Let’s look back on Fredericton theatre in 2017
In March, Next Folding Theatre Company premiered Fred Nebula, directed by Artistic Director Ryan Griffith. The science-fiction play was developed collaboratively between eight writers. Fred Nebula was “delightfully weird” and sometimes socially relevant. Some things never change, not even in the furthest reaches of space, surrounded by aliens and robots. People still like to tell and be scared by ghost stories, and there’s still no place like home. Prejudice exists, too. Everyone’s welcome – as long as they come from the right ‘planet’. What made the show interesting was how in one moment, the audience could be laughing at the characters making reference to the mythical New Brunswick cougar, and the next be asked to reflect on our region’s response to the refugee crisis.
In the same month, Theatre New Brunswick premiered a stage adaptation of Alistair MacLeod’s The Boat, directed by Artistic Director Thomas Morgan Jones. The adaptation was written by Griffith, who would appear again at TNB in the fall. The son of a fisherman remembers life in a small fishing community bound by tradition and at the mercy of the sea. Here, The Boat was concerned with irreversible change. Once things change, can they ever return to the way things were? Considering the significant number of young people who have moved west in search of better prospects, this “small, yet mighty drama” likely felt all too familiar for some New Brunswick audience members. Thinking back on The Boat, the characters lived in area (Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia) where families stayed for generations. That’s becoming a strange concept nowadays, isn’t it? People in the workforce are becoming increasingly mobile (and grateful for Ikea as a result). Gone are the days when someone might stay with a company for decades. How has our concept of home changed in the gig economy? Can a sense of community prosper in areas where ‘no one is from here, but everyone works here’?
The NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival returned this summer for another showcase of New Brunswick talent. The festival staged theatre in various locations around the city, including the Fredericton Public Library (Site-Specific Production) and the Picaroons Roundhouse (Play Out Loud Series). This year’s Mainstage Production, presented at St. Thomas University’s Black Box Theatre, was Grace Notes by Patrick Toner. New Brunswick actors Leah Holder and Warren Macaulay, both of whom live and work in Toronto, returned to Fredericton for Grace Notes. Directed by Clarissa Hurley, Grace Notes tried to illuminate the local, namely the role of propaganda in creating cultural narratives that marginalize and exploit ‘others’ for the benefit of institutions, by staging the global, with inspiration taken from real world events. It was an ambitious play that struggled to “bring together its big ideas in a way that [connected] on a deeper, more personal level.”
The winners of NotaBle Acts’ playwriting competition in the Acting Out category were Jean-Michel Cliche with his entry Hinter and Caroline Coon (who also appeared in Grace Notes) with It Happened At A Party. The winners were provided with dramaturgical support by playwright Anna Chatterton. Both plays were presented as a double-bill at Memorial Hall, on the University of New Brunswick campus. Directed by Sharisse LeBrun, Hinter imagined a future where Nature reclaimed the Earth and buried almost all signs of human civilization. Two sisters return home, at least where it once stood, and try to resume living their old lives. It’s a fantasy, of course, because nothing remains but their memories. Stripped of artifice, the characters of Hinter struggle to make peace with the past, their broken dreams, and each other. In It Happened At A Party, directed by Tilly Jackson, the truth about what happened at a highschool party is taken to court as a teenage girl deals with bullying at school and online.
In October, Griffith’s Fortune of Wolves enjoyed its world premiere at TNB. Jones directed the production. The “fabulously imaginative” play struck a good balance between its human and science-fiction elements. Its tense, melancholic atmosphere fit well with the fall season. Griffith’s characters were many shades of truth and experience.
And most recently, TNB staged a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Nora McLellan performed the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, marking the first time in TNB’s history that a woman has played the character. The production, directed by Anne-Marie Kerr, was “fun, fast, and full of surprises” and featured “splendid set and lighting design.”
Note: there is an entry missing from the website for Solo Chicken Productions’ The Bridge Project because rain ended the event early. On September 8th, The Bridge Project transformed the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge into a “living time tunnel” where community groups and artists animated Canadian history. Our country’s story was told through a number of perspectives that sought to represent the fabric of our community and elevate the presence of marginalized groups.
At this point, Joyful Magpies would like to present its Best of Fredericton Theatre in 2017 list. There were many highlights this year, so creating this list was not easy! Congratulations to everyone who shared their talents with Fredericton audiences this year.
Joyful Magpies’ Best of Fredericton Theatre in 2017
Best Actor in a Play
Carlos Gonzalez-Vio – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick
Jon De Leon – The Boat – Theatre New Brunswick
Warren Macaulay – Graces Notes – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival
Best Actress in a Play
Kimwun Perehinec – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick
Nora McLellan – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick
Leah Holder – Grace Notes – Notable Acts Theatre Festival
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Graham Percy – The Boat – Theatre New Brunswick
Corenski Nowlan – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company
Joel Diamond – Grace Notes – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival
Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Caroline Coon – Grace Notes – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival
Sophia Black – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick
Amelia Hay – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company
Best Set Design
Joanna Yu – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick
Samuel Crowell – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company
Mike Johnston – Grace Notes – Notable Acts Theatre Festival
Best Lighting Design
Leigh Ann Vardy – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick
David DeGrow – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick
Michael Holmes-Lauder – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company
Best Sound Design
Deanna Choi – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick
Michael Holmes-Lauder – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company
Best Costume Design
Katherine Hall – Fred Nebula – Next Folding Theatre Company
Sherry Kinnear – The Boat – Theatre New Brunswick
Best Direction of a Play
Thomas Morgan Jones – Fortune of Wolves – Theatre New Brunswick
Sharisse LeBrun – Hinter – NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival
Anne-Marie Kerr – A Christmas Carol – Theatre New Brunswick