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Meet the Playwright: Gordon Mihan

A hardened veteran of fine art protection keeps vigil on priceless paintings, now with the help of a new young recruit.  But can they outsmart the slick subterfuge of a crafty criminal, whose chicanery may just make them criminals themselves?

That’s a synopsis of The Great Beaverbrook Caper, a new play by Fredericton playwright Gordon Mihan. Now in the midst of his fifth NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, we asked Gordon to give us a bit of backstory on his latest work and asked him to explain why he chose Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery as the setting for his latest play.

Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind your play The Great Beaverbrook Caper

I’ve been a part of the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival for five years now and one of my favourite parts is the Site-Specific plays. The idea that different plays can happen at all these different locations around downtown Fredericton is a lot of fun, there’s a sense of adventure, a sense that anything might happen when a play isn’t in a controlled environment. I wanted my play to take place at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery before I knew what it was going to be about. I’ve seen plays by the river, at the library, at the cathedral, in the barracks and pretty much all over the downtown area. The locations all bring something different so when I chose the Art Gallery I thought about what it could bring to a play that other locations couldn’t. The sheer worth of some of the art in the gallery is pretty astounding so I very quickly decided it should be a heist story, or at least my comedic take on one.

Have you written much comedy in the past? And how important is comedy to your own interpretation of what Notable Acts is all about?

Comedy is something I’ve always enjoyed writing and NotaBle Acts gives me the opportunity have fun with my writing and not not take myself too seriously. I’ve been a filmmaker longer than a playwright and through my filmmaking I’ve been evolving and straying away from full-on comedy and experimenting with different genres. This has been exciting and challenging but comedic writing is something I always find myself coming back to. Everything I’ve written for NotaBle Acts has been comedic in tone and this play is no different. I feel like there’s this stigma with comedy, like it’s somehow worth less than dramatic writing. And while the two are certainly different I don’t think one is inherently more important than the other. Both can reveal things to an audience, and NotaBle Acts is a perfect opportunity to see both dramatic and comedic plays from talented local writers.

Besides your own work, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

I’m looking forward the two One-Act Plays at Memorial Hall, Carrion Birds by Greg Everett and Casualties by Alex Pannier. The One-Acts are always well done and I’m excited to see what the writers/directors/actors have been working on!

The Great Beaverbrook Caper is one of four site-specific plays featured at this year’s festival with performances July 31 and August 1. Learn more—>RIGHT HERE

Meet the Playwright Jean-Michel Cliche

Jean-Michel Cliche is no stranger to the NotaBle Acts stage. For the past several seasons he has participated as an actor, a director and as a playwright.  Though his work with Next Folding Theatre Company, Solo Chicken Productions and his recent work with the Hot Garbage Players as a writer, performer, and educator, Jean-Michel has become one of the foremost proponents of live theatre and live performance in the city of Fredericton.

At our festival this season, Jean-Michel is both a featured playwright and a director. His piece S.C.O.P.E. will be featured as part of this year’s site-specific walking tour of performances. He is also directing Alex Pannier’s play Casualties, one of two plays featured in this year’s Acting Out series of one acts plays.

We started our conversation with Jean-Michel by asking about this year’s site-specific work.

“S.C.O.P.E. is a pair of monologues that I wrote that are both set in these sci-fi future worlds,” he said. “The idea is that it’s taking very common everyday life problems and cranking them up to 11 in a sci-fi universe. I really like the idea of how sci-fi is able to take subjects and look at them under a microscope and analyze them in such a weird/fantasy way that doesn’t feel preachy.

“One monologue is about a teenage girl who is dealing with the feeling of being a teenager where she doesn’t feel like she can be herself and she takes it all out on a robot who is waiting for the bus. The other one takes place in Officer’s Square and features a time traveler who has come back in time to warn Fredericton not to cut down the trees in Officer’s Square. Two things that were born on their own and I thought they’d fit together well thematically.”

While both appearing under a single title, S.C.O.P.E.’s monologues will be offering something new to the festival’s traditional site-specific model.

“I’ve written a few site-specific plays for NotaBle Acts before but I wanted to try and do something different, so this time, instead of writing one play for one location, I thought about these micro-moments that could show up and almost act as junctions between some of the other site-specific plays,” he said.

“I had so much fun writing these two plays that I’ve already started to write more of them in hopes of creating a collection for future festivals. It’s been a fun process and I think they’re different enough from the way other site-specific plays have taken place in previous years that they’ll be a fun way to break up the traditional model which is something I think is important.”

S.C.O.P.E. will be presented July 30, 31 and August 1 as part of this year’s series, Street Scenes: Three Site-Specific Plays.  

As one of this year’s featured festival directors, Jean-Michel will also be directing Alex Pannier’s play Casualties as part of the series Acting Out: Two One Act Plays which takes place August 2-4 and Memorial Hall.

“I think it’s a really, really interesting piece of theatre,” said Cliche.

“It sort of deals with these two siblings who are commiserating together about this trauma they’ve had in their lives.  The whole play takes place through memory so sometimes the actors are playing adults and sometime they’re children. We get to see that as they go back through various experiences in their lives. They’re popping all through time exploring their past trauma and their past shared history.”

Without giving too much away, the play also incorporates the use of masks when the actors are remembering their parent’s words and actions.

“It becomes this really interesting archetype of what parents are like and how children remember their parents,” said Cliche. “The masks allow us to do all this hyperbolic exaggeration as to how the kids remember their parents being.

“Alex did a really good job creating all these different tools for telling the story, but he also did something not of lot of young playwrights feel comfortable with. He let go in the sense that he created these elements but didn’t hammer in a lot of specific stage direction. So there are a lot of different ways we can play and explore.

“It’s a beautiful play.”