Author: nbacts2013

A Q&A with playwright Sandra Kell

Sandra Kell is making her NotaBle Acts debut this year with her play #Momlife. Sandra was born and raised in Fredericton, is a mother of three, and a recent graduate from UNB’s Bachelor of Integrated Studies Program. #Momlife is her first play and we are very excited to feature Sandra and her script as part of our festival. 

We reached out to Sandra to learn what her experience has been like writing this script and seeing it become a featured play at NotaBle Acts’ 2022 Summer Theatre Festival.

You’re making your NotaBle debut! How’s that feel? 

Honestly? Really exciting, but also completely terrifying! I think that anytime you put your work out to the public, there is a certain level of fear of rejection, so I’m definitely working on becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Can you tell us a bit about your play without giving too much away? 

It’s about a challenge that most parents have faced at one time or another: the difficulties of trying to keep your kids asleep when nothing else is going to plan. I think that the show’s director Emily [Darling], and the whole cast have managed to bring such realism to the play, that it may even cause a little PTSD for any parents watching the show.

What was your experience like writing #Momlife? Tell us about the biggest challenges for you as a playwright? 

#Momlife actually started as an assignment for one of my drama courses at UNB. I think the fact I was getting graded on my script probably added a level of stress to the process that wouldn’t normally accompany script writing, but it definitely pushed me to do my best and I ended up with a product that I loved. The biggest challenge however, has actually ended up being one of my favourite parts of the entire process. I knew that once the script was done, it would be out of my hands, and up to how the director and actors interpreted it. I’m someone who likes to be in control of my environment, so when I get to watch rehearsals, I have to focus on “letting go”, and being able to enjoy the different viewpoints that are added to the work. Because of this, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and gotten to witness some amazing ideas come to life that I wish I had thought to put in the script myself!  

Could you comment on the important role NotaBle Acts plays in supporting new and emerging writers like yourself? 

NotaBle Acts not only encourages local, aspiring playwrights, but provides them with the tools to improve their skills by working with fantastic dramaturgs and getting to see our plays performed by local actors. These experiences are crucial to the continued existence of live theatre in our communities and to help create the next generation of Canadian playwrights. For many of us, this is the first time our work is being performed in public, and without NB Acts, it might otherwise never see the light of day. The program not only supports playwrights, but gives aspiring directors, actors, stage crews, etc. a chance to gain experience in other aspects of theatre. I cannot say enough good things about NotaBle Acts and we are so lucky to have this program here. 

#Momlife 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.

#Momlife by Sandra Kell | Directed by Emily Darling | Featuring Al Newling, Adrian Saliendra, Hailey Trifts and Gray Miller.

A Conversation with Playwright Jena McLean

Playwright Jena McLean returns to the NotaBle stage this year with her latest script, A Canyon Contained. Jena was first involved with our festival in 2014 when she won the High School Playwriting Competition that year. Since then, she has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Drama studies from Mount Allison University and recently graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada’s playwriting program. 

This is the second time A Canyon Contained has been included as part of our festival. Sharisse LeBrun directed a reading of the play as part of our 2019 festival. Three years on, we are incredibly excited to continue this play’s journey as it arrives on our mainstage.

“It’s surreal in a way. I haven’t fully processed yet, in addition to being a total honour,” said McLean, commenting on her first mainstage production. “I can chart a direct path from winning that NB Acts competition in 2014 to being a professional playwright today. I believed in my work because other people believed in my work. 

“Additionally, this play marks a turning point in my life. The process of writing A Canyon Contained helped me understand my own strengths as a writer and taught me to not only embrace nuance but to privilege it. Always. I keep learning about myself and this play every time I engage with it, and now I have the luxury of other artists (and audiences) being a part of that.”

Our mainstage production of A Canyon Contained will be directed by Theatre New Brunswick’s Artistic Director Natasha MacLellan, who has a long an impressive track record bringing new scripts to the stage.

“In my chats with Natasha and my visit to rehearsal, I’ve discovered so much about this play from the fabulous artists who are bringing it to life,” said McLean. “To me, a script is never done, so I can’t wait to take these new findings and see how they fit into a new draft after the production.”

McLean describes her play asa story about two distant sisters suffering through the world’s most chaotic car ride together. 

“Come for the snark, sex chats and secrets,” she said. “Stay for the New Brunswick references and discussions around consent, political engagement, and care.”

While that description may appear to land somewhere between a coming of age story and a bingeworthy podcast series, McLean admits to steering clear of any on the nose messaging with her work. 

“I kind of feel like it’s my job as the writer to set the table of the play before my collaborators and I fill the buffet with a bunch of options. Then it’s up to the audience to decide what they’re craving and what they want to pack in a to-go box with them. With that said though, to me, A Canyon Contained is a story about how complex the notion of care is. It’s a play about how hard it can be to care for others and feel cared for in return.”

A Canyon Contained runs July 20-23 at TNB’s Open Space Theatre with performances nightly at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at the door.

Learn more about A Canyon Contained and other plays in this year’s festival.