Next Folding Theatre Company prepare to stage this year’s Creative Collaboration.
“I wanted to create a show that could help people work on their skills.”
That was the simple motivation that led Ryan Griffith to organise Next Folding Theatre Company’s first Creative Collaboration. What started off as a loose concept more than six years ago continues to follow the same guiding principles today – taking a rough idea and developing it into something truly engaging for actors and audience alike.
“The first Creative Collaboration came about when I had just returned from the National Theatre School and I had some spare time on my hands,” said Griffith. “I really wanted to do something that could accommodate people of all sorts of artistic backgrounds and utilize people that were in between phases in their own artistic careers. In Fredericton, there are lots of people doing theatre through the universities and lots of people doing theatre professionally. When we started, there wasn’t a lot of theatre that addressed that middle group of people.”
Artists who commit to take part in NFTC’s Creative Collaboration process are essentially choosing to embark on a creative journey, exploring the limitless possibilities the art form presents. It’s a learning process where the curious see their ideas take shape.
This year’s production features local artists Gordon Mihan, Lee Thomas, Amelia Hay, Tilly Jackson and Robbie Lynn.
“We met in October or November and started brainstorming ideas of what we wanted our performance to be about,” said Thomas. “We were five random people thrown together and tasked to create a play. We started by talking about what we wanted our play to be about, writing and workshopping scripts, and once they were ready, we cast our work amongst ourselves. When that was finished, we started rehearsing.”
Each of the five actors drafted a ten minute scene based loosely around a chosen theme. The resulting production, In This Place, centres on stories and themes surrounding New Brunswick and what it means to be a New Brunswicker.
“We were all really interested in themes of home, belonging and identity and how those all played together,” said Thomas. “Our scenes are all about people in New Brunswick and what it means to be a New Brunswicker in today’s world.
“It’s definitely different from any theatre experience I’ve had,” she said. “I’m definitely one of those ‘in between’ people. I did a little bit of theatre in university. That was my first theatre experience, but this is the first play I’ve ever had any involvement in writing or directing, especially in such a collaborative way.”
The project has proven to be a breeding ground for local theatre artists, offering willing participants the opportunity to not only write and act but also to try their hand at developing a written script into a living, breathing work of art.
“I’m learning a lot from just being in rehearsals and watching other people direct their own scenes. It’s been a great skill building exercise,” said Hay.
The five artists involved in the production have received guidance from Next Folding alumni Jake Martin, Jean-Michel Cliche along with Griffith, who helps facilitate the rehearsals and the resulting performances.
“This group has worked extremely well together,” said Griffith, “and almost automatically started working off each other in ways I wasn’t expecting. When you watch the scene you can tell they’re all part of the same fingerprint.”