Meet the Playwright: Tilly Jackson

We’re very happy to have Tilly with us again this year.  When it comes to Fredericton theatre, Tilly has done it all. As an actor, a writer and a director who has appeared in productions by UNB Drama, Theatre St. Thomas, and Bard in the Barracks, Tilly brings a wealth of experience to this year’s festival.

This year Tilly will be directing a reading of Alex Donovan’s new play The Forerunner as well as Mercury, a new play by Clarissa Hurley. She also wrote a play for this year’s Taking It To The Streets series of lunchtime performances.

We caught up with Tilly to learn a bit more about her work with the festival this year.

What can you tell us about your play Everything Bagel?

Everything Bagel is about Chris, a girl who’s recently gone through a bad breakup, and her sister Cecily, an actress who is visiting from New York. They meet up in this bagel shop in Chris’s hometown to catch up after some time apart, and they talk about everything from cardigans to soulmates. The conversation seems light, but they’ve each got their own issues going on under the surface. Even though they’re sisters, they’re very different people, which is always great fodder for comedy, but there are also some really touching moments.

How many plays have you written now for NotaBle Acts?

This is my third play to be produced with NotaBle Acts – my one-act Jolt was one of four staged Acting Out readings in 2015, my 10-minute Here Be Dragons was featured in Taking It To The Streets last year, and of course Everything Bagel is also in Taking It To The Streets this year. I feel very lucky to have this wonderful festival in New Brunswick that creates these amazing opportunities for local artists!

Did you write Everything Bagel specifically for the Taking It To The Streets series or was it an idea you’ve been playing with for a while now?

This idea and these characters have been floating around in my head for a while. The story actually started as a rambling work of fiction in the hazy days of a boring summer job several years ago, and while I quickly abandoned the work, the characters really stuck with me. Two years ago, on the eve of the annual NB Acts playwriting competition deadline, I sat myself down and hammered out a 10-minute play about them and submitted it. The play didn’t get into the festival then, because it was a terrible first draft, but it was more of a challenge to myself to actually hone my ideas and see what I could do with them. After quite a bit of revising and rewriting and reshuffling, I submitted it again this year and here we are!

You’re also directing the one acts, Mercury and The Forerunner. How’s that been going? 

They’re both going really well! The Play Out Loud series is always one of the highlights of the festival for me, as it provides this awesome opportunity for playwrights to hear their work performed, and also to hear feedback from an audience, but without the pressure of having it all finalized and figured out. Often the scripts in this series get reworked and re-submitted after the fact and become something totally different, and it’s really freeing to see the whole process.

How does this compare to other plays you’ve directed for the festival?

I directed Caroline Coon’s one-act It Happened At A Party last year, and before that I’d previously directed a couple of the street theatre pieces in other years. I love working with evolving scripts, and of course this year it’s a little less stressful knowing that they will be readings and not fully produced shows. I’d say the processes are pretty different: in previous years, most of our rehearsals focused on blocking and getting off-book and having sets and costumes and everything; however, with a reading, our rehearsals are mainly about the characters. It’s kind of a stripped down way of working on a show, where you can just really delve into a character without getting wrapped up in the technical details. Since NB Acts is such a playwright-oriented festival, I see the Play Out Loud readings as being mostly for the benefit of the playwright and their continued development of the script. In that sense, then, my job as a director is much more scaled-back; it’s less about having creative control over a production, and more about getting people together and discussing the script in depth so that the playwright can see how it works out loud.

All in all, I’m very excited for this year’s festival, and can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on, and also to see all the other incredible shows!

Taking It To The Streets: Four 10-minute plays |  12 p.m. – 1 p.m. | Outdoors at the Café Beaverbrook atrium July 30th-Aug 1st; Outdoors at Picaroons Roundhouse Aug 2nd-3rd. Free Admission, with donations accepted.

Play Out Loud: Readings of New Plays in Development | Mercury – 3:30 Sat, Aug 4th at Renaissance College, Admission by donation

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