Don Hannah says the community where he grew up doesn’t exist anymore.
Hannah, a playwright and novelist, was born and raised in a small English community in Shediac, N.B.
He’s recently been commissioned by Theatre New Brunswick (TNB) to write Resident Aliens, a play based on real-life events in his life and New Brunswick’s history, and will be making its world premiere touring the province.
“It feels very surreal … I have no idea what lies in store for me,” said Hannah of his first collaboration with TNB.
The play follows Vivian Larsen, a Moncton woman who travels by horse-drawn wagon to Hollywood because she has a secret to tell Walt Disney. Running parallel to Larsen’s story, the play follows a young boy growing up in Shediac discovering his sexuality and understanding the divisions in his community.
“My Shediac doesn’t exist anymore,” said Hannah.
“I’m writing very much about the past and throwing it out to the present to see what happens.”
Hannah has written plays since the mid-‘80s and has mostly written about New Brunswick or new immigrants.
Despite hailing from the so-called “picture province” it was not until 15 years into his theatre career that Hannah’s work was produced in a theatre east of Montreal. In 2002, Ilkay Silk, a long-time director of drama at St. Thomas University, produced Hannah’s Fathers and Sons.
STU alumni Ryan Griffith acted in that production.
“Ryan was the first person I ever heard on stage to speak my words in what I would say was an authentic New Brunswick voice,” said Hannah.
TNB Artistic and Executive Director Natasha MacLellan said Resident Aliens is a play about outsiders; about anglophones and francophones, and the class systems that are based on everything from religion to language.
“It’s about how we just eat each other apart, trying to figure out who’s better than who,” said MacLellan.
She said the play is provocative as it acknowledges problems of class, calls out inequality and tries to rectify it.
MacLellan is excited that one of Hannah’s plays is finally being produced with TNB and that it will be its world premiere.
“The thing is with world premieres is that the playwright gets to be around [and] you can ask them questions,” she said.
“Actors, when they’re having trouble with a line or they don’t quite understand something, [Hannah] is there and can help us, which is really nice.”
The show will open on March 22 in Fredericton at Theatre New Brunswick.