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A Q&A with playwright Sophie Tremblay-Pitre

Sophie Tremblay-Pitre makes her festival debut this year with two of her own plays being performed this week.

Sophie is a recent UNB graduate in Biology and Theatre. She has worked on many Fredericton theatre productions for Theatre UNB, NotaBle Acts, and Bard in the Barracks, most recently as a crew member for The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble and as Dr. Quack in The Country Wife. Ghost Writer and With Love, Josephine are the first two plays she has written, and she is very excited to invite you into the worlds she has created.

What’s it like having two of your plays included in this year’s festival?

I am very excited to have both my plays being included in the festival. It is a little terrifying because it’s a completely new experience, but I can’t wait to see what they look like on stage!

I am super happy to be so involved in NotaBle Acts this year.

Can you explain your playwriting background?

My playwriting background is of one class taken with Len Falkenstein in the fall of 2018, during which both plays were written and workshopped. Before that I had read many plays, and even more books, but I had never written anything beyond research papers.

How helpful has the festival process been for developing your skills as a writer and to that point, how have your plays developed through the process?

Working with Rob Kempson, the directors (Hannah Blizzard and Austin Taylor), and the actors has helped me develop the scripts in ways I could not have imagined. I can confidently say that the plays being produced in the festival are not the same as the ones I submitted to the contest in the spring. I’ve gained a much better understanding of the characters and storylines thanks to everyone’s insight and interpretation, and working with Rob has specifically helped me understand the choices that my characters make and why they make them.

What other play are you most excited to see/experience at this year’s festival?

All the plays look very exciting this year! I have already seen Fruit Machine, which I thought was very touching, and the choreography was excellent. I’m especially excited to see Gullywhump, because the story intrigues me and the set pieces that I’ve seen look really great. I also love to watch the site-specific plays, which allows us to see theatre in a completely different environment than what we’re used to.

Catch a performance of Sophie’s work:

Ghostwriter

What does a caffeine-addled second year Creating Writing student need to do for a good idea? Commune with long-dead relatives of course! A ghost can be a great teacher, about your past and your present.

Ghostwriter will be featured as one of four 10 minutes plays included in this year’s Taking It To The Streets series running July 29, August 1 and 2 at Cafe Beaverbrook (12-1 p.m.) and July 30-31 at Cafe Beaverbrook (7:30-8:30 p.m.)

With Love, Josephine

In a story touching on generational rifts and Canada’s divisions across class and language, a young woman learns that society and the heart rarely see eye-to-eye. Through a long-forgotten diary, she finds that her grandmother lived a parallel life, and though decades apart, takes heart from the knowledge that she is not alone.

With Love, Josephine is one of two one-act plays featured in this year’s Acting Out series which runs August 1-3 | 7:30 p.m., Memorial Hall, UNB  – 9 Bailey Drive. Tickets at the door or reserve by emailing nbacts@unb.ca; $15 regular, $10 student/senior/underemployed.

 

Rob Kempson – NotaBle Acts’ Artist In Residence for 2019

Toronto-based playwright Rob Kempson has been working closely with many of this year’s featured playwrights in preparation for the 2019 edition of the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival. 

Matt Carter

If there is one lesson Rob Kempson hopes to teach the playwrights involved in this year’s NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, it’s that a first draft is never a final draft.

“The journey for each play is totally different and I think it’s important to remember that playwriting is not like other writing,” he said. “A play is meant to be spoken and not read so that means you have to take a crack at it, hear it, and then take another crack at it. You’re never going to find it all in the first or second draft.”

Kempson is this year’s NotaBle Acts Artist in Residence. As an instructor at Humber College, Randolph College and Centennial College, he spends a lot of time working with new playwrights to help them develop their voice and grow their work.

This month he is in Fredericton working with a dozen young and emerging New Brunswick playwrights whose work will be featured as part of this year’s festival lineup.

“It’s not only about learning and developing at this stage,” said Kempson. “It’s actually about learning professional practice, the practice of developing a new play.”

Kempson is an active contributor to the Toronto theatre scene and has written, composed, performed and directed on many of the city’s notable stages.

“This is the first time I’ve been an artist in residence at a festival. Every other residency I’ve had was based on something else,” he said. “I was either there just to write or to just to teach workshops.  This is a little bit more fulsome than what I’ve done in the past.”

Kempson began working with many of this year’s festival playwrights earlier this month via Skype before he arrived in Fredericton. Those early discussions helped spark new ideas, providing many of this year’s writers with their first outside feedback on their work.

“I’ve made some great connections so far and have seen some really exciting movement in the work,” said Kempson. “Sometimes with newer writers there can be a really hesitancy to take those big steps and make big choices and changes in their work. It can be scary. But everyone I’ve been working with have been totally fearless in that they have embraced this collaboration as a real collaboration.”

NotaBle Acts’ 2019 lineup includes the work of 14 New Brunswick playwrights including the winners of this year’s middle and high school playwriting competitions.

An important festival on the city’s annual calendar of events, each new edition of NotaBle Acts’ provides audiences with numerous opportunities to engage in theatre with fully produced plays that take place in theatre, outdoor plays that require little to no staging, site-specific work and readings of new plays in development.

“The range of stories is huge. It’s really diverse. I think what I’m really excited by about this festival is that I didn’t know the multiplicity of kinds of people that would be involved,” said Kempson. “I knew there would be some current and former students of Len’s [Falkenstien] but I wasn’t expecting the passion in this community for this kind of work.

“So often in community theatre settings, there isn’t the opportunity to engage new writers and new scripts and to develop that work. And that work is ultimately what Canada does best. We aren’t known for having this long back canon that we pull old favourites from like the British and the Americans do. So for me, NotaBle Acts is such a great training ground for new writers to get experience. As a dramaturg, I feel really grateful to get to intersect with these artists at this point in their writing and their journey.”

NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival runs July 23 – August 3.