R. M. Vaughan’s play ‘One Year After’ brings the audience directly inside the story with site-specific performances at Renaissance College this week.
Since the beginning, NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival has provided audiences with impressive content and variety, both in the plays presented and the locations these stories are told. Taking theatre out of the dark halls and into new and often unusual venues is part of what makes this festival of New Brunswick theatre an annual highlight for artists and theatre lovers alike.
This week, NotaBle Acts will continue this tradition by animating streets, parking lots and other public spaces (as well as traditional venues) with the voices of new and emerging playwrights.
Included as part of this year’s festival is the play One Year After, written by Saint John-born writer and video artist R. M. Vaughan. Presented as a site-specific play with three performances happening at UNB’s Renaissance College on Charlotte Street, One Year After is one of just a few published scripts to ever appear on the NotaBle Acts stage.
“We usually do really, really new scripts,” said Clarissa Hurley, who is directing the production. “One Year After is a published play so it’s a bit of a departure for us in that sense.”
Recently published by Frog Hollow Press, One Year After is a one-person play, a monologue about the character Elaine, a woman who is reflecting back on her life one year after her mother’s passing.
“Elaine is a middle aged woman going through a very difficult time,” said Hurley. “She’s going back over her life and looking at everything’s she’s acquired.”
Featuring well-known Fredericton actor Elizabeth Goodyear, this one hour performance is designed to bring the audience directly into the story with Elaine engaging directly with the audience at various times throughout the performance.
“It’s a play that subverts the conventions of theatre in that the audience is very much in the play,” said Hurley. “It’s very interactive. But I also think the way the story follows the arc of the narrative is unique.”
For these three performances (July 31 and August 1 and 4), the audience sit together with Elaine as she moves through the room thinking out loud and wrestling with her deeply internal conflict.
“There’s nothing wrong with being entertained, but there are several different kinds of theatre and this play is one that demands a bit more from the audience,” said Hurley. “For this performance, we’re existing in this space together and in this world together and the audience is part of the story in a sense. The character is sharing a lot of deeply personal things but they are things that we can all relate to.”
Goodyear describes her character as unsettled and someone who may at times shock the audience with her opinions and actions.
“This character is not necessarily likeable and she is terribly self critical,” she said. “She’s self aware and she judges herself as much as she does other people. I think her vanderbilly and her clarity and resolve are what in some ways bring a heroism to this character.”
For Goodyear, who appeared in productions by Theatre New Brunswick, Bard in the Barracks, Nasty Shadows and several others including many past performances as part of NotaBle Acts, One Year After is the first major monologue performances of her career – a challenge for even the most experienced actors.
“There’s a flow to Richard’s writing so it’s actually not as daunting as you might think,” she said, commenting on the enormous amount of text she has to perform. “This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this.
“With this play, I’m talking directly to the audience,” said Goodyear. “I’m engaging them. I’m not going to not look at them during the performance. The audience is actually a part of the performance in that sense. There is no fourth wall by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to be very much an ensemble piece.”
One Year After | NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival | July 31 and August 1 (7 p.m.) and August 4 at 2 p.m. | View Event