The new program Young Voices will provide virtual in-classroom workshops to teachers and students exploring a range of playwriting opportunities and encouraging students to bring their own stories to life.   

In the face of another challenging year for the Theatre New Brunswick Young Company, the upcoming 2022 season will see TNB’s theatre for young audiences (TYA) branch continue to adapt and change in order to comply and respect health and safety measures put in place by the New Brunswick Department of Education. 

Four the past four decades TNB Young Company has been touring TYA productions to New Brunswick schools, visiting as many as 75 schools between February and April each year. Following the arrival of COVID-19 which cut short the tail end of the company’s 2019 tour and forced our planning team to reevaluate plans for the coming year, we’re excited to announce our return to classrooms across the province through a new virtual training initiative called Young Voices. 

Young Voices will provide a series of playwriting workshops that teachers can adapt to fit current curriculums. Led by New Brunswick based playwright Jena McLean, Young Voices will provide opportunities for students and teachers to explore a wealth of writing exercises that include adapting literature and history for the stage, creating verbatim or documentary theatre, writing monologues, and scene creation through improvisation. Students will also be encouraged to share their own stories through a personal archive program called The Story Within: Turning Your Own Story Into A Script. 

“What’s really exciting to me about our 2022 plans is that this shift doesn’t feel like a compromised version of our usual tour,” said TNB Young Company Director Sharisse LeBrun.  “It’s something completely new and different for us. I’m excited to see this shift help us build relationships with students in a new way. Young Voices will provide us with the chance to hear what kinds of stories, subjects, and questions students are curious about and to support, encourage, and celebrate the stories they are telling. Who knows, maybe we’ll have some seeds planted that will grow into future Young Company and New Brunswick playwrights.”

All Young Voices workshops will be delivered to classrooms over virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom of Microsoft Teams. Teachers will have the choice between two, four or six hour multi-day workshops depending on the type of training they wish to pursue. 

“Theatre is a chance to explore the unknown, engage in challenging conversations and learn about yourself,” said McLean. “It’s true as an audience member, but it’s especially true as a playwright. My work is centred on feeling seen and making sense of the world around me. It is my hope that through these workshops, students will feel empowered to carve out space for themselves to feel seen and understand that their stories deserve to be told. Now more than ever, unique voices feel vital charting a path forward in not just theatre, but our society at large.” 

Students who partake in both the playwriting workshops and the personal archive program will have the opportunity to submit a piece of their own writing to a virtual Young Voices Cabaret in which pieces will be given a dramatic reading by a team of professional, New Brunswick actors, directed by LeBrun. The Cabaret will provide a forum to celebrate these young voices, build community between schools and inspire confidence in our next generation of New Brunswick writers. 

About the Workshops 

Adapting Literature for the Stage

Studying a particular novel, poem or short story with your class? This workshop can extend that learning by guiding students through the process of adapting your chosen text into a script. Students will learn about script structures and formats, writing dialogue, and how to bring your own interpretation and creative vision to a well known text. 

Adapting History for the Stage

Who and how are our historical narratives told? In this workshop, students will use the art of playwriting to examine and challenge traditional historical narratives.Students will explore questions such as, new perspectives can we bring to history, what voices have traditionally been left out, can theatre and live performance bring history into the present, as they create their own historical adaptation. 

Creating Verbatim or Documentary Theatre

A mashup of drama and journalism! Students will use pre-existing, documentary material such as news articles, reports, interviews, journals, or, their own journalistic interviews as source material for the creation of a script. 

Writing Monologues

As they’re taken through the process of crafting their own, engaging monologue, students will learn what a monologue is, how to generate ideas for monologues, crafting characters, developing voice, story structures, and the various functions of monologues in dramatic texts.

Scene Creation through Improvisation

A great way to get students out of their heads and onto their feet! Students will learn the art of improvisation as a tool for writing. Students will get their creative impulses flowing, work collaboratively, and use improvisation to create the basis for unique characters and scenes to develop further through writing. 

The Story Within- Turning Your Own Story into Script

Here at TNB’s Young Company, we believe that all young people have a story worth sharing and deserving of the stage. This workshop will give students the tools to express their own stories and interests through script writing. Students will be guided through the entire process of developing a script- from generating ideas, developing and structuring those ideas into dramatic structures, receiving and responding to constructive criticism, all the way to a final script students are proud of.

About the Playwright

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 explore life’s grey areas, personalize the political, and aim to empower people to feel seen in theatre.

Her plays include: MFG, Who Wants to Survive High School, 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). 

Complete details available at 

TNB Young Company 2022 is made possible through support received from Canada Life and the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.