The NotaBle Acts Theatre Company will stage its 20th annual Summer Theatre Festival, showcasing new plays by emerging and established New Brunswick playwrights, from July 22 through 31 at venues across Fredericton. A year after 2020’s festival had to be heavily modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with vaccination rates now climbing and New Brunswick almost at Green, this year’s festival will see live audiences for all productions and a return to theatre (almost) as normal. Thirteen new plays will be performed over ten days, including one act plays, ten-minute plays, a site-specific play, readings of new works in development, and 81 Minutes, a mainstage production staged in cooperation with the Falling Iguana Theatre Company, which divides its time between Fredericton and Toronto.
Co-created by Alexa Higgins and Ian Goff, 81 Minutes is a physical theatre- and clown-inspired comedy/drama that takes the audience on a fast-paced thrill ride through the true story of one of the world’s most famous unsolved art thefts, which took place at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Falling Iguana’s speculative depiction of the heist features a five-person cast playing multiple colorful characters, weaving together the story of the theft with that of the museum’s founder, in a play that will run precisely 81 minutes—the exact length of time the thieves took to pull off their daring caper. 81 Minutes will be performed July 22-25 at Theatre New Brunswick’s Open Space Theatre.
The twelve other new plays to be performed at the festival were selected as winners in NotaBle Acts’ annual province-wide playwriting contest, including MAD about Van Horne by Ron Kelly Spurles and Life Goes On by Muriel Falkenstein, winners of Acting Out, the 2021 competition’s one act category. MAD about Van Horne is a period play set in 1921 in St. Andrew’s, NB, about a local amateur theatre company staging a drama about the town’s most famous former resident, railroad baron and owner of Minister’s Island William Cornelius Van Horne. By contrast, Life Goes On draws on the history of the recent past to tell the intertwined stories of a group of New Brunswick teens living through the early months of the pandemic. Acting Out will be performed at Memorial Hall, UNB, nightly from July 29-31.
Taking it to the Streets, the winners of NB Acts’ 2021 ten-minute play competition, features four short plays performed outdoors at Officers’ Square, including Brandon Hicks’ A Reunion of Lovers, a comedy about two actors trying to perform a romantic melodrama under COVID restrictions; McKenna Boeckner’s Marionettes, a stark drama about two teens growing up in the hinterland of Northern Ontario; Closure, Monika Rennick’s comedy about a meddling mother who’s just not willing to let her daughter’s breakup with her ex-boyfriend go; and Madeline Savoie’s Graffiti; or, the Dangerous Mind of Avery Klein, which offers multiple characters’ perspectives on a teen whose artwork marks her as a high school rebel. These four plays will be performed as an hour of free theatre at 7:30 PM on July 26-29, and will be followed nearby by performances of Neomi Iancu Haliva’s site-specific play Concrete and Plaster. Set in a used clothing store, the play centres on a gay couple whose relationship is teetering over their conflicting desires to stay in Fredericton or follow their dreams elsewhere.
The festival lineup will also feature Play Out Loud, readings of five new plays in development, including three runners up in the festival’s One Act playwriting competition: Limbo by Madeline Savoie, Ill-Advised Capital by Sana Hashmat, and Go Ahead and Make Me the Happiest Woman in the World by Vy Phan. The readings will be rounded out by the two winners of the 2021 NB Acts Middle and High School playwriting contests: Alex Dawson’s She Sssaid and Ava Chamberlain’s The Mushroom Prince. Play Out Loud readings will take place on the afternoons of July 25 and 31 at TNB’s Open Space Theatre.