Fredericton’s Herbert The Cow and Nasty Shadows Theatre Company will present the work of five New Brunswick playwrights this week.
Herbert The Cow and Nasty Shadows Theatre Company have both been producing unique works of theatre for Fredericton audiences since 1999. This week, for the first time, the two companies will partner to present the work of five New Brunswick playwrights, outdoors…in a parking lot.
“We’ve always quietly done our own things and both companies like being on the fringe,” said Herbert The Cow’s Corenski Nowlan. “We like doing things differently. We like to try to innovate, break conventions, and push the boundaries of what theatre can be.
“It’s taken 20 years but honestly it seemed kind of inevitable that we would eventually collaborate. We just needed a good reason to, and well, having our 2020 seasons cancelled, our normal performance spaces closed, and faced with the prospect of not doing any theatre for the rest of year, I guess that’s the catalyst we needed.”
This week’s event, The Fifth Wall, will feature original pandemic themed scripts by Nowlan, Jilly Hanson, Jason McIntyre, Alex Rioux and Scott Shannon with performances taking place in the Vanier Hall Parking Lot at St. Thomas University.
Nowlan has produced a number of plays through his company over the past 20 years. Working mainly in traditional theatres like St. Thomas University’s Black Box Theatre, this week’s co-production will be Nowlan’s first time working outside a regular theatre setting. Prior to the spring lockdown, Herbert The Cow was preparing to deliver its latest production, Veils, at The Cap. That project has since been postponed indefinitely.
“[Nasty Shadows’] Scott Shannon is one of the most talented actors and directors in Fredericton, or all of New Brunswick for that matter,” said Nowlan. “It’s a dream to work with him. He’s just so professional and easy to communicate with.
“He’s also sort of a master at staging plays in unconventional spaces. That’s something I’ve never really done with Herbert. Going right back to my first ever show in 2000, almost all of my plays, excluding some Readers’ Theatre projects, have been mounted in the Black Box or the Ted Daigle Auditorium. My cancelled show, Veils, that was supposed to open at The Cap in April was really going to be a break out show for us because it wasn’t going to be in a proper theatre. So when I started to think about The Fifth Wall and performing in a parking lot, Scott seemed like such a natural choice to partner with.”
Nowlan and Shannon began planning The Fifth Wall in May when social-distancing regulations were a little stricter than they are currently. This meant in-person auditions were out of the question and ideas surrounding where and how an audience could engage with the work were still largely unknown. Choosing artists was the easiest part, and thanks to a supportive community, everything has come together.
“We made a list and just reached out to folks,” said Nowlan, explaining how The Fifth Wall’s lineup came about. “Some people we knew, had worked with often and were trusted collaborators. A couple of people we did not know but we admired their work and they had great reputations in the community. No one said no to us. Not entirely. Everyone we asked ended up participating in the project in some capacity, be it writing, directing, acting, or providing dramaturgy. We assembled a great team. It’s a wonderful community effort because everyone was just so eager to make something happen. Everyone simply missed live theatre.”
The Fifth Wall opens Thursday August 13 and runs until Saturday.