A Q&A with playwright Julianne Richard

Julianne Richard (she/her) is a writer and theatre artist, returning for her sixth season with NB Acts. Born and raised in Fredericton, she has recently taken a break from being onstage in order to shift her focus to writing, directing, producing, teaching, choreographing, and occasionally chilling out. Her plays tend to focus on absurd jokes and reimagined clichés, or small moments and understated emotions – there is rarely an in-between. 

Julianne’s plays Murder Mondays and To Dig or Not to Dig are part of this year’s festival lineup. 

Two plays? Where do you find the time and the motivation?

Both of these plays began as creative writing projects for a playwriting class at UNB (shoutout to Len for developing his assignments to perfectly fit into NotaBle submission requirements – very clever move), so the early drafting process was mostly just deadlines and mild panic. That being said, I knew going in that I wanted both plays to be more than just class assignments. When I’m creatively fulfilled by a project, I tend to hyper focus on it until I feel satisfied, so time is always more of an issue than motivation. Late nights, early mornings, neglecting other deadlines, and a boatload of encouragement from many kind folks in my circle were key when it came to crossing the finish line for both of these stories. 

With two examples of your work included this year, how do they relate to one another opr do they? Can you explain a bit?

There’s definitely similarities between the two plays – they’re both comedies (though one is significantly more absurd than the other), and they both feel a little whimsical or quirky. I also write with a lot of wordplay, alliteration, and ridiculous vocabulary, so they’re both tongue twisters for the actors involved. At the heart of it, though, I just write what I know. While I’ve never been on a dinosaur dig and have never been involved in a murder investigation, my childhood was one of fieldwork (my parents are biologists) and Agatha Christie adaptations. The circumstances of both plays are very different from my own life, but they are both in settings or literary traditions I understand, at least to a certain degree. I’m also very guilty of mining my own conversations for good lines – so if dialogue from a play sounds familiar, it’s probably a variation of a conversation I’ve had in real life. Hazard of being my friend, I guess? 

You have been involved in NBActs for a few years now in different roles. Could you comment on the important role NotaBle Acts plays in supporting new and emerging writers like yourself?

This is the jackpot question, because I could easily spend all day waxing lyrical about how much I love NotaBle Acts. This is my sixth season with the festival (I don’t think the terrified-to-audition version of myself from 2017 would believe that I’m writing this), and I’m still blown away by the wealth of talent it supports, and the amount of creativity that it fosters every single year. I think having accessible spaces for people to share their art, where it can exist with and be seen by people at all skills levels, is an invaluable resource. In my experience, NotaBle Acts builds community, collaboration, and confidence – not just for playwrights, but for the many actors, directors, and crew members involved. These are my first plays that are ever being produced, and I feel so lucky that it is with this festival – it would have felt wrong to start anywhere else. 

Julianne’s play Murder Mondays will be performed as a double bill with I Hope You Can See The Birds from July 28-30, 7:30 p.m., nightly, at Memorial Hall, UNB (9 Bailey Drive). Tickets available at the door for 15$ regular, 10$ senior/student/underwaged.

Her other play To Dig or Not to Dig 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.

Murder Mondays by Julianne Richard | Directed by Jake Martin | Featuring Rose Messenger, Brenna Gauthier, Alex Fullerton and Jason McIntyre.

To Dig or Not to Dig by Julianne Richard | Directed by Armin Panjwani | Featuring Rebecca Tremblay and Adrian Saliendra. 

A Q&A with playwright Kaitlyn Adair

Photo by Claire Fraser

Kaitlyn Adair is a Fredericton based writer, director and performer. She has written several short films including Oculus, Together We Move, and March 2.4 which won Excellence in Screenwriting at Silver Wave Film Festival. I Hope you Can See the Birds is her first project as a playwright which was hatched during the Notable Acts Incubator Program and had a showcase reading at the Fall Festival of New Plays with Theatre New Brunswick in 2021. Kaitlyn has a love of surrealism and highlighting underrepresented voices in the visual arts.

Let’s learn more.

Can you take us through the life of this play so far? When did you start writing it? 

I started writing this play two years ago. I spent the first months imagining the world of this play from various images I pulled from real life. The pen to paper writing began with an incubator program last year hosted by Anthony Bryan with Notable acts. Then it was accepted to the Fall Festival of New Plays with Theatre New Brunswick for a week of workshopping and a play reading. I then revisited and fine tuned the play during the writing rooms again hosted by Anthony Bryan. 

What type of development/dramaturg opportunities were you able to access in creating I Hope You Can See The Birds?

Well it’s had two goes with formal dramaturgy. The first was with TNB through the Fall Festival in 2021. I worked with Eric Coates, Jena McLean and a cast of actors for a week on really refining the arch of the story. A bulk of the play as it is today was written during that week. Through notable acts I worked with Matthew Heiti through phone calls and drafts sent back and forth. This was where a lot of refinement happened to the story. I think it’s important to mention the informal mentorship that went into this piece from other theatre artists. Anthony Bryan was crucial in creating space for this work to come to life and for writing/new play development as a whole. I also worked closely in early stages of development with Esther Soucoup who helped me discover the critical why of the play while evaluating story/character arcs. 

If you had to describe your play in one minute or less, how would you describe it to a potential audience member?

I Hope You Can See the Birds is a love letter to my grandfather. It’s a surrealist exploration about a man coming to terms with his own mortality while facing the greatest loss of his life, bringing his wife of 65 years to a nursing home.  The play centres around Bryan, a senior in the hospital after a near fatal heart attack, who is refusing life saving treatment without explanation as to why. With his daughter and granddaughter trying to get to the bottom of things by his side, Bryan experiences the comforting allure of death through visions of a hummingbird at his bedside. Ultimately, Bryan must make the choice to answer the call of the hummingbird or have the test his family wants him to take. More than anything this play is about love. It’s beauty, it’s hardships, and how hard we sometimes hold onto it. 

Kaitlyn’s play will be performed as a double bill (w/ Murder Mondays) from July 28-30, 7:30 p.m., nightly, at Memorial Hall, UNB (9 Bailey Drive). Tickets available at the door for 15$ regular, 10$ senior/student/underwaged.

I Hope You Can See The Birds by Kaitlyn Adair | Directed by Alex Rioux | Featuring John Macaulay, Dani Brun, Circe Cain, Julie MacDonald, and Devin Rockwell.