Author: nbacts2013

McKenna James Boeckner on their new play, Marionettes.

McKenna James Boeckner was a featured playwright in our 2019 festival. Their play The Year When No One Dies was included in our Taking it to the Streets series, and we’re proud to have Boeckner back with us again and to present their new 10 minute play, Marionettes

Boeckner is a queer playwright and writer serotinously transplanted to Fredericton from Thunder Bay, Ontario to pursue a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of New Brunswick. Their current research and writing interests are geared towards fairy tales and other forms of storied historical records as vehicles to explore contemporary masculinity as it relates to queer identities. Their most recent full-length play, A Real Boy was live-streamed as part of the Plain Sight Theatre Festival and was directed by Kelly McAllister of Spearhead Theatre in October 2020.

This year’s feature, Marionettes, can trace its roots back to A Real Boy by way of the story’s two principal characters.

Marionettes originates from a very early but recently revisited draft of my most recent full-length play, A Real Boy,” said Boeckner. “While A Real Boy narrated a contemporary adaptation of Pinocchio set in Northwestern Ontario by way of examining what it means to be or become a ‘real boy’ today, this much shorter script zeroes in on two characters that were abandoned in the larger script, Connor and Crys, to explore their unique and haunted avoidance mechanisms of toxic masculinity in rural Canada. Oedipal death plots, everlasting bog bodies, and beastly boreal forests make cameos throughout.”

Boeckner further describes Marionettes origins as stemming from the person they were and the people they knew growing up queer in Murillo, Ontario, a 30 minutes outside of the murder capital of Canada, Thunder Bay. 

“Of all of my stories, this script has the most heightened, unrealistic, and poetic dialogue (shout out to fabulous dramaturge Lara Lewis who confidently talked me through this odd shift). In the dialogue, I’ve poured artistic rambles of self-doubt and social anxiety that I would usually cut from a script. This strategy, of course, was an attempt to mirror the mental states of people coming out of isolation during the pandemic. It did not make sense to me to go back to characters who speak normally or coherently to each other when many of our minds have very much been untrained to understand and interact in this way. I am, I suppose, nervous to present writing in a format that I am not entirely used to writing. That said, I think it is a necessary shift, at least for now.”

Boeckner’s work as a playwright has led to numerous commissions and performances by various festivals over the past five years. As they explain, the limited room for character and story development is part of what attracts them to the 10-minute play format.

“Something in the quick build-up and release of tension has always drawn me to this format. But also the lack of commitment to creating definitive answers and conclusions. By leaving with ambiguity, ten minutes can cause a mental replay and last way way longer than the categorical title would suggest.”

Boeckner credits NotaBle Acts for providing a valuable window into a local theatre community that has helped shape their understanding of the region and the impact theatre can have as a means of building community amongst artists of various backgrounds. 

“I don’t think I have missed one NotaBle Acts show since arriving in Fredericton three years ago,” they said. “As a writer from out-of-province who only momentarily calls Fredericton home, the festival has really attuned me to the local. It very much showcases the theatre-based talent – actors, directors, writers, etc – that flourishes in this city. The stories I’ve seen on stage, or over computer screens in 2020, are inspiring, and the connections I have made have forever changed my writing.”

Boeckner’s play Marionettes will be featured as part of this year’s Taking it to the Streets series of 10-minutes plays performed in Officer’s Square July 26-29 at 7:30m p.m. 

A Q&A with playwright Madeline Savoie.

Madeline made her NotaBle Acts debut in 2020 and is back this year with two new plays.  

It’s always great to welcome back playwrights from past seasons, and it’s especially great when we get to see new playwrights willing to share their work with us. Madeline Savoie fits into both these categories. After making her debut last year with her first play, Out of Water, Madeline is back with a pair of plays in our 2021 lineup. Her work this year will be included in both our Taking it to the Streets series of 10-minute plays, and our Play Out Loud series of readings. 

You made your debut at last year’s festival. Can you backtrack a bit and tell us about your experience as a featured artist in last year’s NotaBle Acts?

It was such a wonderful experience. Out of Water was not only my first foray into NotaBle Acts, it was my first completed play. Naturally, I was very nervous, especially since the subject matter of the play, which deals with coming out to a parent as a queer teenager, was so personal. However, every person I interacted with over the course of the festival was immensely welcoming and happy to help me develop my writing skills. I learned a great deal, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better debut as a playwright.

What was one of the big takeaways from your 2020 NotaBle Acts experience? 

The experience taught me the value of play readings. In a year where large-scale, highly produced shows were understandably scarce, I gained a great appreciation for the worlds that can be created by a handful of actors sitting at a table. It’s ‘theatre-of-the-mind’ in a very literal sense. Ever since, I have been trying to seek out readings, both to participate in as an actor, and simply to enjoy as an audience member.

 What can you tell us about your play Graffiti, which will be featured in this year’s Taking it to the Streets series? 

Graffiti is a play chronicling a single act of rebellion within a high school, and the ripple effects it produces among the students and staff. It’s short, quippy, a little angsty, and a lot of fun.

What’s your relationship to the story and what inspired you to put this story into a play?

From a technical perspective, I was interested in writing a play that contained several short scenes. There are five scenes within the span of ten minutes. I also wanted to explore the idea of perspective. How do different people respond to the same situation? How do they discuss it amongst themselves? A high school felt like the perfect setting to explore these ideas. It’s so rich with tropes and character archetypes, and I had a lot of fun playing with them.

You have two plays in this year’s festival, the other being Limbo, which will be presented as a runner-up in the Acting Out category. What’s that play about?

Limbo is an emotional, funny, and slightly spooky exploration of what it means to grow up and graduate, and how it feels to live in the space between childhood and adulthood. I’ve been working on it for nearly a year, and the characters have begun to feel like close friends to me. I’m very excited to hear it out loud.

Can you comment on the value NotaBle Acts provides to young writers like yourself? 

There’s something truly magical about hearing your words brought to life. NotaBle provides that opportunity by pairing playwrights with a director and team of actors who care deeply about the work they do.  NotaBle also does this really generous thing of allowing playwrights to sit in on rehearsals. There really isn’t anything like hearing a director praise a subtlety of your script that was completely unintentional, or listening to an actor contextualize a character’s choices in a way you’d never considered. To be able to be a part of that space, especially as a young writer, is very valuable indeed. Additionally, the opportunity to receive professional dramaturgy from an experienced theatre artist is a very rare and important one. I’m so happy these opportunities exist in New Brunswick, especially the middle and high school contest categories. Not only are we allowed to enter the space of older, more experienced playwrights, there is within those categories a space created specifically for us. 

Madeline Savoie is a playwright, actor, musician, and recent graduate of École Sainte-Anne.  Her debut play, Out of Water, was featured in the 2020 editions of the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival and the Plain Site Theatre Festival. She has acted with several local theatre groups including Theatre New Brunswick (Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz), the Calithumpians, Impulse Productions (Matilda), and St. Thomas University’s Propel Festival (Knock). Madeline will be attending Concordia University in the fall and will be pursuing a BFA with a specialization in Performance Creation. In her free time, she enjoys biking with a podcast in her earbuds, and trying to make a perfect fettucine alfredo.