Jena is driven to create work that is rich with complex roles for queer folks and young women alike. Her plays explore life’s grey areas, personalize the political, and aim to empower people to feel seen in theatre.

Theatre New Brunswick is pleased to name Jena McLean as its 2021 artist-in-residence. A recent graduate of the National Theatre School’s playwriting program, McLean was a participant in the company’s inaugural Fall Festival of New Plays, a program launched in 2020 to showcase and develop new work by New Brunswick playwrights.  

Beginning in July, McLean will work closely with TNB Artistic Director Natasha MacLellan and the rest of the TNB staff to gain hands-on experience working as a member of a professional theatre company while furthering her work as an emerging playwright.

“To put it simply, this residency with Theatre New Brunswick is a dream come true,” said McLean. “It’s very full circle. Seeing TNB program work by New Brunswick writers made a future in the theatre feel possible. I’m so excited to collaborate with and learn from this fierce group of theatre-makers who are dedicated to developing new and diverse work, which I believe is vital to the future of the Canadian theatre landscape.

“While in residence, I’ll work on strengthening my voice as a playwright. This will include not only returning to work on some plays I love dearly but beginning the process of writing a brand new play about dating, fatness, and beauty standards,” they said. “In addition to my writing, I’ll be learning directly from the inimitable Natasha MacLellan about literary management, dramaturgy, and artistic direction. The skills I’ll develop will be integral to strengthen and expand my practice as an artist. I am so grateful for this chance, and so ready to get to work.”

MacLellan says she was inspired by McLean’s work during the Fall Festival and is excited to welcome them as a new member of the TNB family. 

“We need to encourage writers to push boundaries and tackle more stories that reflect the world we’re living in,” said MacLellan. “Jena’s work combines a strong social conscience with great storytelling. It’s open and relatable and exactly the kind of voice we need to hear more of.”

McLean’s play An Ocean of Evergreens, developed as part of last year’s Fall Festival of New Plays, will be produced this summer in Fredericton by the latest capital region theatre start-up, Red Panda Productions.  

Watch for regular updates on McLean’s residency beginning later this summer on TNB’s social feeds.

This residency was made possible in part through a grant from ArtsNB’s Artist in Residence program. 

About Jena:

Jena McLean (she/they) is a queer playwright with roots in New Brunswick and Alberta. A recent graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s playwriting program, she also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Drama studies from Mount Allison University. 

Her plays include: Bonus Points if You Have Air Conditioning (dir.  Andrew Kushnir, NTS, 2021), A Canyon Contained (dir. Neomi Iancu Haliva, St. Thomas University, 2021), Until Tenth Grade (staged reading, dir. Dean Fleming, Geordie Theatre, 2021), An Ocean of Evergreens (digital reading, dir. Yvette Nolan, Theatre New Brunswick, 2020), Missing Her Mother, The Freeze-Dried Groom, Paradoxes (commissioned and produced by Mount Allison University, 2017), and I Am (Notable Acts Theatre Festival, 2015).