A Q&A with playwright Gillian Salmon

Gillian Salmon (she/her) is a writer, improviser, actor and stand up comedian based in Fredericton. She has been studying with Second City since 2020 and is currently nearing the end of their Conservatory program. Mainly focusing on sketch comedy, she loves to try experimenting with different perspectives and surreal situations as a commentary on reality. She likes to travel when she can and read when she can’t.

This year Gillian has two sketches included in our festival: Historical Walking Tour and Where We Go One, We Go All.

How’s it feel to be making your NotaBle debut and how has the opportunity challenged you as a new writer?

It feels surreal still. I submitted thinking nahhh, these will never get picked and then was pleasantly surprised when they were. Watching the first rehearsal was incredibly exciting to see my characters come to life. I’ve seen my writing performed before but only in Zoom format so to see something in real life it was extra exciting. 

The experience has challenged me as a new writer in that now I’ve got a taste of it and now I want more. So it’s challenged me to get my act together, pardon the pun, and to write more sketches. 

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

Can I talk fast?

Historical Walking Tour is a reflection on typical walking tours in which historical locations have now become something else and the audience is required to suspend some disbelief and use their imaginations.

Where We Go One, We Go All is a satirical look at the conspirituality influence on the wellness industry. 

It’s two sketches because I am an overachiever and they were both short. In hindsight I should have submitted three because of the comedy rule of threes. This is a learning experience.

Is there a theme or message you are attempting to get across to your audience?

Only that there is room for absurdity in the midst of perhaps otherwise dramatic or serious theatre. 

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

The thing that actually motivated me to submit were the writer’s rooms that were hosted via Zoom in April. I have a lot of sketches in the wings and the rooms gave me an opportunity to hear them aloud and make revisions, and then to ultimately submit. I had previously been wanting to submit a longer sketch show for the one act category but I saw the opportunity of throwing a couple in the ring for site-specific and thought, “why wait? If you get it, great. If you don’t, it’s still a good experience and you’ve got two sketches that are more polished.”

Gillian’s plays Historical Walking Tour and Where We Go One, We Go All will be performed outdoors as a pay what you can double bill (w/ A Toast to Happiness) from July 24-27, beginning at 8:30 p.m. near the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Historical Walking Tour and Where We Go One, We Go All by Gillian Salmon | Directed by Sydney Hallett | Featuring Thomas Johansen, Diana Chávez, Al Newling and Mallory Kelly.

A Q&A with playwright Sandra Kell

Sandra Kell is making her NotaBle Acts debut this year with her play #Momlife. Sandra was born and raised in Fredericton, is a mother of three, and a recent graduate from UNB’s Bachelor of Integrated Studies Program. #Momlife is her first play and we are very excited to feature Sandra and her script as part of our festival. 

We reached out to Sandra to learn what her experience has been like writing this script and seeing it become a featured play at NotaBle Acts’ 2022 Summer Theatre Festival.

You’re making your NotaBle debut! How’s that feel? 

Honestly? Really exciting, but also completely terrifying! I think that anytime you put your work out to the public, there is a certain level of fear of rejection, so I’m definitely working on becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Can you tell us a bit about your play without giving too much away? 

It’s about a challenge that most parents have faced at one time or another: the difficulties of trying to keep your kids asleep when nothing else is going to plan. I think that the show’s director Emily [Darling], and the whole cast have managed to bring such realism to the play, that it may even cause a little PTSD for any parents watching the show.

What was your experience like writing #Momlife? Tell us about the biggest challenges for you as a playwright? 

#Momlife actually started as an assignment for one of my drama courses at UNB. I think the fact I was getting graded on my script probably added a level of stress to the process that wouldn’t normally accompany script writing, but it definitely pushed me to do my best and I ended up with a product that I loved. The biggest challenge however, has actually ended up being one of my favourite parts of the entire process. I knew that once the script was done, it would be out of my hands, and up to how the director and actors interpreted it. I’m someone who likes to be in control of my environment, so when I get to watch rehearsals, I have to focus on “letting go”, and being able to enjoy the different viewpoints that are added to the work. Because of this, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and gotten to witness some amazing ideas come to life that I wish I had thought to put in the script myself!  

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

NotaBle Acts not only encourages local, aspiring playwrights, but provides them with the tools to improve their skills by working with fantastic dramaturgs and getting to see our plays performed by local actors. These experiences are crucial to the continued existence of live theatre in our communities and to help create the next generation of Canadian playwrights. For many of us, this is the first time our work is being performed in public, and without NB Acts, it might otherwise never see the light of day. The program not only supports playwrights, but gives aspiring directors, actors, stage crews, etc. a chance to gain experience in other aspects of theatre. I cannot say enough good things about NotaBle Acts and we are so lucky to have this program here. 

#Momlife 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.

#Momlife by Sandra Kell | Directed by Emily Darling | Featuring Al Newling, Adrian Saliendra, Hailey Trifts and Gray Miller.