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SuperNova’s local love 

Eastern Front Theatre’s SuperNova Theatre Festival puts Atlantic Canadian stories in the spotlight.

click to enlarge See some enviable headwear in The Whimsy State.
  • See some enviable headwear in The Whimsy State.

On the cusp of its 19th birthday, Eastern Front Theatre is facing an identity crisis. Once known as "Dartmouth's theatre company," EF has moved its offices and theatre space across the harbour to new digs in the Neptune Theatre space.

EF's new artistic producer Charlie Rhindress thinks he's found a solution. He'd like Eastern Front to be recognized as a company that tells Atlantic Canadian stories by Atlantic Canadian playwrights. And he's managed to put together a lineup for EF's SuperNova Theatre Festival that reflects that goal.

"Our stories on stage" is SuperNova's tagline, and as Rhindress explains it, it was part intent and part serendipity that brought the lineup together.  

When the call for submissions brought in three new plays by playwrights in Atlantic Canada as well as several stories with Atlantic Canadian themes that had already opened elsewhere in Canada, Rhindress snapped them up. "There are new plays by well-known and well-respected artists like Daniel MacIvor, Jeremy Webb and Liz Richardson," says Rhindress in his typical rapid-fire way. "I can't believe how lucky we are to be having them premiere at our festival."

The MacIvor play I, Animal is a series of three monologues directed by Richie Wilcox that deal with love and loss. Webb's internet dating comedy Fishing will embark on a tour that includes venues in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick after its run at SuperNova.

Rhindress feels that Going On by Elizabeth Richardson (who was most recently seen in Neptune's production of Frankenstein) is a very specific story that will have a universal appeal. "She's juxtaposed two real-life events---touring with theatre star Peter O'Toole in the '70s and going on a three-year Buddhist retreat---and managed to turn into something we can relate to," he explains. "It's definitely not hard for people to identify with getting older and questioning the choices they've made along the way."

Some of the other plays such as AJ Demers' The Whimsy State and the autobiographical story The Son of Africville by Justin Carter and Dama Hanks have already been seen on other stages in Canada, but have distinctly Nova Scotian stories to tell.

Whimsy State is a comedy based on the true story of three men who declared a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia a sovereign state in 1948 and starring local Graham Percy and directed by Pamela Halstead. Son of Africville is a one-man show set against the backdrop of Halifax's Africville about a man reuniting with the mother who was forced to give him up for adoption.

New to the festival this year is something called SuperNova Next, a program of theatre for youth and their families produced in conjunction with Halifax Theatre for Young People. It includes a series of workshops, the popular 10-minute play contest and two plays: HTYP's production of Hannah Moscovitch's powerful In This World and Jennifer Overton's Spelling 2-5-5 which centres on an autistic boy and his brother.

The only play at the festival without a clear Nova Scotian connection is the satirical cabaret This is Cancer, where actor and playwright Bruce Horak plays cancer itself.

But as Rhindress remarks, it's not like that there's anyone out there that isn't, unfortunately, connected to cancer in some way.

"With the move across the harbour, we know our audience is changing," says Rhindress. "But I hope that people will be excited by the concept of hearing our home-grown stories told in so many different ways."


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