NotaBle Acts 2021 Playwriting Competition Now Open for submissions!

NotaBle Acts is marking a significant milestone in 2021, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary! And what better way to join the celebration than to have your script featured as part of our 2021 Summer Theatre Festival, to be held in Fredericton, July 21st-31st. While the pandemic will undoubtedly continue to affect us in some ways this summer, we are optimistic that we will be able to stage a festival that will in most respects look like those we brought to you through our first 18 seasons.

Our annual province-wide playwriting contest is now open for submissions! New Brunswick playwrights have the opportunity to submit work in three categories, one for 15-30 minute site-specific plays, one for 7-10 minute short plays and another for 30-60 minute one-act plays. Two additional categories of the contest are specifically for young playwrights in New Brunswick Middle and High schools.

Winning playwrights will receive a cash prize and script mentoring from a professional playwright.

Read on below or click on the button above to view the contest rules and guidelines, as well as instructions on how to submit.

Questions about the contest can be directed to lfalken@unb.ca or (506) 458-7406. The deadline for the main contest is April 30th, 2021. The Middle and High and school contest closes on May 28th.

NotaBle Acts 2021 Playwriting Competition

Rules and Regulations

As part of its commitment to developing home-grown theatre in New Brunswick, The NotaBle Acts Theatre Company is sponsoring its twentieth annual province-wide English-language playwriting competition. Contest winners will have their work featured as part of our 2021 festival, July 22nd – 31st, in Fredericton, NB.

This year’s competition features five categories: Taking it to the Streets, Acting Out, our Site-Specific Series, and our Middle School and High School Playwriting Competitions. It is permissible for eligible writers to submit a maximum of one play per category. Please read and follow the detailed regulations for each category below.

This contest is open to all current residents of New Brunswick. Winners will be selected and notified within 2 months of the competition deadline. NotaBle Acts reserves the right to award fewer than the maximum number of prizes allotted in each category.

A Note on Full Length Play Submissions

Extra to our call for contest plays, please note that NotaBle Acts is happy to receive submissions of full length plays by New Brunswick playwrights at any time for consideration for mainstage productions. Full length submissions can include works in any genre, including theatre for young audiences and musicals. Main stage submissions should be made to the same email as contest plays.

Contest submission format:

Submissions should be sent electronically and include both your script(s) and a cover letter indicating the following:

-name of playwright

-full contact information (surface mail, email, and phone number)

-title of each play

-the category (Taking it to the Streets, Acting Out, Site-Specific, Middle School, or High School) to which it is being submitted.

-tell us a bit about yourself (including how you identify, should you choose) and your play. This can include some of the following: a bit about your background, your previous experience as a writer and/or in theatre, how your play originated and what it means to you. (Maximum: one page).

With your scripts, please include the title and a cast list on the first page. Please make sure your pages are numbered.

How to submit:

Send your cover letter and each script as a separate document by email attachment to nbacts@unb.ca.

Documents should be titled in the following format:

Cover Letter: FirstAndLastName_CoverLetter/PlayTitle.extension

Play: FirstAndLastName_/PlayTitle.extension

Documents should be in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format.

Contest deadline (Taking it to the Streets, Acting Out and Site-Specific Series): April 30th, 2021 at 11:59 PM.

Contest deadline (Middle and High School Contests only): May 28, 2021, at 11:59 PM.

Questions about the contest can be directed to company Artistic Director Len Falkenstein at lfalken@unb.ca or (506) 458-7406.

Taking it to the Streets

Taking it to the Streets is our festival’s way of bringing short new plays by New Brunswickers to outdoor, public venues in downtown Fredericton. This category for 10-minute scripts is a great way to try your hand at playwriting if you’re new to it! The winning plays will be produced free of charge in the heart of the city.

Maximum # of winners to be selected: 4

Each winning playwright will receive:

  • $125 cash prize
  • Script support (dramaturgy) from an experienced and established Canadian playwright.
  • Active involvement in the production process (mandatory–see note below)*
  • Production of the play at the 2021 summer festival

Length of plays: 7-10 minutes maximum

Maximum # of actors: 4

Staging comments: All plays must be suited to outdoor daytime performance: props and staging must be simple, such that the stage can be set up or struck in one minute or less. Lighting cues will not be possible, but sound cues and music are permissible. Because performances will be free and the venue open to all passersby, the plays must be suitable for all ages (limiting allowable language and content).

Playwrights are encouraged to take the particular staging realities of outdoor theatre into consideration when writing scripts for Taking it to the Streets. Works that demand a high degree of realism and subtlety in performance style, for example, are not always best suited to outdoor conditions. Similarly, scripts that call for multiple scenes and locations are also not best suited for our simple staging conditions.

As part of their editing process before submitting, playwrights are strongly encouraged to time their plays by reading them out loud at the pace they expect them to be performed, allowing pauses where appropriate and for necessary stage action, to ensure their scripts fall within the ten minute maximum allowed time.

Site-Specific Series

Our Site-Specific Series, Street Scenes, stages new plays that are written about and staged at unique locations in downtown Fredericton. Typically we will select 2-3 scripts to be produced, with the plays staged back to back and the audience moving between locations to watch each show. Playwrights are encouraged to investigate a space they are interested in and tell a story that is uniquely suitable to and/or about that place. Scripts will be judged for both their content and the creativity brought to their use of location. While not feeling bound by them, playwrights should take into consideration challenges involved in their choice of location (ie. noise, sufficient space and adequate sightlines for audience members, etc.) and NotaBle Acts advises some worthy scripts may not be possible to stage or may need to be modified due to technical, safety, or legal concerns.

NEW for this year: with pandemic conditions likely to still be in effect in July, all scripts selected for the Site-Specific series must be stageable outdoors in a downtown location where the audience can comfortably be physically distanced while still able to hear and see the play.  Some possible locations could include

  • The Green
  • The Sculpture Garden beside the Beaverbrook Art Gallery
  • Parking lots in the downtown core
  • The old burial ground on Brunswick Street
  • Alleyways off Queen Street

If you have questions about whether a location you are thinking of might be suitable, please feel free to contact us for advice.

Maximum # of winners to be selected: 3

Each winning playwright will receive:

  • $150 prize
  • Script support (dramaturgy) from an experienced and established Canadian playwright.
  • Active involvement in the production process (mandatory—see note below)*
  • Production of the play at the 2021 summer festival: this includes venue space, publicity, director, actors, and technical support

Length of plays: 15 minutes minimum to 30 minutes maximum

Maximum # of actors: 3

Additonal Staging Notes: Submitted scripts may indicate some flexibility in terms of performance location or be adaptable for different locations, but ultimately the work should “use” the location in an artistically interesting way and be “about” that place in some way. Since the feasibility of certain locations may not be knowable until various issues can be investigated, our play choices for this category may not be determined until after other contest winners are announced.

Plays for Street Scenes will need to be simple in terms of staging requirements, relying on minimal technical support. Any works proposed for busy public locations must be suitable for all ages (limiting allowable language and content).

Acting Out

Acting Out builds on the festival’s mandate to develop promising new English-language playwrights in the province. This competition seeks one-act plays to be presented at the festival as workshop productions.

Maximum # of winners to be selected: 2

Each winning playwright will receive:

  • $300 cash prize
  • Script support (dramaturgy) from an experienced and established Canadian playwright.
  • Active involvement in the production process (mandatory—see note below)*
  • A workshop production of the play at the 2021 summer festival

*Note: Up to 4 runners-up may be selected from scripts submitted to this category to receive public readings as part of this year’s festival lineup.

Length of plays: 30-60 minutes

Maximum # of actors: 4

Staging Comments: The winning plays will be presented as workshop productions, part of the festival’s main stage offerings. The winners will be featured as a double-bill, with each show being presented in a single evening of theatre with the other winner. Accordingly, required staging for the plays should be relatively simple and take into account the need for quick set-up and strike. Keep in mind that many rehearsals will take place in alternate spaces, and not only in the venue where the plays will be performed, meaning that the plays must not be overly dependent upon venue. Also keep in mind that technical requirements for set, sound, and lighting design should be kept minimal and flexible.

* In the case of every play chosen for presentation at the festival, it is essential that winning playwrights be accessible in May and June for early revisions and able to attend at least some rehearsals in Fredericton in July, and able to attend the festival to see their play produced. Playwrights need not be in Fredericton or the province for this entire time period but should be accessible via phone or email when they are not.

Middle School Competition

NotaBle Acts is proud to reach out to our province’s youngest aspiring writers through our playwriting competition for students in New Brunswick Middle Schools.

Maximum # of winners to be selected: 2

Each winning playwright will receive:

  • $100 cash prize
  • Free tickets to the 2020 NotaBle Acts Summer Theatre Festival
  • Script support (dramaturgy) from an established Canadian playwright
  • Active involvement in the production process
  • A public reading of your play at the 2021 summer festival

Length of plays: 5-15 minutes

Maximum # of actors: 4

Script Guidelines: The content in the winning plays must be school appropriate and cannot feature any copyrighted material such as full songs, etc. Set and lighting demands should be simple. Plays can be on any topic and in any style.

* To be eligible to win the contest, playwrights be available to attend the theatre festival, July 22-August 1 in Fredericton. 

Deadline and submission procedures:

See below following High School contest details.

High School Competition

This category is open to New Brunswick high school student playwrights.

Maximum # of winners to be selected: 2

Each winning playwright will receive:

  • $100 cast prize
  • Free tickets to the 2020 NotaBle Acts Summer Theatre Festival
  • Script support (dramaturgy) from an established Canadian playwright
  • Active involvement in the production process
  • A public reading of your play at the 2021 summer festival.

Length of plays: 10-30 minutes

Maximum # of actors: 4

Script Guidelines: The content in the winning plays must be school appropriate and cannot feature any copyrighted material such as full songs, etc. Set and lighting demands should be simple. Plays can be on any topic and in any style.

* To be eligible to win the contest, playwrights be available to attend the theatre festival, July 22-August 1 in Fredericton. 

(TUNB) A semi-serious interview with the cast and crew of A Little Wordplay Between Friends.

Sarah Higgins, sfh, is a storyteller in multiple genres — stage, screen, fiction, graphic forms. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her plays have been produced across the country, from the Halifax Fringe Festival, to the NotaBle Acts festival in Fredericton NB, to a One-Act Showcase with Little Mountain Lion Productions and the Brave New Play Rites festival in Vancouver, BC. A work she co-wrote with Falling Iguana Theatre (Toronto) was produced at the Island Fringe Festival in Charlottetown, PEI. She’s had staged readings of her work given in Fredericton, Saskatoon and Vancouver, and writes theatre reviews for the literary magazine PRISM international.1

We are thrilled to present Sarah’s rapid fire comedy about two friends locked in a semi-serious game of competitive Scrabble, and to discuss with her and the cast, (Pedro Cyr and Kris Nason) their creative processes.

Comedy is a funny thing – it’s hard to pin down what exactly makes it click. However, most comedians do agree that it depends on a critical balance between timing and spontaneity. In a script so dependent on focused banter and awkward pauses, we were curious to ask how Sarah approached writing scripts that were both structured and fun.

Sarah:

“To be honest, I don’t think about the rest of the team when I’m writing it (initially). It’s going that fast, that much back and forth in my head. So that’s what comes out onto the paper.”

“I write to a very quick rhythm in my head— which hopefully translates to the people reading it.”

“I think if they can embody the characters and the kind of playful banter that they have (on the page), then really, you can take those words and (it will fit naturally with) that rhythm.”

Of course, if you want people to have fun reading something, it always helps to have fun writing it.

Sarah:

“I had (the most) fun reworking it. It was originally written for the New Voices competition many many years ago, where it had to be full of New Brunswick trivia, which is why there was just so much of it (originally).”

“When I was revising some of the parts like, ‘my grandmother watches me sleep’ and the other sidebar stuff (that was my) favourite part. I had a lot of fun with that. And I also had fun reading it with my roommate so that we could get the pacing down. We were shouting words at each other. And thinking, ‘this is a great evening!’”

“I definitely laugh at my own jokes. This is like a running theme in my family. Actually, we all just laugh really loudly at our own jokes. So I’ve definitely laughed out loud and then been like, Well, I hope nobody knows that was just my own brain.”

Sarah was delighted to hear of the cast’s rehearsal stories.

Pedro:

“One day we were having fun with the characters— you know, they’re obviously, we’ll say not the most suave, so, I decided to just make my character look like the nerdiest possible glasses-wearer, with a blue light filter, and I bought a pair of suspenders. And I’m also gonna have a button up shirt with just the pins in the breast pocket. Almost going for a ‘Steve Urkel’ look.”

Kris:

“We did a read through when we got the scripts, like in October. … And afterwards I said, Yeah, we might up the sexual chemistry. And then someone said to me, I forgot who think it was Jane, who said ‘it’s already there.’”

One of the characters’ last name is ‘Butts’, which only adds fuel to the fire.

Kris:

“What I just recently started doing is that for the ‘Butts’ part I sort of tried to imagine (what it would look like from) the side of us. I’m a very thin person. … I don’t really have that base for good side view.”

“When I’m holding the board, and I just go ‘butts are never wrong’. I sort of arch my back and sort of stick out my butt.”

Fun stuff. However, Kris also noted some degree of initial anxiety in working with a script so heavily dependent on obscure words and intricate wordplay. Fortunately, as the actors became more comfortable with lines, they began to enjoy the game of understanding exactly what sort of person would take a scrabble contest so seriously.


Kris:

“He would definitely be creating a Wikipedia entries on Alfred Butts (the character’s relative) And he it would be very detailed. They would be deleted a lot, the amount of detail he puts in these posts, because he’d be writing about whether it was the day that he first had the idea of Scrabble. You know how on the top of Wikipedia pages, where they say this article needs trimming down? Yeah, it would be my fault that the article would say, this article needs trimming down.”

Pedro:

“We did a little experiment one day in class where we had, where Len (their director and professor) gave us a location. And then we had to see how our character would act there. And one of those locations was an art gallery. So, I just sort of imagine him being just very critical of the arts. Saying things like, ‘no, this right here isn’t exactly right, it should actually be more like this!’ And then the other location was a beach, where we both got the same idea right away, where we just like, drew a Scrabble board in the sand and then just started carving in different words that we thought of.”

Character development, it seems, was the path to finding the rhythm and the fun that had so animated the script’s development. And fun it will be! Sarah expressed her excitement at the upcoming performances, and her gratitude towards the cast for discussing their experiences.

Want to hear more from Sarah? Check out:

https://www.fallingiguanatheatre.com

http://www.sfhiggins.com

1 – Credit to sfhiggins.com for the biography.