Author: nbacts2013

(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.

(TUNB) A Conversation with Anna Chatterton on Liatorp

Anna Chatterton is a librettist, playwright, and performer. She is also a two-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama—in 2018 for her play Gertrude and Alice (co-written with Evalyn Parry), and in 2017 for her play Within the Glass. Her solo play Quiver was a finalist for the 2019 Hamilton Literary Awards in Fiction. Anna’s plays have been produced by the Shaw Festival, Nightwood Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, and Alberta Theatre Projects, among others. Anna has been a playwright-in-residence at Nightwood Theatre, the National Theatre School of Canada, Tarragon Theatre, and Tapestry Opera. She lives in Hamilton Ontario.1

In 2017, she was the artist in residence for NotaBle Acts. As such, we were absolutely thrilled to hear more from her, and to present this exclusive interview with Theatre UNB on the upcoming production of her short play Liatorp. In this humorous and melancholic piece, a couple struggles through their relationship’s past and future while assembling a notoriously difficult Ikea unit.

“It is a calm optimistic time, the beginning of your relationship”

Liatorp as a play begins with the characters as a young couple, but quickly spans a large period of time in their relationship. Deftly woven with quippy comments and inner monologue, the early play gives room for each of the characters to travel through an emotional journey – while still remaining brisk and funny.

“I allowed myself permission to play with time as I wanted, I said I’m not going to look at this in a realistic sort of way. I’m just going to allow them to be in an Ikea and then be at home. I just decided to give myself the liberty and the freedom to to be fluid with time and location.”

The play draws inspiration from the altogether too familiar woes of furniture assembly.

“Liatorp was inspired by an article that I read about a piece of furniture from Ikea that is notorious for being so hard to put together that it has caused divorces. I thought that was pretty hilarious but also very metaphoric.”

“So I decided to set it between a couple. I was thinking — this is a couple that is not getting along famously, and there’s got to be some sort of a journey. And so who are the type of people that might break up as a result of the difficulty with this piece of furniture.”

She describes going on a deductive journey through the characters-wondering if the couple had kids, if they communicated enough.

“It was that sort of thing, — placing problems in their relationship that would allow this crack to occur between them, so that there was something simmering underneath already. This was what allowed everything to shatter, as the glass (of the Liatorp unit) does in the play.”

Of course, the students playing the characters (Shelby Gilley and Adrien Saliendra) are significantly younger than the characters they play throughout the majority of the script – who start off their journey as prospective homeowners in their early-mid twenties, but move quickly into their thirties burdened with the passage of time. This provides a unique set of challenges and opportunities for actors.

“I’ve been in their shoes, where you’re in university or theatre school, and you’re playing people that are older than you. There’s part of you that doesn’t fully comprehend things as you would when you’re older. But I think that there’s part of you that has observed (these relationship dynamics) or of course understands breakups. I think that’s universal, no matter what age you are.”

“They may not be grappling with owning a house, or what floors they are choosing for their bathroom, but at the core, most people have been in relationships, and they’ve had them break down.”

“It’s also playing house in a way. When you’re a kid and you play house, you’re pretending to be growing up. You’re imitating what you’ve observed in your life. I assume that these 18/19 year old theatre students are sort of playing house a little bit with this play, where they’re projecting themselves into the future and trying it on for size.”

Additionally, while the play was written long before COVID-19, it seems prescient in its appreciation of interpersonal drama as a microcosm for global issues. The shadow of climate change, and an unspoken anxiety for the future casts a heavy shadow over the latter half of the script. It speaks to today, where we find ourselves (more literally) trapped in our homes.

“At the end, with (Matt) talking about global warming, – that hasn’t gone away, it’s only gotten worse. But we are kind of ignoring it because of the pandemic. (As) a metaphor for grappling with the larger world. It’s both epic and domestic.”

“They’re doing things that we aren’t of course. We aren’t doing going to IKEA and that sort of thing, but it’s true. They are kind of trapped together in this house. And there is something bigger and larger going on that is a bit of a metaphor for the relationship- which is the break down of normality.”

In a play built so heavily around the collision course a a relationship can take, it begs the question for the audience – was it all inevitable?

“That’s a really great question. I love thinking about that. I think actually, it’s very clear to me what they could have done. This is, I think, part of the reason probably why I wrote about it”

“I think it’s about communication. I think it’s about a relationship, if you’re not staying in clear communication with with each other – it can reach a point where you’ve gone too far. […] If they had stayed close to each other, every inch of the way, instead of sort of turning their backs to each other, I think it could have maybe been saved.”

Liatorp will be put on as part of Duels and Duet. More information, including dates and ticketing can be found on our Facebook event page at:

Theatre UNB Presents: Duels and Duets

Want to hear more from the author? Chatterton’s interest in memory and domestic drama continues in her upcoming work on the memory loss of Agatha Christie:

 “When she was in her 20s, she disappeared for 10 days, and nobody knew where she was. It was the largest manhunt at the time in the UK, in search for her. When she was found, she was found at a spa, where she had been enjoying herself for the last 10 days, pretending to be someone else. And then until the day she died, and and beyond, she claimed that it was amnesia. And so it’s this big mystery, which is so funny, because she’s a mystery writer!”

To see more of Anna’s work, and where to purchase it, check out:

Anna Chatterton | Playwrights Canada Press

1 Bio thanks to Playwrights Canada Press