NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival Push Ahead With Adapted Programming

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Nineteenth Annual NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival set to launch both live and online July 23.

While COVID-19 has shuttered most theatres around the world indefinitely, Fredericton’s NotaBle Acts Theatre (NB Acts), a company dedicated to staging new plays by New Brunswick playwrights, is carrying on with its annual summer theatre festival by finding creative ways to continue to make and stage theatre in the midst of the pandemic. While it won’t exactly be business as usual, the festival will feature some traditionally staged outdoor productions along with performances staged for small live audiences and livestreamed for viewers at home, as well as a production created exclusively for online viewing that offers a poignant and entertaining commentary on the fraught moment we are all sharing.

That play, Space Girl by Jean-Michel Cliche, will leave the traditional stage behind and instead embrace the type of theatrical magic enabled by streaming technology to tell the story of a young woman who seeks to escape the Worst Year Ever on Earth for the comforts of life in space, only to discover it’s not quite so easy to leave behind all our worldly problems. Written as a direct response to the events of the last few months, Space Girl will kick off the festival on July 23, with audiences tuning in to follow its titular protagonist’s adventures via Zoom, and interacting with the performance to shape the narrative.

While health and safety restrictions have forced the cancellation of NotaBle Acts’ site-specific play series for this year, with one play, Neomi Iancu Haliva’s Concrete and Plaster, postponed for production next year, a second script originally selected for the series, Jason McIntyre’s Art Attack, will be adapted for inclusion in Taking it to the Streets, the festival’s popular annual outdoor production staging the winners of NB Acts’ ten-minute play competition for 2020. The four other fun, family-friendly comedies on the program, to be staged for a physically-distanced live audience in downtown Fredericton, will be The Nine Ordinary Lives of the Infamous Catgirl by Alex Rioux, What Not to Do on a Date (When You’re Undead) by Sophie Tremblay-Pitre, Camp by Muriel Falkenstein, and McIntryre’s I Saw Nicolas Cage.

The two winners of the company’s one act playwriting competition, Every Apple in the Orchard by Noah Deas and The Kelpie by Alex Rioux, will be performed as staged readings for reduced capacity audiences at Theatre New Brunswick’s Open Space Theatre, with others able to watch the readings remotely as livestreams. Both plays are powerful and troubling works centred on crimes of passion, Deas’ the story of young man who falls under the spell of a serial killer stalking Toronto’s gay village, and Rioux’s depicting the tragic consequences of a love triangle with supernatural overtones.

The festival will be rounded out by readings of six other new plays similarly presented for both small live audiences and livestreamed: one act competition runners up Meg Edwards’ Wrack and Ruin and Devin Rockwell’s Everything is Here; the winners of NotaBle Acts Middle and High School playwriting contests; and Bluebirds, a new drama about Canadian nurses in World War One by festival Playwright/Dramaturge in Residence Vern Thiessen, an internationally renowned dramatist and past winner of the Governor General’s Award for Drama.

The festival will also feature a pair of theatre-centred workshops open to the public, a playwriting masterclass taught by Thiessen and a course in workshop acting that will be co-led by Thiessen and Theatre New Brunswick Artistic Director Natasha MacLellan. Both will be offered online as pandemic-imposed travel restrictions have forced Thiessen’s Residency to become a virtual one, offered from his home in Edmonton, Alberta. For NotaBle Acts Artistic Director Len Falkenstein, it’s an example of how the company has been able to quickly adapt to new realities. “Like everyone else in the world, we’ve all gotten good at Zoom very fast,” said Falkenstein. “It was that or close our doors for the season and we didn’t want that to happen. NB Acts has built such great momentum, with so many great young playwrights and new scripts up and coming that we didn’t want those folks to lose a year’s worth of opportunities. This will also be a unique chance for us to reach audiences outside Fredericton so we’re excited to see how that goes.”

The NotaBle Acts Theatre festival will run from July 23 – August 1. The full list of performances and events to be released soon at For more information, email or phone 506 458-7406.

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