Theatre New Brunswick’s upcoming production brings 18th century feminism to the stage with sharp-as-a-blade humour and plenty of sword fights.
Theatre New Brunswick’s final professional show of the season is coming up in March. The play is called Heroine and it’s a two-hander based on the lives of Mary Read and Anne Bonny, two of history’s most documented female pirates. Written by Halifax-based actor and playwright Karen Bassett, Heroine is sword fights, wrestling matches, and at times, crude and unusually hilarious. The best part? All this happens without a man in sight.
“Heroine is by my friend Karen Bassett who is a fight director and actress in Halifax,” said TNB Artistic Director Natasha MacLellan. “She had all this fight training and all these great skills and no place to show it off. Also a playwright, she wrote this play to do sword fights, to wrestle and to have fun with all these skills that she has.
“The play has two parts for women who get the chance to throw each other around and play strong, fun pirates,” she said. “It’s pretty rare for gals to get parts like that. I love it for these reasons.”
Heroine debuted at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax in 2010 and was chosen to open the season at Northern Light Theatre in Edmonton the following year.
TNB will give the play its first New Brunswick production with a twelve show run starting in Fredericton March 18-22 before touring the province March 24-29.
“We saw no women we wanted to be.”
– Anne Bonny, Heroine
The company’s production features Fredericton-based actor Abby Paige and Moncton’s Mélanie Leblanc. Both actors spent the past two weeks in the TNB rehearsal hall developing the play’s many fight scenes with fight director Jean-Michel Cliche.
“The fight training has been awesome,” said LeBlanc. “I love it so much, I don’t want it to end. I’ve done stage combat classes and have done a little bit of fencing in the past but this is the first play I’ve been in where I’ll get to use a sword. I’ve never played a pirate!
“I like this play because it’s two women, and we don’t often get to see women in a context like this, living the way they wanted and going against social norms,” said Leblanc. “The first read was a very visual read in that I could imagine all the fighting sequences and the swords. It’s exciting.”
For Paige, her excitement for the production goes back to before she was even cast for a part in the play.
“I was at the announcement of the new season back in April,” said Paige. “When Natasha announced the company would be doing this play, I thought, whoever is doing this show is so lucky. And then I got to do it. And then I read it and it was great. So it’s been layers and layers of excitement for me.”
Set in a Jamaican prison cell as both women await execution for their crimes, Heroine packs a serious punch, both physically and metaphorically. Yes, it’s packed full of action, but it’s also a deep look into a time when women weren’t encouraged to get their hands dirty in any way, let alone swashbuckling, looting and murdering on the high seas.
“It’s sometimes difficult to find female characters in pop culture who aren’t women relegated to the sidelines of a man’s story,” said MacLellan, who is directing the play. “Too often the women in stories are girlfriends, mothers and wives to the main characters, without stories, goals and ambitions of their own. Heroine tells the story of two amazing historical women who lived life by their own terms. It’s the kind of story all of us should see. We all need reminding that gender clichés don’t serve us. That all of us are capable of so much more than traditional norms would have us believe.”
Heroine begins on March 18 with a pay-what-you-wish preview performance at the Open Space Theatre (55 Whiting Road) followed by the play’s official opening night performance on March 19. The play continues in Fredericton until the March 22 before touring to Bathurst, Miramichi, Moncton, Saint John, St. Andrews and Florenceville-Bristol. Tickets for all performances are now on sale.
March 18 | Fredericton | 7:30 pm | PAY WHAT YOU WISH PREVIEW
March 19 | Fredericton | 7:30 pm | BUY TICKETS
March 20 | Fredericton | 7:30 pm | BUY TICKETS
March 21 | Fredericton | 2:00 pm | BUY TICKETS
March 21 | Fredericton | 7:30 pm | BUY TICKETS
March 22 | Fredericton | 2:00 pm | BUY TICKETS
***All Fredericton performances take place at the Open Space Theatre, 55 Whiting Road
March 24 | Bathurst High School | Bathurst, NB | BUY TICKETS
March 25 | Vogue Theatre | Miramichi, NB | BUY TICKETS
March 26 | Aberdeen Cultural Centre | Moncton, NB | BUY TICKETS
March 27 | BMO Theatre | Saint John, NB | BUY TICKETS
March 28 | WC O Neill Arena Theatre | St. Andrews, NB | BUY TICKETS
March 29 | Carleton North High School | Florencville-Bristol, NB | BUY TICKETS