, this is the first adult play she's written on her own. Now, she's both excited and nervous to see her hard work hit the stage.

“I hope people will feel like they're let off the hook a little bit in terms of guilt they're carrying around about loss of friendship,” said Williams, adding the play will make you laugh and cry.

“I hope they feel better about themselves and acknowledge that it's okay, everybody is okay. You don't need to be everybody's best friend.”

Taking Off hits the stage at the Belfry Theatre Feb. 21 to March 12. For more information or tickets visit