Brandon Hicks is a writer and cartoonist based out of St. Stephen. His work appears in a number of publications, including American Bystander, National Lampoon, Fangoria, and CBC. Locally, he’s a regular contributor to The Manatee and The EDIT magazine. His short films and plays have had fun in several festivals, and his work has won awards from international galleries. He co-wrote the children’s book That’s Not True, with Shauna Chase, and is the author/illustrator behind the Beezle, Buzzle and Barb series from Humorist Books. His first novel is forthcoming this fall.
Somehow amidst his busy schedule, Brandon finds time to write plays, and we have had the pleasure of sharing his work for the past many festivals. He’s back again with his latest, Keeping Tabs.
How would you describe your new play Keeping Tabs without giving too much away?
Keeping Tabs is a look at how people currently communicate. Most of our social, professional and even romantic interactions are now taking place behind a screen. I think we were heading in this direction anyway, but the pandemic has certainly expedited the process. I hope that it helps to highlight how strange this can still feel.
It’s a physical play, full of farce, gags, and a ton of colourful characters, but it’s also a play about a woman, alone in her room, fiddling around on the computer. Both of these things are equally true.
How important is humour to you in your everyday life and what motivates you to write year after year for NB Acts?
I’ve been lucky enough to make humour writing into my career, so it certainly drives what I do. On a personal level, it’s just a great way to contextualize your thoughts and ideas. It’s kind of like how in poetry, a rhyme can give a line some extra weight. Similarly, if the joke clicks, then the idea is valid. Through the use of absurdity, you can almost convince yourself that there is order to the universe.
I love the theatre scene here. When you’re working in Fredericton, you’re drawing from a pool of the funniest, cleverest and most creative people in the province. Notable Acts has created a great framework for highlighting local talent and making it accessible.
Can you explain what it’s like writing a play and then handing it over to someone else to direct and act? Is it weird at all hearing other people deliver the jokes you’re written?
When I write a script, I try to picture the whole thing happening in my head. My mind’s eye watches it happening and I try to record it in as much detail as I can. Once it’s done, though, I’m happy to hand it off to the people that are going to realize it.
I’ve directed a few shows myself, and the last person I wanted to hear from was the writer. As far as I’m concerned, after I finalize the script, it’s no longer my project. I’m happy to support the process, but it’s not the crew’s job to shepherd my vision from the page to the stage. It’s my job to provide them with a script that will stoke the flames of their own creativity.
If you allow creative people to have a sense of ownership over a project, you’re guaranteed to get better results.
Writing and drawing can be such a laborious process, full of compromise and self-doubt, so I rarely get the chance to laugh at any of my own stuff. But seeing what these actors, directors and the crew do with the blueprint I hand them is always such a joy. It always surprises me, and I laugh myself silly.
What’s your favourite part of the festival? Is there something you look forward to each year?
I live in St. Stephen, so it’s harder for me to engage with the local theatre community as much as I’d like to. If you are there, though, I’d recommend going to see everything. Again, Fredericton has a unique wealth of talent, and we’re fortunate to be able to see these shows. Theatre is only happening as it’s happening. You never know when we’ll be forced back inside for another two years, so don’t miss out!
Keeping Tabs is one of four ten-minute plays featured in this year’s Taking It To The Streets series of pay-what-you-can outdoor performances. Catch a performance July 24-27 at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery Courtyard beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Keeping Tabs by Brandon Hicks | Directed by Jane Deil | Featuring Diana Chávez, Kaylee MacNeil and Alex Pannier.