We will host a live reading of Jean-Michel Cliche’s play Hinter on November 15. In advance, Cliche takes us through the play’s ongoing development.
Fredericton playwright Jean-Michel Cliche brings his play Hinter to this year’s Fall Festival of New Plays. Inspired in part by the natural beauty of one of Fredericton’s many green spaces and the uncertainty of an upcoming move to Toronto, Cliche, like many playwrights in this year’s festival, is now nearing the end of a long creative process full of starts, stops and new ideas.
“I started writing Hinter the summer of 2016. I was going through a personal shift, about to move to Toronto, and was spending a lot of time wandering around O’Dell Park feeling existential,” he said. “The feeling of being lost in the woods was the inception of Hinter. I think I wrote maybe two or three scenes and then didn’t revisit it until the following summer when I turned it into a one act play to submit to NotaBle Acts.”
For many Fredericton area playwrights, NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival provides a stage and an audience eager to hear and experience new work. With room for short works, larger one-acts and site specific productions, this summer festival has become an essential catalyst in furthering the work of emerging playwrights.
Cliche’s play Hinter was a featured one-act in the 2017 festival and has continued to grow and evolve since.
“I knew as soon as I saw the NotaBle Acts production that I wasn’t done working on the script,” said Cliche, speaking to the importance of the development process. “You learn so much about the play after hearing it come to life. When you see talented actors and directors really giving it their all, it’s super easy to go, ‘oh okay, this scene isn’t working and I know how to fix it.’ So, from a dramaturgical point of view, I always knew I had more work to do. But what made me want to do that work was the reaction I got from folks who saw that production. They had so many questions and thoughts about the world [in which the play exists]. There were even a few ‘fan theories’, which made me realize there was a lot more to explore in this world.
“This current re-write is meant to expand the world and answer some of those questions, and to leave room for more speculations, because that’s super fun. The play itself is now a full length play, which is a first for me.”
As part of his participation in the Fall Festival of New Plays, Cliche was teamed up with dramaturg Ron Jenkins, building upon the dramaturgy received from Anna Chatteron through NotaBle Acts in 2017.
“It’s been really nice to have so many different people look at the script at its various stages,” said Cliche. “Anna really helped me structure the play and figure out the characters, while Ron is helping me lock down the rules and lore of the world. I think they both really get the script. It’s easy enough to look at it as a fantasy story with monsters and magic and stuff, but both Anna and Ron have really taken it seriously and asked all the questions you would for a traditional theatrical drama, which I really appreciate. I think that’s partially because they are both nerds, so I’ve been among good company!”
Hinter takes place in an imagined reality where nature has deemed humans too dangerous in their attempts to have a purpose on earth. It’s a perfect fit among the science fiction, the robots and the cosmic play that have helped define Chiche’s work in recent years. Even though he is obviously attracted to topics and themes involving unknown futures and strange new realities, Cliche purposefully avoids connecting his imaginary worlds with our own. He may not be looking to teach his audience a lesson, but he does want to make them think.
“I think it’s more like looking at something familiar through a kaleidoscope,” he said. “We all know the world is really messed up and I want to be able to contribute to making it a better place, but doing a play about global warming or deforestation is kind of depressing, and truthfully, not that interesting to me. I think it’s more fun to reframe the world into something more fantastical. I think that lets us look at tough subjects in new ways and allows us to form new, more creative, and maybe more hopeful opinions about our currently reality.”