New Brunswick’s only queer theatre festival dedicated to celebrating and fostering the talent of emerging 2SLGBTQIA+ artists happens March 17-20 at STU’s Black Box Theatre.
The Plain Site Theatre Festival gets underway this week. Founded in 2019, this annual event presented by St. Thomas University and Solo Chicken Productions is New Brunswick’s only queer theatre festival dedicated to celebrating and foster the talent of emerging 2SLGBTQIA+ artists with the goal of making 2SLGBTQIA+ stories visible and accessible to audiences.
After launching in 2019, the festival was forced to move online in 2020 and postponed completely in 2021 due to numerous COVID-19 related complications. Festival founder Alex Rioux is excited to get back at it this year presenting new and developing work before live audiences once again.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs,” said Rioux. “We started very small our first year and then COVID really messed with some of our big plans for the second year of the festival. This year we’ve found a good middle ground and have so many shows that we’re presenting so it’s really exiting!”
This year’s festival received a record number of submissions from across Canada and the United States. Organizers chose seven plays for the 2022 festival that will take the form of both traditional performances and readings making this year’s event the largest to date.
“This year we’re producing three mainstage shows and four readings, which is the largest number of pieces we’ve presented in a single year,” said Rioux. “We received a huge influx of scripts from around North America which was exciting. But the mandate of the festival is to uplift New Brunswick voices, so I focused more on the New Brunswick scripts. Not only that but I was really drawn to the subject and presentation of each of our scripts, so it was a really easy choice of who to select in the end.”
For Rioux, one of the most satisfying moments of each new festival happens before the curtain goes up and sees the act of connecting new and emerging writers with experienced theatre dramaturges as a major supportive step forward for the playwrights involved and a key aspect of the festival’s role in celebrating these voices.
This year’s festival dramaturg is Santiago Guzmán. Guzmán is a performer and playwright originally from Metepec, Mexico, now based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. He is the Artistic Director of TODOS Productions, the Artistic Associate for Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre and General Manager for Neighbourhood Dance Works in St. John’s, NL.
“I couldn’t ask for a better person to be working with these students,” said Rioux. “Santiago is so kind and committed to seeing more visibility on stage so I know that these students are getting an amazing experience getting this time with him. The same goes for this year’s workshop with playwright Jena McLean. Jena’s mantra is to ‘center care in the work’ which I truly believe more artists should consider when approaching work. To have her leading a playwrighting workshop just means the world.”
The three mainstage performances featured this year are Samantics by Alex Dawson and directed by Lisa Anne Ross, Boreal by McKenna Boeckner and directed by Alex Rioux, and Out of Water by Madeline Savoie and directed by Kat Hall.
There will also be four readings of new work included as part of this year’s festival lineup: Coming In to Coming Outby Merrit Johnson, A Dinner Party of Two Dishes by Ben MacIntosh, Call Me By My Name by Ash Noble, and Was That Really Necessary by Brie Sparks. These readings are being directed by St. Thomas University students Victor Paura and Noah Deas.
“It always comes back to the students,” said Rioux. “I hear from other directors and facilitators say how much the festival means to the students who participate, and how much fun they’re having working on the shows. Every year there’s always a couple two students who feel very validated by working in these rooms with other 2SLGBTQIA+ artists.”
For a complete look at all the plays included as part of the 2022 Plain Site Theatre Festival and more information on showtimes and tickets, visit Plain Site Theatre Festival on Facebook.