After eight seasons, Fredericton theatre company prep for final performances this week at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.
Things are going to look a little different around the Fredericton theatre community following this week’s Next Folding Theatre Company show. After eight seasons of work, the company will call it a day following the final performance of their latest work, which hits the Charlotte Street Arts Centre stage March 14.
Songs of the Seer, the company’s final creative collaboration is being described as “an elaborate imagining of how two fictional cultures might collide, and then, against all odds, attempt to carry on”. This collection of steam-punk inspired stories was written, directed and will be performed by more than 20 local artists.
The past few seasons at NFTC have seen creative collaborations grow to become the focal point for the company. Originally programmed as part of a full season of work that often included the production of an original New Brunswick script as well as live audio workshops (public readings of new plays), Next Folding’s creative collaborations have, for the past few seasons at least, become a major focus for the company.
As Next Folding Theatre Company founder and artistic director Ryan Griffith explains, these all-in productions have provided a sucsessful template for artists of all levels to work together.
“It was basically a decision made to try and include as many people as we could into the seasons and into the shows,” said Griffith, explaining the important role collaborative storytelling has played in defining the company’s work and its place within the local theatre community. “And if you’re casting for a regular show, not everyone fits the bill.
“One thing the template accommodates really well is working with people from all sorts of different backgrounds and experience levels,” he said. “For instance, you could have a really experienced actor working with a new writer and someone who has a little tech experience. It’s a great way to bring together several artists who are each at a different place with their work. I think that’s why we’ve been leaning towards it.”
Formed in 2010, Next Folding Theatre Company has provided more than 100 theatre artists from the Greater Fredericton Area with opportunities to collaborate, create and explore the possibilities of theatre. Attracting theatre artists from both St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick, as well as members of the local theatre community, Next Folding Theatre Company developed a reputation for pushing boundaries and trying new things.
In a media release announcing this week’s production, it was noted that this would be the company’s final performance, capping off eight seasons of work.
“This is the end of the company as we know it, our collective of artists and the way we work together and have been for the past seven years,” said Griffith. “The community and the industry here in Fredericton have changed so much over the course of seven years that it’s time to change the types of tools we use to tell stories.
“This has been a really wonderful seven years in terms of stuff we’re learned, the people involved and the stories we got to tell and the way that we told these stories,” he said. “We just feel we should stop and honour this time we’ve had, be thankful for it and get ready to move on.”
That said, Griffith isn’t ruling out the possibility of the company coming together again in the years to come.
“The [company] template has worked really well in that we’ve been able to bring people together, to work together and to realize their voices and try new things,” said Griffith. “However, I feel like we’ve explored enough and I think eventually you’re going to see another Next Folding show down the road but it’s going to be something dramatically different.
“There are things that happen in theatre that we tried to deconstruct. If the time comes that things need more deconstructing, we’ll pop our heads back up and be foolish all over again. But I think right now, we’re looking at how to be foolish in a completely different way.”