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 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.