19th Annual NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival Set to Launch Both Live and Online, July 23-August 1

While COVID-19 has shuttered most theatres around the world indefinitely, we will be carrying on with our annual summer theatre festival by finding creative ways to continue to make and stage theatre in the midst of the pandemic. While it won’t exactly be business as usual, this year’s festival will feature some traditionally staged outdoor productions along with performances staged for small live audiences and livestreamed for viewers at home, as well as a production created exclusively for online viewing that offers a poignant and entertaining commentary on the fraught moment we are all sharing.

That play, Space Girl by Jean-Michel Cliche, will leave the traditional stage behind and instead embrace the type of theatrical magic enabled by streaming technology to tell the story of a young woman who seeks to escape the Worst Year Ever on Earth for the comforts of life in space, only to discover it’s not quite so easy to leave behind all our worldly problems. Written as a direct response to the events of the last few months, Space Girl will kick off the festival on July 23, with audiences tuning in to follow its titular protagonist’s adventures via Zoom, and interacting with the performance to shape the narrative.

While health and safety restrictions have forced the cancellation of our site-specific play series for this year, with one play, Neomi Iancu Haliva’s Concrete and Plaster, postponed for production next year, a second script originally selected for the series, Jason McIntyre’s Art Attack, will be adapted for inclusion in Taking it to the Streets, our popular annual outdoor production staging the winners of our ten-minute play competition for 2020. The four other fun, family-friendly comedies on the program, to be staged for a physically-distanced live audience in downtown Fredericton, will be The Nine Ordinary Lives of the Infamous Catgirl by Alex Rioux, What Not to Do on a Date (When You’re Undead) by Sophie Tremblay-Pitre, Camp by Muriel Falkenstein, and McIntyre’s I Saw Nicolas Cage.

The two winners of the company’s one act playwriting competition, Every Apple in the Orchard by Noah Deas and The Kelpie by Alex Rioux, will be performed as staged readings for reduced capacity audiences at Theatre New Brunswick’s Open Space Theatre, with others able to watch the readings remotely as livestreams. Both plays are powerful and troubling works centred on crimes of passion, Deas’ the story of young man who falls under the spell of a serial killer stalking Toronto’s gay village, and Rioux’s depicting the tragic consequences of a love triangle with supernatural overtones.

This year’s festival will be rounded out by readings of six other new plays similarly presented for both small live audiences and livestreamed: one act competition runners up Meg Edwards’ Wrack and Ruin and Devin Rockwell’s Everything is Here; the winners of our Middle and High School playwriting contests; and Bluebirds, a new drama about Canadian nurses in World War One by festival Playwright/Dramaturge in Residence Vern Thiessen, an internationally renowned dramatist and past winner of the Governor General’s Award for Drama.

We are also excited to feature a pair of theatre-centred workshops open to the public, a playwriting masterclass taught by Thiessen and a course in workshop acting that will be co-led by Thiessen and Theatre New Brunswick Artistic Director Natasha MacLellan. Both will be offered online as pandemic-imposed travel restrictions have forced Thiessen’s Residency to become a virtual one, offered from his home in Edmonton, Alberta. For NotaBle Acts Artistic Director Len Falkenstein, it’s an example of how the company has been able to quickly adapt to new realities. “Like everyone else in the world, we’ve all gotten good at Zoom very fast,” he said. “It was that or close our doors for the season and we didn’t want that to happen. NB Acts has built such great momentum, with so many great young playwrights and new scripts up and coming that we didn’t want those folks to lose a year’s worth of opportunities. This will also be a unique chance for us to reach audiences outside Fredericton so we’re excited to see how that goes.”

The NotaBle Acts Theatre festival will run from July 23rd through August 1st, with the full schedule of performances and events to be released soon at For more information, email or phone 506 458-7406.

A Q&A with playwright Carlee Calver

Carlee Calver makes her NotaBle Acts debut this year with her play, A Coward-Bird’s Song. This site-specific play will take place Tuesday and Wednesday outside the Café Beaverbrook. One of downtown Fredericton’s famous willow trees will provide the background and the staging for this unique performance.

Carlee is an emerging writer, playwright, screenwriter, poet, and filmmaker. She is a recent grad from the Media Arts and Cultures program at the University of New Brunswick where she won the 2018 Muriel Miller Award in creative writing for her undergraduate work in poetry and playwriting. This fall, Carlee will be returning to UNB as a Master’s Candidate for the English MA in Creative Writing. Having mostly written for the screen, A Coward-Bird’s Song will be her debut work in NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, as well as her first ever produced play.

What can you tell us about the idea behind your play A Coward-Bird’s Song? Was it something you had been working on for a while or was it written specifically for the festival?

Originally, A Coward-Bird’s Song came from an idea I had for a three-part performance-art piece where, in bits and pieces, the audience is told the intimate story of a man and woman preparing to elope. Over the course of writing the piece, it somehow morphed into this short site-specific play right around the time of the NotaBle Acts Playwriting Competition deadline, so I took the plunge and wrote up a quick draft for the competition. Fortunately they really liked the idea, and from then on I worked with Len [Falkenstein] and Rob [Kempson] doing rewrites and fleshing out the story.

What has it been like working with Len on this as the director for your first NotaBle Acts play?

It’s great to have someone as competent and experienced in theatre as Len on your side. He’s also been great on the writing side of things in that he allows you to talk out your idea and find the answer for yourself, which I’ve really appreciated. I think that whole process has helped me a lot as a writer. I’ve had Len before as a writing professor at UNB so it has been really nice to work with him in this new way.

How has this year’s artist in residence Rob Kempson impacted your work?

I was able to attend his playwriting workshop which was very informative, and talk to him one-on-one during the festival. Before the festival, Rob would send me feedback on my script rewrites, which were always helpful and well thought out critiques. It’s been nice to have a writing mentor as great as Rob at my disposal.

Catch a performance of Carlee’s work:

A Coward-Bird’s Song

In a twilit fantasy about lost love and forlorn desire, taking flight amid the century old trees of downtown Fredericton, a ghost bird reflects on a life spent regretting the life she never lived.

July 30-31 | Willow Tree near the Beaverbrook Art Gallery | 8:30 p.m.

Admission by donation.