Playwright Kim Parkhill discusses the inspiration behind her new play Any Given Moment.

Our 50th anniversary season begins in September with a world premiere production of Kim Parkhill’s new play, Any Given Moment. Focusing on the lives of three individuals trying to make sense of the culture of fear that dominates their daily lives, perpetuated by the endless barrage of highly divisive news stories that seem to pit culture against culture and country against country in a hopeless competition of values and beliefs, these three actors will challenge audiences to question their own world views and the opinions they hold.

Parkhill began working on the play more than three years ago following a request by former TNB Artistic Director Thomas Morgan Jones.

“Thom asked me to consider writing a play for TNB that addressed the question ‘Who is responsible?’. That sent me off on a fairly broad and prolific brainstorming of associations but the one that resonated deeply was an image of a spider web, invisible threads between us, and the movements of one organism in the web having repercussions for another,” said Parkhill. “I was interested in exploring this in the context of my observations on the effect of threats of terrorism and anti-terrorist legislation on our world, the lack of empathy for others, the ‘other’ that I saw demonstrated daily, and the demise of traditional centres for community-building, support, belonging and accountability such as the church and small-town life. I wanted to look at how we are responsible for each other.”

Any Given Moment is a three actor play directed by our new Artistic Director, Natasha MacLellan. The play features Fredericton actor Wally MacKinnon; Claudia Gutierrez-Perez, a recent graduate of the Fountain School of Performing Arts program at Dalhousie University; and Alexis Milligan, an actor, movement coach and director who has spent eight seasons with Two Planks and a Passion Theatre and has worked on several TV and film projects.

“I created three characters who are, by all appearances, starkly different from each other in age, education, economic status, and life experience, with the intention of getting them somewhere together, somehow, and seeing what happened,” said Parkhill.

Parkhill’s choice of setting, a church in an unnamed small Canadian city, came from a conversation she had with Jones about the many concerts that happen at Fredericton’s Wilmot United Church as part of the annual Shivering Songs festival.

“In one of my chats with Thom, he mentioned these church concerts in Fredericton and that became the inspiration for the setting and part of the chain of inciting events. The church in the play is modeled on Wilmot United Church.”

At this stage in the play’s development, Parkhill and Jones had not yet met in person, but had exchanged long phone/Skype conversations and several emails about the story and how/when it may appear in a TNB season.

Based on these conversations, Parkhill constructed an outline and wrote a few of the character monologues before waiting to see if any financial support had been established to help create a first draft. By that point, she was so wrapped up in the characters she had created, Parkhill continued to work on the script without any real assurance on the play’s future.

“I was in love with the characters and the idea already and Thom was willing to support as dramaturg so I wrote it anyway,” said Parkhill. “The first draft was written in a month at Grand Lake, New Brunswick.”

With encouragement and dramaturgy from Jones and others as well as support and insight from the play’s first director Natasha MacLellan, the story was developed to the point where it was ready for its first production.

“Rewrites of the play were based on dramaturgical feedback from Thom, a public reading of the script at DaPoPo Theatre’s Live-in Festival and a script development workshop with Ships’ Company Theatre,” said Parkhill. “Then it went into the drawer for more than a year, awaiting a first production.

“Fun fact: For years, the original title was, And Then Nothing Happened,” said Parkhill. “It also had a short-lived time as Alone, Together. The current title was finalized in collaboration with Natasha [MacLellan].

It’s now been a few years since Parkhill began working on this script. The play’s world premiere production opens August 8 in Parrsboro and will run until September 2. From there it will tour to several New Brunswick communities before settling into the Open Space Theatre for six final performances.

“It’s been several years since I started writing and of course I’m also in a slightly different place and the cultural milieu has shifted, but I still fear the fear and what it’s doing to the fabric of who we are as society, as humans,” said Parkhill. “It scares me not just how defensive but how offensive people can be toward others as a first position or reaction and how individualistic, oppressive, destructive that is. I still see how fear plays a huge role in that, and how barring the doors just complicates the scenario.

“I don’t have any answers, but my heart hurts,” said Parkhill. “And as an artist, as a storyteller, this play is how I talk about it.”

Any Given Moment runs August 8 to September 2 at Parrsboro, Nova Scotia’s Ship’s Company before a tour of New Brunswick communities wraps up with six final performances in Fredericton at the Open Space Theatre. Learn more

NB Onstage is an ongoing New Brunswick artist spotlight series supported by Stantec.