Emerging theatre artist Naomi McGowan will direct one of the first in-person theatre shows of the year this April at the Open Space Theatre.
It’s been too long since theatre audiences have been able to gather together to enjoy a performance, live and in-person. But as the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel appears to be getting ever closer, there is some good news for those who have been craving the intimacy of a traditional theatre performance.
Miramichi-born theatre artist Naomi McGowan has announced an upcoming production of Butler’s Marsh by Robert Chafe, set to take place at Theatre New Brunswick’s Open Space Theatre in Fredericton, April 9-11.
For the past year, McGowan has been an apprentice producer with TNB, mentoring under Artistic Director Natasha Maclellan.
“Last summer, I asked Natasha if I could mentor at TNB to study producing and directing,” said McGowan. “A few meetings and grant applications later and it all came together.
“Mentoring during COVID times is a little different but I’ve been so unbelievably fortunate getting to observe administrative coordination, assisting in the production of a virtual festival and then acting with TNB Young Company. I mentioned to Natasha that I would love to have a few actors in the space to workshop a script and practice directing. From that, she suggested that I take everything I’ve learned and turn it into a full-fledged production. She’s been here to offer wisdom on directing along the way and Nikki Vigneault, TNB’s technical director, has been mentoring me in light design and co-creating the lighting for Butler’s Marsh.”
Butler’s Marsh is an eerie tale set in Newfoundland and framed around a daughter’s quest to uncover the truth behind a disturbing incident involving her mother some 30 years prior. McGowan was drawn to the play, in part, because of the many challenges it presents to both the actors and the director.
“This script relies heavily on the actors,” she said. “They never leave the stage and any changes are an immediate reflection of what they decide for the characters. This is the type of work I’m passionate about: in-depth character analysis and bringing stories to life as if they’re our own.
“Another thing that drew me to this script is the main character, Nora. She is written with a strength and emotional intelligence. She is also insecure and makes incredibly poor decisions at times. Her character has flaws that are realistic and not typically portrayed in a female protagonist. All of the pressure she feels is both self-placed, and forced upon her from society and her traumatic past. Watching her work through all of this is painful, inspiring and relatable.”
The production marks the end of McGowan’s apprenticeship at TNB. Her experience prepping a full production during a pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges, but she feels it hasn’t lacked in its rewards either.
“The whole thing has been a beautiful messy challenge,” she said. “Nothing has been particularly easy nor unsolvable. I’ve learned so much from the experts teaching me, the actors I’m leading and the story itself. It never fails to amaze me how unending the process is. Once I finish one thing there is always something else to conquer. The work is constant but it’s a satisfying exhaustion.”
Butler’s Marsh stars Fredericton actors Kaitlyn Adair and Robbie Lynn with technical assistance by Nikki Vigneault and Alex Rioux. The rating of this show is PG-13
April 9 | Open Space Theatre | 7:30 p.m.
April 10 | Open Space Theatre | 7:30 p.m.
April 11 | Open Space Theatre | 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Image by @luizclas