A Q&A with playwright Sana Hashmat

Sana Hashmat is a writer based in New Brunswick working towards a degree in biology. She has been a part of the NotaBle Acts Playwriting Incubator over the past year and made her festival debut last year with her script, Ill-Advised Capital. Sana is back once again with her latest script, A Toast to Happiness.

Welcome back Sana! Can you bring our audience up to speed on your NotaBle Acts history?

I debuted last year at NotaBle Acts with my play Ill-Advised Capital which was a part of the Play Out Loud: Reading of New Plays in Development series. It was a very exciting experience, although I assume it will be distinctly different from my current play in terms of the actors acting out the actions and not reading from a script.

How does it feel to be involved with this year’s festival?

I love being part of a community of playwrights and actors who are passionate about their craft. I always learn something new just from talking to them and honing in insight into their individual personalities and mental landscapes. Even the audience serves their purpose by taking something from our local artistry and carrying it with them wherever they go.

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

Imagine you’re getting married. It’s the happiest moment of your life. But wait, this is it? Panic. Anxiety. Fear. Things you want to talk about but you can’t over coffee. Nobody understands. But how can’t they understand this universal experience? Is it universal? Ad nauseum. You’re allowed to be scared, anxious, sardonic, but in the end, that happiness you’re trying to find, maybe you’ll start here in this one play. 

What was your inspiration for writing this play?

I was watching a video and it was a short script that looped. I was obsessed with the looping script concept so I started from there. We all have recurring thoughts, usually based on fear and anxiety. What’s one that’s practically universal? Happiness. And when are you usually the happiest? At your own wedding, marrying the love of your life (hopefully). And there, I scribbled the script down and the rest is history.

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

NotaBle Acts brings a sense of intimacy among playwrights and actors alike. I’ve always admired that in New Brunswick, we have individuals who contribute such diverse perspectives and thoughts that translate into art that can be admired and preserved. I’m always enthused to see engagement from everyone involved and building a sense of comradery amongst the talent I meet.

Sana’s play A Toast to Happiness will be one of two plays featured in this year’s Site-Specific series of pay-what-you-can outdoor performances. Catch a performance July 24-27 beginning near the Beaverbrook Art Gallery Courtyard at 8:30 p.m.

A Toast to Happiness by Sana Hashmat | Directed by Scott Harris | Featuring Jason Crow and Landon Hachey. 

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.