Two New Brunswick theatre companies bring their first co-production to Fredericton this weekend.
Following successful performances in Miramichi last week, New Brunswick theatre artist Sam Crowell’s his latest work, Stillwater: A Musical will be performed for Fredericton audiences June 10 at the Open Space Theatre, 55 Whiting Road.
His third touring production in as many years, Stillwater: A Musical is an original two-act show that tells the story of Lilac, a young artist whose creativity is challenged by her ongoing struggles with mental health issues.
“This musical was created because of two key factors,” said Crowell. “The initial inspiration for the show came from artwork my sister Hannah Crowell had made. It shows a woman sitting in a bathtub with all the water flying up around her and she told me that this is how her anxiety felt at times. From there, I started building a show around that picture and the actual piece she created is used in the show.”
Crowell’s own struggles with mental health also played a major role in inspiring the piece. After recognizing the effect it was having on his own family, he and his mother Heather Harvey-Stymiest worked together to bring this story to life.
“In 2015, my mother and I both realized we were having difficulty communicating how our respective mental illness felt,” said Crowell. “It was fairly new for both of us, at least acknowledging it, so we used this show as a way to communicate. She wrote most of the music and lead me through how to write a few myself. I came up with this story based on our joined experiences and that’s how we started the project.
“My mother also felt connected to this topic because of a student she taught lost his battle with mental illness, committing suicide at 25 years old. The show is dedicated in his memory.”
While the show deals with heavy subject matter, Crowell admits it was necessary to look for and highlight the lighter side of lifes struggles, finding the humour that can easily be overlooked in challenging situations.
“It deals with very real emotions but I don’t think I’m capable for making any show without a sense of humour,” he said. “I think humour is so important to keep this heavier topic entertaining and to keep the show feeling honest.”
Stillwater: A Musical is the third touring production for Crowell’s Buttercup Productions and marks the company’s first co-production with Miramichi’s Double L Productions, a partnership Crowell acknowledges for helping relieve the stress that comes with managing and directing a touring show.
“I’ve teamed up with co-director Lloyd Cameron, artistic director of Double L Productions for this show,” Crowell. “He is always there with expert guidance and keeps me calm which is a tricky task. With me coming down to rehearse every week in Miramichi, having another leader already there helped facilitate things like promotion and extra rehearsals significantly. Plus, the group of performers in this production are just so focused and naturally talented, it really eased some usual stress.”