Reviews + Articles

PAST PRODUCTIONS with available reviews and/or articles:

In On It (Daniel MacIvor)

A Story Jones (Scott Shannon)

Rougher Magic: A Cubist Shakespeare (Robert Moore)

The Art Of Success (Nick Dear)

Oleanna (David Mamet)

Tooth of Crime (2nd Dance) (Sam Shepard)

Monster (Daniel MacIvor)

The Table Experiments (Scott Shannon)

Play (Samual Becket) and The Dumb Waiter (Harold Pinter)

Here Lies Henry and This Is A Play (2010) (Daniel MacIvor)

Marion Bridge (Daniel MacIvor)

Orestes 2.1 (Charles L. Mee; modified by Nasty Shadows)

House (Daniel MacIvor) and The Dumb Waiter (Harold Pinter)

Waiting For Godot (Samuel Beckett)

Endgame (Samuel Beckett)

Rougher Magic (Robert Moore)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard)

  • Telegraph Journal article – POSTING IN PROCESS

Rougher Magic (Robert Moore)

A Slight Ache (Harold Pinter) and
The Loveliest Afternoon Of The Year (John Guare)

The Zoo Story (Edward Albee) and Cowboys #2 (Sam Shepard)


The Art of Success
The Aquinian (STU) article/interview
Last updated October 31, 2012 1:33 pm
by Maisie McNaughton

The art of bawdy comedy
Nasty Shadows Theatre Company is presenting the adult comedy ‘The Art of Success’ at the TNB Studio Theatre on Oct. 26-28

Daily Gleaner article/interview
Features, Friday, October 19, 2012, p. C1
by Lori Gallagher

Public sensibilities may well be offended as Nasty Shadows Theatre Company presents a bawdy comedy full of lewd jokes, debauchery and states of nudity.

“We’re staging a play called The Art of Success by a playwright named Nick Dear,” says Scott Shannon, the show’s director. “It’s loosely set in the 1730s, though it’s by no means a period piece. The characters are very modern in their attitudes and the language they use.”

The British playwright takes the audience on a whirlwind excursion through the extremes of artistic expression – both verbally and in the action of the characters – as he twists 1730s England with modern notions of good and bad, fun and wicked, art and pornography.

“The play is a mishmash of historical developments that happened over a 10-year period but they’re squashed into one night,” says Shannon.

Oh what a night: William Hogarth, played by Matthew Spinney, makes a stop on this wild night to see Louisa,
his favourite prostitute, played by Katie Malone in

The play follows a painter named William Hogarth, who has been compared to the paparazzi of today.

“He would do sketches of popular happenings in the town and try to sell them to the people,” he says.

The painter is looking to make a quick buck, but the copiers are undermining his ability to make any money at his art.

“We follow him through one long, drunken, debauched evening as he paints his way through the city of London visiting people he knows,” he says.

Another interesting character in the play is Sarah Sprackling, a laundress turned murderess. She’s in jail as the story begins.

“William shows up at her jail cell at the beginning of the show to sketch her. He wants to sell her sketch at her hanging the next day,” says Shannon.

“She’s agreed to do this but she has some concerns about how her image is portrayed. That’s a running theme throughout the show. He leaves with her portrait and she spends the rest of the show chasing him to get her portrait back.”

The show deals with artistic censorship in a broad way, and within the show itself as it pushes a lot of boundaries in terms of language, nudity and edgy content.

Meanwhile, the artist’s playwright pal, Harry (Henry) Fielding, has other ideas that concern destabilizing the government through theatrical means, but Hogarth isn’t keen on that.

“His story is he’s a playwright putting on shows to undermine the government and question what the government is doing. At this time the English parliament is relatively new and they’re passing laws to censor his output on stage,” says Shannon.

That fight between Fielding and Robert Walpole, England’s first prime minister, continues over the course of the show.

“That whole story feeds into William Hogarth’s story of what can he draw and share with the public as well, and what is considered art, what’s considered pornography and what’s bad politics.”

It’s a busy story that moves very quickly, with lots of energy and motion.

“It is a comedy, but there’s lots of dark moments in there and serious drama as well,” Shannon says. “It’s a comedy, but it’s not for the light of heart and it’s not for kids.”

In fact, Hogarth is in for one long night in this sex-obsessed and frequently crude English adult comedy.

“The show is really good fun with strong, quality acting,” he says.

He first saw this play in the early 1990s while in the acting program at Dalhousie University.

“The graduating class, each year they do four major productions, and this was one of the shows. I saw this when I was 18 and it still sits with me. It was one of my favourite theatre experiences and the opening scene still resonates in my head,” he says. “I worked the door …, so I got to see it seven times and just loved it. It’s been in the back of my head as maybe something we could do if we had more people, and low and behold we had 10 really great actors, so I pushed this forward and here we go.”

When he originally saw the production, it was a full-blown affair with a two-level set, period costumes and music, all on a big stage. The Nasty Shadows production, however, is quite minimal.

“Our set comprises of 10 black boxes that are about a foot-and-a-half squared and we move them around the stage into different shapes, to make a bed, to make a bench, to make a window, whatever,” says Shannon. “We keep the movement pretty fluid throughout the whole show. There’s no lulls, there’s always something going on. If anybody is interested in some edgy comedy, this would be the show for them.”

For the first time, the company will be staging their production at TNBs studio theatre on Whiting Road in the Industrial Park.

“I was speaking with Caleb Marshall, the artistic producer (with Theatre New Brunswick), in the summer. He had approached us about developing a relationship to help spread the word about each of our shows, and both of us benefit from that,” Shannon says. “They created a new page on their website to list local theatre happenings, so we’re listed on there as well as a bunch of other people.”

When Shannon asked about using the studio theatre, TNB welcomed them to do so.

“It’s newly created into a performance space, so it’s a little low on the tech side of things,” he says, but it’s perfect for their needs.

“It’s a great space, it’s like the Black Box (Theatre) on STU’s campus in some sense. I’m excited to use it.”

The Art of Success is being presented from Friday, Oct. 26, to Saturday, Oct. 28, at 8 p.m. in Fredericton, then Nov. 2-3 at 8 p.m. in Saint John. Tickets are $15 or $10 for students and can be purchased at the door. To learn more, visit

Carol – Becky Forbes
John – Scott Shannon

Director – Nicholas Cole
Poster design – Alberto White

Small cast and a meaty story – David Mamet’s Oleanna has a cast of two
HERE magazine article/interview
Published Thursday April 19th, 2012
by Hilary Paige Smith

Watching Oleanna is like eavesdropping on an argument in a public place.

You sit in your seat as John, a professor, and Carol, his student, butt heads in a university office. As Oleanna director Nicholas Cole says, you may have trouble picking a side.

Becky Forbes as 'Carol' & Scott Shannon as 'John' in OLEANNA (Photo by Diane Cole)

“We had people that certainly left at the end saying, ‘He’s right.’ Or, ‘She’s right.’ But, we had a lot of people who said, ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure.'”

This is Cole’s second year directing plays with Nasty Shadows, a small theatre company that performs in both Fredericton and Saint John. Their objective is to put on thought-provoking and minimalistic shows.

“It met all the criteria we wanted: small cast, meaty story, really engaging premise and this is the 20th anniversary of the play,” Cole said.

Oleanna certainly fits the bill. The modern tragedy, written by David Mamet, has a cast of two characters. Scott Shannon, one of the co-founders of the company, plays John and Becky Forbes, a familiar face in Nasty Shadows productions, plays Carol. As John and Carol struggle for the upper hand, ideas about educational freedom, sexual harassment and hypocrisy present themselves.

They’ve been rehearsing in a classroom at the University of New Brunswick, which complements the setting of the play. It does, however, make for some awkward moments when people saunter past the window.

“There are a couple of pretty graphic parts and when we’re rehearsing it at the university, we’ll often get people walking by saying, ‘What’s going on in there,'” Cole said.

It’s a verbally dense show, but a simple show, he said. They’ve never had an audience member who left with no idea about what went on.

Oleanna runs April 20 to 21 at the Saint John High School mini-theatre on the first floor of the school. Shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. $8 for students and $12 for adults.


Nasty Shadows to present Oleanna
Theatre company’s latest presentation is a controversial game of power

Daily Gleaner article/interview
Features, Friday, March 16, 2012, p. C11
by Lori Gallagher

A student teacher conference becomes a battle of wills in the latest production from Nasty Shadows Theatre Company.

“We’re doing David Mamet‘s Oleanna. It’s starring Scott Shannon and Becky Forbes, and it’s about a student-teacher conference that kind of goes awry,” said Nicholas Cole, the show’s director. “Allegations of sexual assault and closed-door shenanigans come up after what starts as an innocuous discussion about a student’s paper.”

Oleanna (In Rehearsal) with Scott Shannon & Becky Forbes

This year marks the 20th anniversary for the show, said Cole. Oleanna was written in 1992 and was first performed the same year. Twenty years later, the issues it tackles still hold up.

“It’s a controversial show because on the surface it deals a lot with sexual harassment and sexual politics, because it is a male teacher and a younger female student,” he said.

“But it’s really a show about power in the sense that we have two characters, one is an established authority figure and one’s a younger, up-and-coming person.”

When Carol, a young undergraduate student, visits her professor, John, to discuss her grade in his class, a match of wills plays out within the academic halls of power that neither will be able to walk away from unscathed.

Each of them have strong goals in life, said Cole. The professor wants to keep his house and keep his job, while the student wants equality and fairness for herself and other students in a similar position.

“What comes out is almost a verbal duel that happens inside of a university professor’s office over three acts,” he said.

On top of being a director with Nasty Shadows, Cole is an actor and he works at The Playhouse as the head lighting technician.

“Directing feels very akin to working on lighting in some sense. You get a grander perspective on the show,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to be in a position where someone else is providing the work and the artistry and I’m just there to guide.”

He sees his work as a director as being a support role to some degree. He’s there to help guide the actors and get the best out of the script.

Cole believes this play will appeal to a wide audience, whether they’re interested in characters and examining life down to the minutia, or if they’re fans of Mamet’s other work.

“It’s reasonably short and it’s gang busters interesting,” he said, noting you get engrossed in what’s going on because there’s so much happening. “It’s a verbally dense show, so you get into it and you don’t let go until the show is done.”

In previous productions of Oleanna, people have jumped up and shouted swear words at the two actors, he said.

“Some people take very firm stances, either for the professor or for the student.”

He’d like people to walk out of the play with “a slightly better understanding of the two sides of an argument instead of being so partisan to stay on one.”

Oleanna is being presented at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre auditorium from March 22-24 at 8 p.m. It will also be shown in Saint John at the Saint John High School mini-theatre from April 20-21 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students, and are available at the door – cash only.

“I hope that everyone comes out to see the show because it’s one of the masterpieces of modern American theatre and it’s just such a tight wonderful show,” said Cole.

Hoss – Scott Shannon
Becky – Becky Forbes
Meera / Ref – Elizabeth Goodyear
Ruido Ran / Doc – Andrew Jones
Chaser – Rebekah Chassé
Crow – Matthew Spinney

Director – Nicholas Cole
Music director and guitarist – Matt Gray
Lighting designer – Mike Johnston
Assistant Technical Director / Projection design – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Poster designs – Alberto White
Video creators – Alberto White & Mikhail Ferrara

Voiceprint audio report by Diane Cole – Listen to audio from the show and interviews with cast/crew
posted Oct 2011
created by Diane Cole

– includes interviews with Nicholas Cole, Matthew Spinney, and Scott Shannon,
along with song samples performed by Matt Gray and the cast

Rock music, murder come together in latest production from Nasty Shadows Theatre Co.
Published Saturday, October 8th, 2011
by Lori Gallagher

The latest production by Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. promises to be an experience like no other.

They’re staging a revision of Sam Shepard’s Tooth of Crime: Second Dance – a play with music in two acts.

Scott Shannon as Hoss & Becky Forbes as Becky
(Photo by Diane Cole)

“The original show was written in 1972 and this revision piece was done in 1996,” said Nicholas Cole, the show’s director. “It’s a play with rock and roll music, and the music is done by T-Bone Burnett.” Most people would recognize Burnett from his work on the soundtrack for the movie O Brother Where Art Thou.

“It’s an interesting show that has really powerful live music. It’s not a musical, there’s just musical pieces,” explained Cole of Tooth of Crime. “It’s set in the near distant future and follows the story of a rock and roller named Hoss who in addition to playing rock and roll music also murders people.” Shepard was playing with the idea of what would happen if rock and roll took everything up to 11. “If everything was a lot sexier, if the violence was a lot ‘violencier.'”

“At its core, it’s the story of a man who has lost himself in the midst of fame and excess and when he decides maybe he wants to change the way he’s living, someone comes and challenges him before he gets a chance to change himself,” said Cole.

This is the biggest show Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. has ever done.

“Normally we do sort of small one or two or three people shows,” he said. “This has a cast of six.” The idea to do this show goes back to the spring when Cole and Scott Shannon worked together on Monster. Pleased with how well that went, Shannon asked if the director was game to do another show together. “He actually brought up the fact that years ago I had mentioned I’d always wanted to direct this show or be in this show,” said Cole.

He expects this production will appeal to people who are looking for a theatre experience that isn’t normally available locally. “It’s not a psychological drama so much as it’s a big, brassy, ballsy show,” he said. “People who wouldn’t normally go to theatre but would go to a live concert will be more at home at this show than at any other show.”

Tooth of Crime will be staged at Memorial Hall on the University of New Brunswick campus from Oct. 13-15 at 8 p.m.

The show will also be performed in Saint John from Oct. 21-22 at 7:30 p.m. at the BMO Rehearsal Hall.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students and they’re available at the door.

For more information, visit

Where America went wrong: Tooth of crime combines rock, westerns, sex and drugs


Sink your teeth into it
Posted Monday, October 17th, 2011
by Jennifer Bishop

Matthew Spinney as 'Crow' & Scott Shannon as 'Hoss'
(Photo by Diane Cole)

Tooth of Crime (2nd Dance) is a play with music. It was written by Sam Shepard in the 1970s and re-written in 1996.

The play includes music and lyrics written by T Bone Burnett. It was presented by Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. at the University of New Brunswick’s Memorial Hall. The theatre setting provided the audience a more intimate experience with the main floor being used as the theatre stage.

The complicated plot caused a lot of confusion for the audience, with some audience members walking out after the first act.

However, the actors’ performance made the play because they were engaging and made you want to keep watching even though the plot was very weak.

Directed by Nicholas Cole, the play tells the story of Hoss – played by Scott Shannon – who is a top “marker” in rock music and afraid of losing his spot to up and coming gypsies. The genre is science fiction which seems to be the reason the play doesn’t give a clear explanation of what a marker and a gypsy are. Crow – played by Matthew Spinney – is a gypsy trying to dethrone Hoss and take his spot in the rock kingdom.

Crow’s crazy character is portrayed exactly like it should have been by Spinney. He was able to act out scenes by himself while still keeping the audience interested with his unusual dialect and incredible energy.

Shannon portrayed Hoss very well and gave a convincing performance as a drug addict. The emotions were evident in his face and eyes, giving the audience a closer and more intimate relationship with the character. Chemistry between Hoss and Becky – played by Becky Forbes – was natural and unforced. Their transitioning emotions, from an intimate moment to being angry, gave both characters depth and imitated the range and complicated emotions human beings have.

Supporting characters were also portrayed well. Female actresses were able to successfully play men’s roles – Elizabeth Goodyear as Meera and Ref and Rebekah Chassé as Chaser – except when there was singing involved, where it became obvious that the male character is actually female.

The play had a variety of technical difficulties, including sound problems. The music was too loud and drowned out actors’ voices while they were singing. Music director and guitarist, Matt Gray, played guitar in the background of scenes without his amplifier turned on because there wasn’t supposed to be music. Even without the amplifier turned on, the music was still distracting for the audience.

Tooth of Crime goes ahead at the BMO Rehearsal Hall in Saint John, at 112 Princess St., on Oct. 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets cost $12 for the general public and $8 for students.


Janine & Al
Al’s Dad & Mom
Joe (+ Murray + Denise + Aaron + the friendly dwarf)
AA Group (Ron + David + Tina w/Joe + Al)
Jerry Buster Foster – Scott Shannon (all characters)

Director & Technical Design – Nicholas Cole
Poster Design by Alberto White

Scary monsters and super creeps
Published Thursday May 26th, 2011
by Diane Cole

Scott Shannon doesn’t look like a scary guy.

Scott Shannon doesn't look like a scary guy
(Photo by Diane Cole)

Actor Scott Shannon has to become the thing that goes bump in the night for his roles in Monster.

But there’s something unsettling in the way his eyes narrow, face sinking into a blank stare. He’s a monster, at least for a brief moment.

“It’s confusing, daunting, and perplexing,” says the actor, easing back into his chair.

The emotional weight that comes with a single, intense acting role can be daunting for any actor. Splitting that energy between 15 damaged characters in the span of 70 minutes, that weight increases both emotionally and physically. This is the challenge that Shannon and director Nicholas Cole have taken on by staging the one-man show Monster by award-winning Cape Breton playwright, Daniel MacIvor.

“In my eyes, there was really no other option,” says Cole, glancing across the table at Shannon. “It’s a cracker jack of a play. There’s one actor, but through the course of the play he inhabits these characters or they inhabit him. There’s a lot that goes on in the show.”

The story in Monster is told through these misfits, creating a fragmented sense of reality. But the continuity between the stories comes in the form of a sunny weekend in June that spawns a horrifying set of events that touch these people’s lives in huge ways.

“It’s pretty compact with a lot of story and a lot of emotion,” says Shannon. “It makes a lot of commentary on violence in the media and that culture and how violence in or out of the media shapes the world we live in.”

Helping the depth of this script resonate with audiences, the duo – both members of Nasty Shadows Theatre Company, plan to keep the staging and lighting simple. As is a precedent set by previous shows put on by the self-described “Garage-Rock Theatre” group, a simplistic set and lighting design help to heighten the actors’ performances. “It may seem like it has few materials and density on the surface,” says Cole, who runs tech for Monster in addition to directing. “But when you work your way into it, there’s complexity and beauty in what it is because it’s so simple. It’s the theatre of the tease and mental influence that we practise in.”

It’s just another step in what both Shannon and Cole feel makes theatre a truly unique form of entertainment; connection between actor and audience.

“It’s the act of getting together for storytelling,” says Shannon. “It’s important that it remains alive.”


Monster will be staged by Nasty Shadows Theatre Company as part of Congress 2011 in Fredericton. The play will run from May 26-31 at UNB’s Memorial Hall, 9 Bailey Dr., UNB Campus, with four evening performances, beginning at 8pm and a matinee on May 28 at 4pm. Tickets are $12 and $8 for students. For more information visit

May 29, 2011
Nasty Shadows Explore Nature of Evil in Monster
by Jacqueline LeBlanc Cormier, Congress 2011 Team

Listen to an audio clip from the show!

Scott Shannon has many faces. He’s a misfit, an addict, a needy girlfriend, and a neglected son. But most of all, he’s a riveting storyteller.

Shannon is the lone actor in the Nasty Shadows Theatre Company’s latest production, Monster. And, although he’s all alone on stage, he fills the room with colourful characters, an intense narrative and plot turns that keep the audience guessing.

Monty talks about the torture
(Photo by Diane Cole)

Written by the award-winning Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, Monster is a one-man show that explores the nature of evil and questions the possible link between media images of violence and actual crimes. One actor transforms into a series of characters whose lives are eerily related, taking the audience on a spellbinding ride.

Taking the words from the page and putting them on stage took a lot of skill. Shannon developed a specific demeanour and voice for each of his personae, making each character switch seamless.

“Each character has a certain way they talk and a certain physicality to help identify them,” Shannon explains. “Sometimes it’s relatively quick. In one scene, there is a conversation between five different people and although you’re alone, you have to make it look like it’s five different people talking.”

Nicholas Cole, the show’s director, says MacIvor’s writing also helped maintain clarity during dialogue driven scenes.

“The strength of the story really brings you in,” Cole says. “What Scott is doing when he’s embodying each character is really quite muted. [The characters’ quirks] are slight tweaks of him as a regular person, but the strength and the quality of those characters come through in how real the dialogue is. MacIvor has an ear for picking up what people actually say when they’re talking and what they really mean.”

When the Nasty Shadows Theatre Company was approached to perform a one-man play for Congress, Shannon suggested Monster to Cole. It didn’t take much convincing.

“It’s not often that I read a play and sit completely gape mouthed at the end,” Cole says. “The show has a lot of twists and turns and a little bit of mystery as well, but it’s also a really engaging piece of writing, let alone performance.”

Cole says it’s fitting to have live theatrical performances at a gathering of liberal arts scholars.

“It’s hard to find another art form that has visual, oral and academic pursuits and ideas all meshed together into one space,” he says. “Theatre is not just for people who like stories. It’s not just for people who like cool and interesting things in front of them. It’s for everybody. Theatre is the bargain bulk deal of everything that’s good about life thrown into a one or two hour adventure.”

The Nasty Shadows Theatre Company will be presenting Daniel MacIvor’s Monster on Sunday, May 29 and Tuesday, May 31 in Memorial Hall, UNB, at 8pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and are available at the door. For more information, please see:

Photo courtesy of Diane Cole.

Nasty Shadows Theatre Company presents Monster from May 26-31
Published Saturday May 21st, 2011

It isn’t often that a play comes with a warning label, but that’s the case with the latest presentation by Nasty Shadows.

The theatre company is tackling Monster, written by Daniel MacIvor, and viewer discretion is advised.

Nicholas Cole directs Scott Shannon in the performance of this one-man play, as well as being responsible for the technical design of the show.

“The idea for the show kind of came from Scott. He’s a huge Daniel MacIvor fan,” said Cole.

He had worked with the company as a technical director for the last four or five years and was looking to direct another show when Shannon told him about this play.

“When I read it, I was completely blown away. It’s a one-man show that feels like a fully realized full-cast show,” said Cole. “There are about 15 different characters that we go through in the course of the play. Even if you don’t like the story of the show, watching one actor go through all those phases is a treat.”

Monster is a weighty show, he said, and follows the results of a horrible weekend in June.

“It’s basically about a murder that takes place involving a father and a son, and the repercussions that fall out from that.”

Over the course of the play, the audience meets different characters that have been impacted by that weekend, in the past and in the future.

“The show is really about the power of violence and the power of fear, and how it can completely derail someone’s life,” said Cole.

He hopes the audience gets a bit of a laugh from show.

“I know it sounds a bit morbid, but it is a very funny show. It tries to deal with a serious topic with a very good, dark sense of humour,” he said.

“At the same time, I hope they also question a lot of what they perceive as very simple things.”

If just one line resonates with them, he said, he hopes they get something out of this experience that makes them look at regular life and violence in a slightly different way.

“Even though it has a title that implies something monstrous about the show, there is a lot of warmth and humanity in the show,” said Cole. “The show really reinforces the good things in life as well.”

Shannon admitted that taking on this particular one-man show was daunting, but that Cole convinced him he was up to the challenge.

“I’m basically game to stage anything written by MacIvor,” he said, calling the writer a Canadian treasure.

MacIvor has shown how exciting, fresh and valuable the theatre can be and is, said Shannon. His plays invite the audience in as more than spectators – their presence in the room is always that of another character in the play, and most especially in the case of these one-man shows.

“(The show) is not for the faint of heart, though keep in mind that it’s just a guy talking,” he said. “We never witness this horrific event per say, except through the descriptions of the different characters who talk about it.”

Shannon said the audience should be ready for an intense evening and some dark humour.

Monster is being presented by Nasty Shadows Theatre Company at Memorial Hall on the University of New Brunswick campus.

There are two pre-Congress shows, May 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., and three during Congress, with a 4 p.m. matinée on May 28 and shows at 8 p.m. on May 29 and 31. Tickets are available at the door.


Kybe – Becky Forbes
Chael – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Atthe – Matthew Spinney

Director – Scott Shannon
Technical Director – Taylor Sinstadt
Poster Design by Alberto White & Anthony Ventresca

On the table
Published Saturday April 9th, 2011
by Mike Landry

Becky Forbes’ costume for her character Kybe comes complete with bruised knees. Although the fun sneakers, summery top, knee-high socks and pigtails were her idea; the bruises were a result of rehearsals spent jumping, running, falling and playing like a little girl would.

This small touch of authenticity is just what Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. co-founder Scott Shannon wanted in his first original play, The Table Experiments.

“(I wanted to) create something that I would watch. I wanted that something to use theatre as its medium and be tied to that world intimately,” Shannon says.

“There are those pieces created solely for the theatre that just hit you with an experience that can’t be found elsewhere — that is where these plays live, in a real time interaction with the audience in a space where the audience can experience the honesty of what the actors are trying to bring to each moment of that play.”

The Table Experiments is just the second original production staged by Nasty Shadows, and the first in a decade. Shannon wanted to write and direct a play for a while, but was always short for time.

“I’m 35-ish now. This is the age that if I was going to stage something of my own I wanted to make it happen. So I swallowed my fear and anxiety. It’s one thing to get up and say someone else’s words, but to let them be your own is another thing.”

The Table Experiments was inspired by Shannon’s ideas about the split between one’s consciousness and reality, as well as more practically by Nasty Shadows’ main rehearsal space – usually a classroom in UNB Fredericton’s education building. Performed in the round, everything takes place around a table surrounded by an imagined maze and an alternative Neverland reality of three children.

Shannon relied on his cast – including Forbes and veteran Nasty Shadows’ actors Michael Holmes-Lauder and Matthew Spinney – to create the kids’ narrative. Shannon says they were perfect puppets.

“The core of the play is all about the dynamics between the characters in this abstract world. We don’t know what that world is. The characters in the play are kind of at a loss for what the world is in the same way the audience is.” Spinney says.

Although he has a teenage daughter, Shannon took his inspiration from his own childhood. He’s a big kid who loves to play, and in The Table Experiments he’s inviting the audience along.

“The play is set up as a bit of a mystery. At first, the audience won’t quite know what exactly is going on. … I like the vibrancy it creates in the room. There’s never a lag, although the play is structured to start slow and build and build.”

Mike Landry is arts and culture editor at the Telegraph-Journal. He can be reached at


Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. presents ‘The Table Experiments’ at BMO Rehearsal Hall, SJTC Building, 112 Princess St., Saint John, from Friday to Saturday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $15, $10/students, at 652-7582 x236. They bring the play to Fredericton at Charlotte St. Arts Centre, 732 Charlotte St., April 18-20 at 8 p.m. Tickets, $12, $8/students, at the door.

Pull up a chair: It’s The Table Experiments
Published Thursday April 14th, 2011
by Julia Wright

The Table Experiments are just what the name says: experimental. And table-oriented.

“The nugget of the idea of the play comes from our rehearsal space. We were given a classroom. All we have to work with was a table and chairs,” explains playwright and Nasty Shadows Theatre Company co-founder Scott Shannon.

Nasty Shadows was founded over a decade ago by Shannon and UNBSJ Prof Robert Moore. Shannon, now the principal director of the company, graduated from UNBF with a double major in English and philosophy.

The plot of The Table Experiments is intentionally elusive. “It doesn’t follow a linear narrative, and the world of the play is not the real world,” explains Shannon. The three characters, played by Michael Holmes-Lauder, Becky Forbes and Matthew Spinney, fly, spin, and play though a maze of alternate realities. Lighting and musical cues demarcate the temporal and physical shifts.

Shannon and the cast have continuously collaborated to revise the script throughout the months of rehearsal. The result? A play specifically tailored to its actors.

Says Shannon, “Being responsible for this text proved a very daunting task, and an uneasy feeling at times, but I think (it captures) what I’m always after: a feeling of mystery, something intriguing that we share during our time there.”

“I also know that my tastes are not those of the majority, and that’s okay. I want folks to know that we are worth the gamble of coming and checking us out.”


April 15 at 7:30pm April 16 at 7:30pm. BMO Rehearsal Hall, SJTC Building. 112 Princess St., Saint John. $15 adults, $10 students. Tickets are available at the door, for pre-purchase at 112 Princess St. or by calling 652-7582, ext. 236.
April 18, 19, 20 at 8:00pm Charlotte Street Arts Centre auditorium 732 Charlotte St., Fredericton. $12 adults, $8 students. Tickets are available at the door.


PLAY by Samuel Beckett
W1 – Becky Forbes
W2 – Rebekah Chassé
M – Scott Shannon

THE DUMB WAITER by Harold Pinter
Gus – Matthew Spinney
Ben – Andrew Jones

CREW for both productions
Director Scott Shannon
Technical Director / Light Tech – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Light Director – Matthew Spinney
Tech crew – SJHS Tech Crew (Saint John)
Dumb waiter operator – Annick Noel (Fredericton)
Dumb waiter operator – SJHS Tech Crew (Saint John)
Poster and Logo design – Alberto White

Company offers theatre with a slightly different flavour
The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
Mon Oct 11 2010
Page: D4
Section: Features

Two plays by two Nobel Prize winners equals a great evening of entertainment.

Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. is staging an evening of two plays by two Nobel Prize winning writers: Play by Samuel Beckett and The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter.

They chose these plays for their fall show partly due to practicality, said Scott Shannon, director/actor with Nasty Shadows Theatre Co.

“A few of us were away with another company at the Vancouver Fringe Festival in September, so we were looking for some smaller pieces we could tackle,” he said.

Nasty Shadows had performed The Dumb Waiter in the fall of 2008 to some small crowds and felt it warranted staging again.

“It’s a great play. Pinter isn’t done around here a lot, so it’s a good opportunity. And Beckett is always an interesting thing to put on stage because he’s fairly whacky,” said Shannon. “It’s always a shock to crowds, especially when they don’t know what to expect from Beckett, which is often the case. It’s hard to know what to expect from him.”

More important than practicality, however, said Shannon, they always aim to choose plays the audience will not have the opportunity to see elsewhere in the city, or province for that matter.

“The work of both Pinter and Beckett is not for the faint of heart really, but I would think anyone who enjoys live performance would certainly be engaged by what we are doing, if not stunned by some of it,” he said.

As the plays are running close to Halloween, noted Shannon, to freak people out a little bit seems like a good idea.

His preference as an audience member, for theatre, music or books, is for something that requires involvement from him to complete the puzzle, to make sense of or to understand.

“Something that requires I do a bit of work to be engaged,” said Shannon. “So, if you like to have to engage in the art you like, then our shows are for you.”

Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. has been around for 10 years, since the summer of 1999.

“We like to focus on intimate theatrical creations that focus on stripped down productions,” said Shannon.

Laughing, he added, “The Dumb Waiter will have the largest set we’ve ever had, because there will be an actual back wall on the stage with two beds in front of it and doors as well. That’s a huge set for us.”

Anyone interested in a different type of entertainment would enjoy these plays, said Shannon.

“They may be a little off from the mainstream, to give people a slightly different flavour of theatre than they might find elsewhere,” he said. “In the coming year, we’re going to focus on some original work by myself and maybe some others here in town as well.”

Play and The Dumb Waiter are being staged Oct. 21-23 at Memorial Hall, on the University of New Brunswick campus. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students.

For more information about the plays or Nasty Shadows Theatre Co., visit (»)

© 2010 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)


Henry – Scott Shannon

Director – Matthew Spinney

Older Female Actor – Julie MacDonald
Female Actor – Jen McVicar
Male Actor – Matthew Spinney
Composer (Voice) – Robert Moore

Director – Scott Shannon

Technical Director – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Light Tech – Dave MacDonald (Fredericton)
Light Tech – SJHS Tech Crew (Saint John)
Poster and Logo design – Alberto White

It’s a double bill
by Lori Gallagher
Published Tuesday April 6th, 2010 in the Daily Gleaner – Live It section

If you like theatre, you’re in for a treat – Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. is presenting a double bill of Daniel MacIvor plays.

From April 15-17, Here Lies Henry and This Is A Play will take to the stage of Memorial Hall on the University of New Brunswick campus.

... double bill

It's a ...

“They are both one-act plays and we sort of made a call earlier this year to stage a bunch of work by Daniel MacIvor,” says Scott Shannon, one of the founders of Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. “Before Christmas we did a show called Marion Bridge, which was a two-act play. This time we went with two shorter pieces to do in one evening.”

MacIvor is an award-winning Canadian playwright/actor/director. Born in Cape Breton, he has been creating new theatre since 1986. For 20 years MacIvor was the artistic director of his own company, da da kamera. He continues to create new theatre, and also works in film.

As a playwright, he has quite a body of work, says Shannon, which includes a range of shorter plays to lengthy ones.

“We did This Is A Play in the past, about three years ago, and thought it would be fun to revisit it. We’ve got a slightly altered cast and a different take on the show this time. It’s very fun.”

... double bill

This Is A Play is the shorter of the two productions and will be presented following Here Lies Henry.

“He is a bit showman sort of guy, but he’s a little nervous and he’s in this room to tell the people there something that they don’t already know,” says Shannon of Here Lies Henry. “Through the course of doing this, he makes his way through his life, the nature of life and whether he’s telling them something true or he’s lying to them, that’s sort of a theme that’s played out over the course of the whole show.”

It leaves it open at the end about whether he has been honest with the audience or whether he’s been lying.

“We hope it leans a little more towards the truth, even though perhaps he does tell a lie or two,” says Shannon.

The decision was made to open with Here Lies Henry, as it is a little more poignant in some sense, he says.

“It plays with the idea of people being in a theatre but in a more serious way than This Is A Play.”

Both works are about people watching in the audience and what they’re privy to while doing that, but This Is A Play does it in a more comical way, he says, describing it as more over the top.

“We thought that would be a nice sort of note for people to leave on and it wouldn’t undermine Henry,” says Shannon. “If it came first, when people watch Henry they might think what’s happening is more jokey than it is. Putting Henry on first, we think it will read a different way.”

Following it with This Is A Play will allow audience members to release some of the tension created beforehand, he says.

Shannon describes himself as the de facto artistic director with Nasty Shadows Theatre Co.

“We don’t have a very formal organization. It was started a little over 10 years ago in the summer of ’99 when a former professor of mine and myself found ourselves both living here in Fredericton,” he says.

The pair started the company because it was something they wanted to do.

His former professor and mentor, Robert Moore, has since stepped away and Shannon has taken on the role of deciding what plays the company puts on and who plays what.

“I guess I sort of make all the calls in that regard, but we have sort of a rotating cast of regulars that work on the different shows,” he says.

Shannon says that Daniel MacIvor’s work is the kind of theatre he likes, as it breaks the fourth wall and brings the audience into the work in some sense.

“I was watching an interview with him recently where he says in some sense he’s stolen his whole shtick from the old play by Thornton Wilder, Our Town.”

There is a character in Our Town called The Stage Manager and for the whole show he talks to the audience while he tells the actors to act out the story of this tiny little town in New England. “It’s a pinnacle piece in North American drama in the last hundred years or so.

“That had a big influence on MacIvor and, to be honest, that had a big influence on me in high school too, years before I even knew MacIvor,” he says.

So when he stumbled on MacIvor’s work, says Shannon, it really resonated with him.

It’s work, he says, that really needs to be experienced in a theatre.

“It has to be a play that’s happening live, with the audience there, with the people on the stage,” he says.

“That’s generally the case, but there is something that’s unique to his angle of things, that makes it vital to the character’s life, that it’s happening in real time, live with the audience.”

He hopes those that come out to the show see a magic that they might not see in other productions.

“That magic is coming from something very human and honest and minimal,” says Shannon.

“We don’t do big flashy productions, in part because we don’t have the budget to do that. In some sense, over the last 10 years, we’ve kind of embraced that as our objective – to focus on the actors on the stage and their relationship with the audience.”

Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. is presenting Here Lies Henry and This Is A Play at Memorial Hall, on the UNB campus, April 15-17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door and cost $12 for adults and $8 for students.

For more information, visit


Agnes – Julie MacDonald
Theresa – Elizabeth Goodyear
Louise – Rebekah Chassé

Director – Scott Shannon
Technical Director – Nicholas Cole
Stage Manager/Sound Tech –Emily Brennan
Lighting Design – Mike Johnston & ENGL3170 Production Class
Light Tech – Michael Holmes-Lauder (Fredericton)
Light Tech – SJHS Tech Crew (Saint John)
Poster and Logo design – Alberto White

Nasty Shadows’ softer side: Fredericton theatre company stages Daniel MacIvor’s ‘Marion Bridge’
by Kate Wallace
Marion Bridge
Published Thursday November 12th, 2009 in the Telegraph Journal

In the 10 years since its founding, Fredericton’s Nasty Shadows has carved out a reputation as a destination for edgy, avant-garde theatre.

Nasty Shadows' softer side

‘Marion Bridge’ follows three sisters who reunite in their Cape Breton hometown as their mother lays dying.

The company shows a softer side with its production of Marion Bridge, which opens tonight in Fredericton for a three-night run before coming to Saint John Nov. 27 and 28.

“We did a show in the spring that was sort of rough and edgy and violent, a little harsh, so I wanted to do something at the other end of the spectrum, and I had three actors that were perfect for the three sisters in this play, so it just seemed like a natural fit,” Scott Shannon, a Nasty Shadows founder who is directing the play, says.

The Daniel MacIvor work is set in the playwright’s native Cape Breton, where three sisters have reunited over their mother’s impending death. Agnes, the oldest, is a fading actress in Toronto, Theresa, the middle child, is a doubt-ridden nun, and Louise, the baby, spends most her time in front of the TV.

While the title refers to an actual Cape Breton town, it is metaphoric, too.

“You find out in the course of the play, it’s not even so much the bridge that is all that important as it is that when you’re standing next to the bridge you can look out and see the wide open sky,” Shannon says. “It’s almost like limitless possibilities, and they all go there and share in that.”

This is the fourth MacIvor show Shannon has worked on. He calls the award-winning playwright, who last year took the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize, Canada’s largest annual theatre award, the best in Canada, if not the best he’s read, period.

“There is something immediate and personal about his writing. The characters just welcome you in as the audience, to try to know them.

“More than just watching them tell you a story, you’re part of that telling.”

Instead of big, philosophical ideas, MacIvor is concerned with the psychology of his characters, the way even the smallest action can reflect their emotional states

“He has a great line about how important it is the way a woman might smooth her skirt and what that says in the context of the scene she might be in.”

Marion Bridge is beautiful, he says, tinged with sadness, but also uplifting, especially in the final scene.

“When they hit those last moments, because of the way it’s written and they can’t help but do it well, it hits me every time … what we’re trying to show is how beautiful this relationship between these three sisters is.”

Keeping with Nasty Shadow’s preference for minimal sets, the scenery is simple, a couple of transparent wall-like pieces that create the suggestion of a kitchen, along with a table and three chairs.

Lighting has been designed by the advanced theatre production class at the University of New Brunswick, “which ends up being great for us, to get some of that tech work done for us,” Shannon says.

In exchange for giving the students a real production to work on, Nasty Shadows gets the use of rehearsal space on campus.

Next year, Shannon will focus on finishing the script that will become the company’s first original production. He hopes to workshop the play in 2010, and present it next fall.

He’s tight-lipped about the work, except to say it’s set in the future, in a society where people no longer gather together in public places.

He did say that, like MacIvor, he is concerned with bridging the gap between where the stage lights end and the darkness of the theatre begins, creating a communion between performer and audience.

“It’s very much about the relationship between people on stage telling that story,” he says, “and how it relates to the people in the room.”

Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. presents ‘Marion Bridge’ in Fredericton at Memorial Hall on the University of New Brunswick Campus, tonight to Saturday at 8 p.m., and at the Saint John High School Mini-Theatre, Nov. 27-28 at 8 p.m. Tickets, $12/adult, $8/student, will be available at the door.

ORESTES 2.1 BY CHARLES L. MEE (modified by Nasty Shadows)

William – Matthew Spinney
Nod – Brad Young
Orestes – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Forensics Expert -> Tapemouth Man – John Ball
Nurse #1 – Rebekah Chassé
Nurse #3 – Emily Carter
Electra – Meghan Loch
Helen (and Hermione) – Elizabeth Goodyear
Farley (voice over) – Scott Shannon
P.A. Voices – Nicholas Cole & Scott Shannon
Menelaus – Ian Murphy
Tyndareus – Andrew Jones
Pylades – Jordan Dashner

Directed by Scott Shannon
Technical Direction by Nicholas Cole
Light/Sound Tech by Randall Andrews
Poster and Logo design by Alberto White

Charlotte Street audience better keep their heads up for edgy play. by Matt Carter
Orestes 2.1
Published Thursday May 7th, 2009 in [here] magazine

HERE cover photo

Stories of pain and suffering have intrigued and fascinated the human mind for centuries.

This morbid idea of seeking entertainment from the anguish of others has all but dominated the stage and screen for as long as anyone can remember.

The origin of these timeless tales of misfortune date back to the theatres of Athens, nearly 2,500 years ago.

As the blueprint for many of today’s blockbuster hits, it’s no wonder they continue to return to the stage year after year.

Next weekend, Frederictonians will be given the opportunity to experience one such tale as the Nasty Shadows Theatre Company presents Orestes 2.1, a slight modification of an adaptation by Charles L. Mee.

As the name suggests, this production takes the original theme through a few additional modifications.

Mee, a professor at New York’s Columbia University School of Arts, is known for his adaptations of classic works.

“I like plays that are not too neat, too finished, too presentable,” says Mee. “My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns.

“That feels good to me. It feels like my life. It feels like the world. And then I like to put this “” with some sense of struggle remaining “” into a classical form, a Greek form, or a beautiful dance theatre piece, or some other effort at civilization.”

According to director Scott Shannon the original play deals with Orestes, his aristocratic family, and what’s happening to them as people return to Greece from the Trojan War.

“Mee has done this a lot with a number of ancient Greek texts,” says Shannon, “taking a story and giving it a modern twist while still keeping true to the story that was originally being told.”

After leafing through a book of Mee’s work and toiling with the idea for some years, Shannon decided it was time to present one of his adaptations with a few of their own twists and turns.

“I had a hankering to do something with a slightly larger cast,” says Shannon. “We usually do shows with one to maybe five characters. We have 11 actors in the show this time.”

By altering an already modified version of the original, Nasty Shadows will be presenting a fresh take on a very old story when the show opens on May 14 at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.

“We took Mee’s play and turned it on it’s head a little more, rewriting it a bit and giving it a new ending.”

A lot of attention has been given to audience involvement. As Shannon points out, the approach Nasty Shadows is taking involves two major levels of audience interaction.

“For instance, one of our last plays we staged was a play called House,” recalls Shannon, “and we found the audience absolutely integral to the life of Victor, the only character in the play. In Orestes 2.1 the audience is there to hear this story and in some sense pass their own judgment. In one scene a certain portion of the audience actually stands in as a jury/courtroom attendees.”

On the other side of thing, Shannon expects the play to be a challenge for the audience, full of unexpected turns and unique character development.

“A connection with the audience is always what I’m looking for as an actor and a director,” he says, “but I want to alter expectations in some regards and surprise folks with what might happen.

“Orestes 2.1 is moderately shocking just with some of the content the characters speak of, but the way the play is constructed is very jagged and scattered at times, while overall it becomes this coherent tale.

“I think it may stun some people with the way certain characters behave at times. The characters in this story are absolutely extreme in their moods, behaviours, and emotions. I think at times the audience will be thoroughly engaged and entertained while at other times they will wonder why a character is all of a sudden behaving a certain way as the play takes its twists and turns.”

Nasty Shadows has been producing plays for audiences in Fredericton and Saint John for close to 10 years now with the goal of providing stripped down, thought-provoking, minimalistic productions.

“We’ve been doing at least one production a year,” says Shannon, “but in recent years we’ve been trying to do more, something in the fall and something in the spring.”

According to Shannon, the local theatre scene is a small but dedicated one that continues to support these types of scaled-down productions.

Touching on the tragic theme of war and its affect on more than just the soldiers on the battlefield, the story of Orestes has a great deal of social relevance in today’s culture.

“A lot of what we know, we learned from the Greeks so a lot of what they said then still holds true today,” says Shannon.

Michael Holmes-Lauder will be playing the lead character in the story. A graduate of the University of New Brunswick with a minor in theatre, he’s been involved with Nasty Shadows for a number of years both as an actor and a technician.

“I like the script,” he says. “It’s very different and because it’s a tragic story, it’s really close to what I studied in school.”

He’s excited about the roll and the challenge the story will present to those in the audience due in part to the lead character’s personality.

“I think as far as audience perception goes, the play is a really different play,” he says, “I think some people are going to walk away thinking ‘what the devil did I just sit through’. As a character, Orestes is more or less schizophrenic. One moment he is screaming his anguish over the fact that he has killed his mother a few days earlier and in the next moment he is justifying his actions.”

It’s the idea of justifying one’s actions that Holmes-Lauder feels is the strongest theme in the play and the most relevant to the world today.

“I think for the most part, what Mee does with the myth and the tragedy he’s based this play (on) is to look at how people justify themselves and their actions, however well-intended they may have been at the time.”

Orestes 2.1 runs May 14″”16 at 8 p.m. at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. Tickets are available at the door: $12 for adults and $8 for students. It should be noted that the play contains mature themes and R-rated content and is not suitable for children.


Victor – Scott Shannon

Director – Robert Moore

Gus – Matthew Spinney
Ben – Andrew Jones

Director – Scott Shannon

Technical Director (House) & Light/Sound tech – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Technical Director (The Dumb Waiter) – Nicholas Cole
Stage Manager – Jena McLaughlin
Stagehand (“dumb waiter”) – Annick Noel
Stagehand (“dumb waiter”) – Matt Ralph
Poster design – Judith Mackin

Theatre group focuses on small scale productions
by Zac Kurylyk
Published Thursday, November 27 in HERE magazine – Saint John Ed.

Bigger isn’t always better. At least, that’s the theory behing the Nasty Shadows Theatre Company.

These days, New Brunswickers have the opporunity to take in some major productions, such as the musical Chicago, or last year’s presesntation of Dracula. But some theatre lovers are focusing on presentations on a much smaller scale. The Nasty Shadows Theatre Company is bringing out two minimalist plays later this month.

The first play, House, plays in Saint John at UNBSJ’s Hazen Lecture Hall Nov 28 and 29, 8 p.m., and in Fredericton on Dec. 3-5. From Cape Breton-born Daniel MacIvor, it’s a one-act, one-man play about a character whose life is unraveling. The second play, The Dumb Waiter, is only in Fredericton Dec. 3-5. From Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, it shows two gangsters and their interaction under pressure. It, too, is a one-act play.


This stripped-down appraoch is nothing new to the company. It was formed around this mentality, says actor and director Scott Shannon.

“We’ve always focused on actor-driven performances, and the rehearsal process that gets us to the performance itself,” Shannon says. “This harkens back to the thoughts of people like Jerzy Grotowski or Peter Brook who believed theatre could be created anywhere, and at base all that’s needed for theatre to take place is an actor on a playing space and somebody watching that actor.

“This philosophy of theatricality has very much shaped my interests in drama. We focus on small casts with minimal technical aspects.” This doesn’t mean his group thinks that theatrical productions must always be on a small scale, though.

“I don’t place such value judgements on theatre and/or art,” he says. “It’s not so much that ‘smaller is better,’ but that the more intimate the performance is with an audience, the more the performance caters to the aspects of drama that interest me. I’m not interested in trying to fool an audience into thinking they’re watching reality or a movie.” Shannon says that approach in theatre allows the actors to create anything they want, so long as they can engage the audience to follow along.

“I find that a more stripped down creation enables that ‘in the moment’ relationship with the audience more so than a largely produced show might — again, the immediacy and relationship between the audience and the performers is what we focus on.” The company’s membership fluctuates year to year — Shannon is the only constant member, with a lot of involvement from the group’s co-founder, Shannon’s former drama professor, Robert Moore. The group doesn’t recruit volunteers too heavily from the community, instead opting to handpick talent to fit with its ranks. They then choose the plays based on the actors available.

“We don’t require a large group of people to make our shows happen, but it does stretch some of us pretty thin at times, especially when we’re close to an actual run as we’re all involved in most aspects from props, to costuming, acting and advertising,” says Shannon.

Because of the group’s small-scale approach, its productions have stayed low-key. Most of the company’s support comes from within, Shannon says, and though Theatre UNB in Fredericton and UNBSJ’s Lorenzo Society have been of assistance, the group’s limited resources do end up restricting them somewhat.

“Our weakest production component would be advertising,” says Shannon.

The company mainly uses word-of-mouth, public service announcements, or e-mail newsletters to inform the public about their work, which keeps them below the radar.

“I suspect we’re not well known, but we have a relatively loyal audience from the university and arts communities in both Fredericton and Saint John,” Shannon says.

After their upcoming productions, Shannon’s hoping his group can work on a production in the spring, although the specifics are up in the air. He’s hoping they can run an original script from within the group, something they haven’t done since 2000.

directed by Robert Moore

Vladimir – Christopher Stacey
Estragon – Scott Shannon
Pozzo – Thomas Goud
Lucky – Andrew Jones
Boy – Nick Mitchell

Waiting For Godot
by Samuel Beckett

Lorenzo Society, Nasty Shadows Theatre Co., Charlotte Street Arts Centre
November 2005

In reviewing last year’s production by this same group of Beckett’s Endgame I said that it, and Godot, are “deceptively simple, and look on the page as though there wouldn’t be much to putting them on.” What I didn’t say — and what the recent Nasty Shadows production of Godot made clear on its visit to Fredericton — was that they’re not only harder than they seem to put on, they’re harder than they seem to watch. Waiting for Godot, especially, is a script which invites the audience to become uncomfortable and impatient, which reminds us over and over that, as the first line of the play says, there’s “nothing to be done,” which invites us to respond to Vladimir’s remark about the first appalling scene with Pozzo and Lucky — “That passed the time” — as Estragon does: “It would have passed in any case.”

Beckett, it’s clear, wanted us not just to watch his characters’ desperate and failing struggle to make their lives mean something, to have some aim or transcendent goal: he wanted us to know how that feels. When we laugh, as we do in watching almost any production of this extraordinarily funny play, we need at the same time to feel that the laughter is just barely holding off despair, that what we can do in this hard world, reduced to our essence, is laugh and love in spite of everything. To feel that, not just to understand it, is, I think what Beckett wanted for us, and it’s no damn fun. Or, putting it another way, it is fun, but it’s fun of an edgy, painful kind, a kind that Beckett specialized, almost without equal, in offering us. Early film comedians like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin gestured in this direction, and it’s clear that the hopeless tramps of Godot are in important ways indebted to them, but Beckett, and especially Godot, is the locus classicus of the black, despairing laugh. When we laugh, we are, like Didi when his kidneys function, “relieved and at the same time . . . appalled.”

I had high hopes for Robert Moore’s production; on the basis on his wonderful Endgame last year, it seemed to me he and his company were in a position to give us a Beckett delicately balanced on the knife edge between comedy and tragedy, one in which we could be, at the same time, relieved and appalled. On the whole, I was not disappointed.

The set (not much to it: Beckett says “a tree” and “a low mound”) was appropriately stark, and though the playing space in the newly opened Charlotte Street Centre has some of the same problems as Memorial Hall (raised stage, unraked house) and some new ones (no wings, no real backstage), the production seemed perfectly suited to the venue. Perfectly straightforward, it gave us a Beckett pretty much on Beckett’s own terms, leaving the impact essentially to the company, who were as clearly disciplined and focused as you could hope.

The most impressive performance was a surprise to me: Thomas Goud’s Pozzo was an unforgettable figure — making Estragon’s difficulty in remembering him (“he gave me a bone. . . . And all that was yesterday, you say?”) even more powerful. The overwhelming, smug air of self-satisfaction and self-absorption, the complete contempt for everything around him, that Pozzo emanates, was as strong and repellent (and yet at the same time attractive) as in any production of this play I’ve ever seen. The sudden contrast created by the eruption of Pozzo and Lucky into the empty, eventless, pointless world of Vladimir and Estragon is a central element of Beckett’s play, and the crack of Pozzo’s whip was as surprising and incomprehensible as it needed to be. Like Vladimir and Estragon, we’re helpless spectators at this display of ignorant cruelty, and because of that we find ourselves forced into their embrace, sympathizing with them as they struggle to say that there’s something inexpressibly wrong with Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky. Goud’s stage presence, his supercilious sneer, his commanding voice, all combined to make the Pozzo of the first act not only just the explosion the play needs, but also an astonishing contrast to the broken, pathetic Pozzo who reappears in Act II.

Similarly, local veteran actor Andrew Jones’ Lucky was a remarkable performance. His despairing grunt every time he followed another barked order from Pozzo, his despairing slump as he clutched his load of baggage, and — especially — the powerful madness of the long speech in which, at Pozzo’s command, Lucky attempts to “Think, Pig!” made him, I think, everything Beckett had in mind.

Estragon and Vladimir (Scott Shannon and Chris Stacey), too, were pretty much what I think Beckett had in mind. Without the Laurel and Hardy bowler hats many productions give them, they looked a little more like authentic street people, and a little less clownlike, and if they missed hitting a few of the lines I’ve come to wait for, they still gave us all we could stand of desperation in the face of ultimate boredom, and of love in the face of emptiness. Every time they discuss how they should really part, how there’s no point in their staying together, and how in spite of that they do stay together, we’re reminded that at the bottom of this well of loneliness there’s a dark, bitter pool of love. The darkness — and the love — is never better conveyed than in the little dialogue where they consider the logistic problem of hanging themselves from the pathetic tree. Considering whether the bough might break, Estragon (usually the more confused of the two) explains that they can’t make a test of the hypothesis: “Gogo light—bough not break—Gogo dead. Didi heavy—bough break—Didi alone. Whereas— ” And Vladimir says, immediately understanding, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Shannon’s stiff, pathetic Estragon, limping one-bootedly about, is as affecting as we might expect, given his wonderful performance last year as the similarly afflicted Clov; and Stacey strikes just the right note of aggrieved dignity as Vladimir. And even Nick Mitchell’s Boy was appropriately uncomprehending and unhelpful. In short, Robert Moore and his Nasty Shadows troupe offered us a long, hard look at one of the greatest, and one of the most difficult to watch, scripts of the twentieth century.


directed by Robert Moore

Hamm – Robert Moore
Clov – Scott Shannon
Nagg – Christopher Stacey
Nell – Alicia McLaughlin

by Samuel Beckett

Lorenzo Society, Nasty Shadows Theatre Co., Memorial Hall
April 2004

Samuel Beckett’s great plays — Waiting for Godot and Endgame are the ones I think of first — are deceptively simple, and look on the page as though there wouldn’t be much to putting them on. Few characters, rudimentary sets, pretty simple props, no big complicated scenes, no passionate declamation. They seem almost as if they’d play themselves. But of course that’s a suicidal error: they’re as challenging as anything in the repertoire, and every time I see a production I’m afraid it’ll be one where nobody noticed how hard they are, how much attention they take, how crucial timing and intonation and physical acting are.

That’s why I was so relieved when, about five minutes into the UNBSJ-based production of Endgame which did a one-night stand at Memorial Hall last week, I realized that this company had taken the play as seriously, and had spent as much imagination and energy on it, as in any Beckett production I’d ever seen. As the lights went down at the end to no curtain call, leaving us abandoned in the hall, applauding to the silent, empty stage, I realized that not only had I had this marvelous script brought to life for me, I’d been enabled to see it in a way I’d never thought about before.

Endgame is, of course, a play about the end of everything, the paring away of the world, leaving its characters, and us, with nothing but our sour souls and the knowledge that this is the whimper the world ends with. Hamm, the focus of the play, is confined to his chair, unable to stand, unable to see, and completely dependent on Clov, over whom he is totally dominant, ordering him back and forth with an empty imperiousness that only someone dealing with a decrepit and dying parent could ever understand. Clov understands: barely able to walk, and completely unable to defy or leave his father, he follows orders, endlessly and without hope. This excoriatingly cruel and excruciatingly funny relationship is punctuated, occasionally, by Nagg and Nell, Hamm’s even more aged and decrepit parents, ensconced in rubbish bins, whose tops occasionally rise so that they can show us how things might be even worse.

Robert Moore, who directed and who also plays Hamm, has taken the bare bones of Beckett’s script and, rather than putting flesh on them, has polished them to a high sheen. His characterization of Hamm is restrained and at the same time passionate. His black spectacles — rather like welder’s goggles — make him a sort of malignant insect, waving his hands about eloquently in their open-fingered gloves. Mostly, what we get of Hamm is his wonderfully modulated voice, from a barely-audible clenched-teeth whisper to a violent, sudden shout of rage. Moore makes Hamm into a completely magnetic figure: his self-regarding suffering (“Can there be misery . . . loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?”) somehow becomes like some awful accident you can’t help looking at, in his chair the still center of the world. Scott Shannon, on the other hand, makes Clov almost as riveting by moving about, with his halting, stiff-legged, painful walk, and the equally stiff mental processes, as he moves back and forth across the stage, mechanically, forgetting, each time he fruitlessly looks “out” the too-high windows, that he needs the stepladder to do it, one is reminded of a particularly painful clown act: Emmett Kelly in some purgatory at the end of all things.

For this production the rubbish bins containing Nagg and Nell were set down just in front of the stage, where in order to raise or lower the lids Clov has to bend painfully and precariously forward, making this perhaps the only time I’ve ever seen the height of the stage in Memorial Hall as an advantage. Chris Stacey’s Nagg is powerful in exactly the way I think Beckett would have wanted: stark white, with a white headscarf, chewing absently, and delivering what must be the most famous joke in Beckett with genuine power — the story of the tailor, which ends, as everyone remembers:

“God damn you to hell, Sir, no, it’s indecent, there are limits! In six days, do you hear me, six days, God made the world. Yes Sir, no less Sir, the WORLD! And you are not bloody well capable of making me a pair of trousers in three months!”
(Tailor’s voice, scandalized.)
“But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look— (disdainful gesture, disgustedly) —at the world— (Pause.) and look— (loving gesture, proudly) —at my TROUSERS!”

Alicia McLaughlin’s Nell, similarly, strikes the Beckett chord: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. . . . Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”

But, of course, we do, out there in the audience that Clov surveys with his telescope, muttering “I see . . . a multitude . . . in transports . . . of joy,” then looks at the instrument: “That’s what I call a magnifier.”

What struck me most strongly about this performance of the script was that it is not only a play set in some unimaginable future when the world itself is expiring (out the windows there’s nothing but grey; “zero,” reports Clov (except, of course, for the ambiguous report near the end that there may be a small boy out there, “a potential procreator” to maintain the hopeless procession of suffering and continuing). At the same time Endgame is a play about the end of one person: about the unavoidable self-created loneliness of the old and dying, the way someone’s world contracts inexorably until there’s nothing left but one person’s suffering, and the others in the world around are seen only as extensions of one’s own existence. Clov’s utter subjection, his inability even to leave, are instantly recognizable to anyone tied to a dying parent. “There’s one thing I’ll never understand,” he says, “Why I always obey you. Can you explain that to me?” Hamm’s implausible explanation — “No . . . Perhaps it’s compassion. . . . A kind of great compassion,” gets the ironic laugh, of course, and yet at the same time the shock of recognition.

As always in Beckett, in the teeth of this clear-sighted, cold acceptance of the falsity of hope and optimism and love, hope and optimism and, yes, love somehow survive in the silences and the jokes. The Lorenzo Society and the Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. should be thanked for giving us all the opportunity to live through Endgame, to experience what Richard Ellman is quoted as describing in the program notes: “. . . his musical cadences, his wrought and precise sentences [which] cannot help but stave off the void.”



Although it was not a true Nasty Shadows production, the play was remounted by some
Nasty Shadows through NBActs as a festival Fall offering in 2004

Staged in September 2004 @ Black Box, STU, Fredericton, NB

Prospero – Scott Shannon
Caliban – Len Falkenstein
Miranda #1 – Marissa Allison
Miranda #2 – Andrew Jones
Miranda #3 – Chelsea Seale
Ariel – Seann Murray
Ferdinand – Nicholas Cole

Director – Scott Shannon
Technical support provided by NBActs

– SEPTEMBER 2004 –


Robert Moore

by Robert Moore

Notable Acts (w/Nasty Shadows)
September 29 – October 2, 2004

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the good old Top Poet, Wm. Shaksper, get tripped up at the heels, held upside down and slapped awake. Perhaps as long ago as seeing one of those Charles Marowitz travesties from the eighties — say, his upending of The Taming of the Shrew — or Tom Stoppard at his scandalous best, as in Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth.

But Robert Moore‘s Rougher Magic does a pretty fair job of reminding us that just because it’s Shakespeare, it’s not necessarily in tune with all our most deeply cherished modern values. As Adam Gopnik pointed out a few weeks ago in the New Yorker, there really is no way short of text tampering to make The Taming of the Shrew into a feminist play, or The Merchant of Venice into a pro-Semitic one. Shakespeare was, after all, an Elizabethan. And, as Moore makes clear, no matter how hard you shake The Tempest, without some fundamental change it’s never going to be the sort of thing a member of an uprooted, displaced indigenous people is going to be comfortable with.

At the end of a couple of hours’ worth of startling, athletic, imaginative and colorful messing about with Shakespeare’s last play (as well as a fair number of other plays by the master, and an eclectic selection of different dramatic conventions), it’s not really a surprise that it’s Caliban, not Prospero, who gets the big speech about cloud-capped towers and insubstantial pageants leaving not a wrack behind. Whatever the play has failed to make clear — and there’s quite a lot, amid all the ebullience, speed-talk, mime, parody and acrobatics — it’s brought us to see that when Prospero “colonized” the enchanted island and educated and/or enslaved Caliban, he wreaked havoc that can’t be unwreaked. One of the most powerful moments in the play occurs when Caliban (played wonderfully by a shaven-headed and artistically war-painted Len Falkenstein) explains to Prospero that just leaving when his business is done, which is of course what happens in Shakespeare’s version, isn’t in the cards. Nor is Prospero’s asking for forgiveness going to cut much mustard. No, Caliban says (and one can hear the voice of indigenous peoples all over the world), this is not my home any more. You can’t just walk away. You’ve not only changed the land, you’ve changed me so that I don’t belong here any more — your language, your words, have come between me and the mud and the trees, and even the stars. “You are the monster on this isle.” “I’ll keep you here to shit on everything you’ve ever tried to do.”

Much that leads to this conclusion is wonderful, and a good bit is pretty difficult to get your head around on a first viewing. Although Moore pares The Tempest down to its bare essentials — Caliban, Ariel, Prospero, Miranda, and Ferdinand — he doesn’t leave it bare. He adds in a whole lot of baroque and often tasty spice.

For instance, there’s an adventurous parody of the Caliban-Trinculo-Stephano monster scene, with Ariel and Ferdinand somehow become the two drunken mariners. There’s a spooky and oddly moving dumbshow, with masks, of the childbirth death of Miranda’s mother. Miranda and Ariel have a wonderful verbal tennis match, swapping lines and scraps of characterization from various Shakespeare plays back and forth at each other, standing right up to the net for volley after volley, testing the skill, speed and timing of veteran Marissa Robinson and relative newcomer Seann Murray (both achieve sparkle and clarity and force without breaking into a sweat). What it was all about I wasn’t so clear on (for instance, why does Miranda deliver the “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech from Macbeth in German?), but as a display of thespian pyrotechnics it was just fine. There’s all kinds of wordplay and stylistic crosscutting between Shakespeare’s language and the most current kind of casual conversational language, throughout the play. We don’t get “O brave new world, that has such creatures in it”; we get “we don’t get many strangers around here.”

And, for good measure, Miranda’s played by three actors. Andrew Jones in drag is an older, dourer Miranda, and Chelsea Seale is a younger, more innocent Miranda, with her Barbie and Ken dolls and her instant teenybopper infatuation with Ferdinand. Both were solid, clear and consistent. Marissa Robinson, as the aspect of Miranda in the most intense love/hate relationship with Caliban, was, as always, vivid, disciplined and magnetic. I especially liked the scene in which she tantalizingly educates Caliban in “polite conversation” like a dominatrix schoolmarm, and the compelling dream narrative with which she torments him, at Prospero’s instigation.

The role of Prospero is a challenge, no less than in the original, but for different reasons. This Prospero takes up the parts of Shakespeare’s character that are defeated and tired and ready to break his staff, drown his book, and retire to his garden. Scott Shannon, who also directed, creates a sympathetic, human figure, and if his exposition wasn’t always as clearly projected as I’d have liked, especially toward the beginning, he made us believe that he truly would like to undo what has happened to the Island. He is, we realize, after all, us (the enemy, as Pogo used to remind us, we have met).

Caliban and Ariel are among Shakespeare’s most challenging creations, and they’re the sort of roles actors jump at. Moore’s versions are similarly challenging, and Falkenstein and Murray create images, lines and scenes that will stay a long time in my store of memorable theatrical moments. For instance, Murray’s Ariel, acrobatically charging about the stage as though on the verge of flying, with his startling white face makeup and spiked hair, and leaping into the dark on an exit line: “Cue the animal act.” Instantly, out of the darkness behind me, the roar of the feral, suddenly spotlit Caliban, thundering down the aisle to tell us that this is his place, that he is part of the island’s mud and blood.

There are many such moments in the production. Nicholas Cole‘s Ferdinand, with his Shakespearean prancing and skipping; Andrew Jones‘s Miranda shamefacedly wiping off his lipstick when daddy sees what she’s doing; the three Mirandas from the tops of the aisles on three sides of the stage, contrapuntally wondering how long she’s been on the island.

Is it all relevant? Is everything necessary? Does it all add neatly up to the dead Prospero — Caliban’s pointless but inevitable destruction of the person who had been his God? I’m not certain: I’d be happy to read the script and see the production again, as I have faith there are connections I missed. It’s probably that faith, generated by the sheer force of the passion behind the script and the production, that made me much less concious of some issues that would usually bother me — for instance, what was the convention about the actors sitting around waiting? Were they in character or out? Was this a show put on by actors or a series of shows put on by characters? Was the theatre in the round setting really used very effectively? (Sometimes it seemed to me that the placement of actors presumed that there was one real direction of the play, and people on the other side were left out.) The lighting was wonderfully timed and dramatic, but it seemed to me to be used in different ways at different times. Sometimes there was music, sometimes there wasn’t (and though I very much liked the faint, delicate bird twitterings toward the end, they seemed to me a quite different sort of convention than we’d seen before).

But in the last analysis, all this didn’t seem to matter much. As an evening of theatre that sends you out changed from what you were going in, Moore’s Magic, rough as it is, is up there with the most powerful Shakespeare demolitions I’ve encountered.



Staged in February 2000 @ Memorial Hall, UNB, Fredericton, NB
Staged in February 2000 @ SJHS Little Theatre, Saint John, NB

Prospero – Christopher Stacey
Caliban – Scott Shannon
Miranda #1 – Crystal Lee (Fredericton run)
Miranda #1 – Debbie Gray (Saint John run)
Miranda #2 – Marissa Allison
Miranda #3 – Andrew Jones
Ariel – David Thorne
Ferdinand – Matty Warnock

Director – Robert Moore
Technical Director – Gerry Briggs


Rougher Magic weaves age-old intrigue:
Shakespearean classic The Tempest given new adaptation

Rougher Magic poster

Rougher Magic poster

The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
Friday, February 11, 2000
Byline: Richard Anderson
Length: 673 words

Nasty Shadows Theatre Company opened a three-day run of Rougher Magic at Memorial Hall, UNB, last night. It was an ambitious play with a clever script packed with literary references, some really meaty roles, and tightly-coordinated sound and lighting effects.

Director and playwright Robert Moore and his cast brought it off with panache. The title itself is a reference to Prospero’s speech in Act 5, near the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, where he renounces the “rough magic” given him by the spirit Ariel, that allowed him to rule the island upon which he, his daughter Miranda, and others were shipwrecked by a storm.

Certainly, the use of the title Rougher Magic implies deference to the genius of “The Bard.” But Moore’s script, a reworking of The Tempest, is intriguing. Shakespeare’s cast is pared down to Prospero, Miranda and the monster/slave Caliban, with Ariel and Ferdinand, Miranda’s suitor, in supplemental roles.

Instead of Prospero driving the action, with the assistance of Ariel and his magic, Moore gives us Caliban and Miranda as the chief protagonists, playing off each other and Prospero.

Miranda is played by three actors, adding lots of depth and perspective to the role. The playbill, incidentally, has the rather apt, unattributed quote, “a cubist Shakespeare,” which is literally true in the case of this three- dimensional character. And staging the play in the round on the main floor of Memorial Hall, with son et lumiere effects closely building and reinforcing the mood of the action, is very effective. Also, when not called on to deliver lines, actors mingled with the play-goers, and circulated around the floor, creating a definite sense of involvement in the audience.

Scott Shannon as 'Caliban' during rehearsals c.February 2000

Scott Shannon as ‘Caliban’ during rehearsals c.February 2000

Scott Shannon created a kind of “punk” Caliban by turns submissive and suffering; bitter and sarcastic; sullen and angry; malevolent and evil; and cajoling, lusty and frustrated. He was wonderfully supple in shifting from mood to mood, in a role responsible for much of the dramatic tension in the play.

Chris Stacey, as the island ruler and tyrant Prospero, propelled his character smoothly from initial world-weariness, through sarcastic and angry confrontations, mainly with his slave and his daughter, to a somewhat rueful acknowledgment of his baleful influence on them, as he prepares to leave the island.

The idea of having three Mirandas worked really well. Of the three, Miranda No. 2, Marissa Allison, had the most to do. Wearing a pink, frilly dress, she was the troubled teen, mostly focused on getting her freedom, sometimes deferring to “Daddy,” and sexually taunting the frustrated Caliban.

The interaction between these two conveyed particularly strong emotions, especially in the scene where Miranda narrates and acts out her dream of being followed by the slave. Allison even delivered a passage in passable German which however, this reviewer understood very imperfectly.

Miranda No. 1, Crystal Lee, acted a petulant young girl, still playing with dolls, yet attracted to Ferdinand, her suitor, largely from a desire for freedom from her somewhat overbearing father. She was good at portraying the high spirits and fears of a child.

Andrew Jones honoured the traditions of Shakespeare’s day, by playing a woman, donning a skirt, blouse and wig to portray Miranda No. 3. His Miranda was an older, more callous woman, contemptuous of Caliban’s approaches.

David Thorne played Prospero’s assistant, the spirit Ariel. But in Moore’s version, Ariel is definitely out of synch with his master. In fact it was hard to see what was driving this louche character, which was the least successful of the seven in the script. Thorne nevertheless, gave it a good try. He put lots of expression into the role, imparting a kind of uncaring nonchalance that certainly contrasted with Prospero’s serious and sometimes frightening intensity.

Matty Warnock played Miranda’s suitor Ferdinand, and was not only costumed as an Elizabethan (as was Thorne), but acted the part too, adopting a declamatory turn of speech that suited his rather foppish character.

Rougher Magic continues tonight and Saturday night, in Memorial Hall, UNB, at 8 p.m., and is well worth taking in.

© 2000 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)



Peter – Andrew Jones
Jerry – Scott Shannon

Director – Robert Moore

— AND —

Chet – David Thorne
Stu – Scott Shannon

Director – Robert Moore

The Zoo Story and Cowboys #2 a unique pair

The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
Friday, September 3, 1999
Byline: Richard Anderson-for The Daily Gleaner
Length: 718 words

Thursday night in Memorial Hall, UNB, Nasty Shadows Theatre Company, in co-operation with Theatre UNB opened its production of a modern classic, and a short theatre-of-the-absurd play.

Director Robert Moore and his cast of three are to be commended for their efforts, which succeeded in bringing out strong characterization in both plays.

In fact, one actor, Scott Shannon, even did double duty, appearing in major, but very different roles in the two plays.

The classic was Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, with Andrew Jones as Peter, and Scott Shannon as Jerry. Albee’s is a play about male aggression, for which the zoo is a metaphor. A psychological study set in New York City, it requires a minimal set: only a park bench, occupied by Peter, a typically tweedy and somewhat reticent academic. He is approached by Jerry, a man looking for a captive audience to which he can relate his story of a visit to the zoo.

Shannon, as the protagonist, gave a strong performance, early on portraying a nervy, jumpy street person with an attitude, then shading this into an alternately manic and friendly guy who gains the attention of his listener. He was good at making sudden shifts in mood, such as flashes of anger, and his staccato delivery conveyed the underlying desperation and neediness of his character’s psyche.

Jones also had his character well worked out. Beginning with a faint air of boredom, he warmed up to become an interested listener and sometime contributor to the conversation. But there was always an undercurrent of unease about him, even as he tried to do the politically correct liberal thing: humour this bum, and maybe he’ll go away and leave him in peace. His buildup to anger and violence was very gradual, and believable, changing abruptly to total devastation at the end.

The interaction between the two actors was fascinating to watch, as they oscillated between sharing personal details, and a gathering storm of aggression. And while we never really hear Jerry’s zoo story in any detail, it becomes all too apparent in the end what it was about, but I won’t spoil that for you.

Cowboys #2, by movie actor and playwright Sam Shepard was the first play presented. A short, 20-minute effort, it was theatre of the absurd. The minimalist plot had the two protagonists, Chet (David Thorne) and Stu (Scott Shannon) as cowboys decked out in black hats and shirts, jeans and boots, and complete with exaggerated western drawls and the bow-legged stride of men who have spent too many hours in the saddle. They were preparing to make a stand- off against what the sound effects conveyed as a large number of Indians attacking them on horse.

This hackneyed scenario would hardly be worth remarking, but Shepard turns it on its head, as in a kind of Roots in reverse, we see flash- forwards to Mel (Thorne) and Clem (Shannon), modern-day denizens who don’t appear to have their lives very well sorted out. The absurdity lies in the fact that they apparently bear no relation to the cowboy characters. Or do they?

It’s a difficult play to carry off, because as it progresses, the cuts from cowboy times to the present start occurring right in the middle of the action. For instance, when Stu is shot by the Indians, Chet drops his drawl and starts cursing them out in a most modern manner. Both Shannon and Thorne succeeded in carrying off these abrupt transitions.

They also conveyed well the elaborate courtesy of the cowboys, and their rather rudimentary conversation skills, as opposed to Thorne’s monologue as Mel, in which he prattles on about peacocks, and later breakfast foods, even as his friend/cowboy partner is apparently oblivious to all.

Thorne had the major role, and as the latter-day denizen, was positively frenetic. Shannon interacted well, playing the sidekick to Thorne’s energetic cowboy/friend.

Director Moore’s staging worked well. With only two actors, things could easily become static, but this never happened. The actions of the cowboys rolling in the mud after a rainstorm, and later cooling their legs in a stream were nice touches. Even if the sets were minimal, the sound for Cowboys #2 was very evocative.

Cowboys #2 and The Zoo Story continue tonight and Saturday night, at 8 p.m. in Memorial Hall, UNB.

© 1999 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)


directed by Robert Moore

She – Debbie Gray
He – Dave Hall


directed by Robert Moore

Edward – Scott Shannon
Flora – Allison Surtees
a Matchseller – Dave Hall

Nasty Shadows Theatre Company presents plays
The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
Saturday, June 26, 1999
Byline: Rachel Doak-for The Daily Gleaner
Length: 379 words

The play draws its comedy from its repetition and realism. The audience empathizes with the actors as they live through a summer afternoon in their garden. Their lack of communication and independent determination are very amusing. The Nasty Shadows Theatre Company’s production of two one-act plays drew a small but receptive crowd last night at Memorial Hall on the UNB campus.

The first play, The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year by John Guare, featured Debbie Gray and Dave Hall. The story, a strange comedy in which reality and fantasy are intertwined, takes place in a park.

Two strangers, a young girl and a peculiar man, become friends. They meet regularly on Sundays to exchange stories but know nothing of each other’s lives.

The audience is given the task of deciphering what is true, and what is simply the rambling of a unique gentleman.

The characters came across as rather ambiguous but the directing by Robert Moore carried them through. The bizarre sketch was entertaining and set the tone for the evening.

The second one-act play, A Slight Ache by Harold Pinter, was a mind-game of perspective and reality. The plot centres around a silent man (a seller of matchboxes) whose identity the other characters attempt to discover. The silent character’s presence (or non-presence) is lessened by the fact that this was a visual play. The original script was written for radio.

Nevertheless, the mystery of whether the match man exists or not was well portrayed. Scott Shannon gave a strong performance as Edward, the character who becomes more and more disturbed as the play progresses. Shannon drew the audience with his commanding presence and led them into his fragile reality.

The play draws its comedy from its repetition and realism. The audience empathizes with the actors as they live through a summer afternoon in their garden. Their lack of communication and independent determination are very amusing.

The Nasty Shadows Theatre Company was founded this year and is funded by the Lorenzo Society of the University of New Brunswick. Their next project is an original two-act play by Robert Moore entitled Rougher Magic.

The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year and A Slight Ache will be playing at Memorial Hall Saturday night at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
© 1999 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)


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