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: Arianna Martinez

Arianna is back for her fourth season with NotaBle Acts.  Her play Blue Ribbon is part of this year’s Street Scenes series. Described as “a wacky tale of subterfuge and spoilt produce, with viciously feuding grandparents who when competing for affection take it too far by forcing their only granddaughter to become a double agent sabotaging each other’s vegetable stands,” Blue Ribbon kicks off this year’s site-specific walking tour and will be performed in the Boyce Farmer’s Market parking lot. Feuding framers? What’s not to love?

We asked Arianna about her play and what else she is doing at this year’s festival.

What can you tell us about the play and the idea behind it?

Blue Ribbon is loosely based on stories my mother would tell me about her grandparents. When she was growing up she would spend her summers working on both of their gardens, and would get into all sorts of trouble because both grandparents had a flare for drama. The story is based on real people and real relationships, with my own added twist for fun and flavour.

How many plays have you written for NotaBle?

This will be my third play that I’ve written for NotaBle Acts. I wrote Parallel Lines for the Taking it to the Streets series two years ago, and last year I wrote The Marcy Case as a site specific, located at the Fredericton Public Library. I really love participating in this festival. It provides wonderful opportunities for artists of any level to hone their skills in a safe and supportive environment. If it weren’t for NotaBle, I don’t think I would have tried my hand at playwriting!

Did you Blue Ribbon this specifically for the Site-Specific series or was it an idea you’ve been playing with for a while now?

The idea had been percolating for a while, as I had always found the stories my mom told to be very amusing. Originally I had written the script (though it was significantly different) for film. I decided to adapt it for the stage, and thought the Boyce Farmers Market would be the perfect location.

You’re also reading in the Play Out Loud series. How’s that been going? 

I’m reading for the part of Anna in Alex Donovan’s The Forerunner. By being stripped of the ability to show action, all of care and attention is given to the way things are read. We got together as a group to read it through, and Tilly Jackson (our director) would challenge us to consider the character’s we’re bring to life (what they’re like, what they want, what inspires them, what scares them, etc) and to make sure those choices come through in our line delivery. I’ve never participating in a reading before, but the process is interesting.

Arianna Martinez is a filmmaker, playwright, and educator living in New Brunswick. She has produced several short films that have screened across Canada and has participated in NotaBle Acts theatre festival for four years.

Catch a performance of Blue Ribbon July 30 – August 1 as part of our Street Scenes: Three Site-Specific Plays series.