Newfoundland.Artist.X (NAX) is a theatre company. It is based in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador. NAX was established in 2006 by Lois Brown (Artistic Director) and Marlene Cahill (Administrative Director).
N.A.X. stands for -
- process-centred work
- public-centred work
- professional development
- artistic development
The name Newfoundland.Artist.X speaks to a location of a particular aesthetic process, one that grew out of St. John’s over the last thirty years, and that has collectivity, creation and performance as its goal. The name is dichotomous: the X promotes commonality over individuality – a longing for a global community, and Newfoundland, a clinging to our traditional sense of place. Artist indicates a desire for a creative, experimental process, for discourse about art – and since it’s a theatre company – a public discourse.
Lois Brown is a multidisciplinary artist, and a seventh generation Newfoundlander: most of her work has been created in St. John’s. She was past AD of RCA Theatre Company and AD and Curator of Neighbourhood Dance Works. She was shortlisted for the Siminovitch Prize in Directing (2004) and awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador Artist Achievement Award (2004). She received the Victor Martyn Lynch Staunton Award from the Canada Council for the Arts for a outstanding mid-career Canadian Theatre Artist in 2005. She was most recently an Artist and Dramaturg-in-Residence at Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal.
Marlene Cahill has been working in the arts for over thirty years. She has been the guiding force behind such significant companies as Neighbourhood Dance Works, Wonderbolt Circus, Corner Boys, and Resource Centre for the Arts. She is the ACTRA rep in Newfoundland. She sat on the RCA Board that directed the recent renovations to the LSPU Hall, and she is a source of information and advice for an untold number of Newfoundland artists.
NAX’s initial project was the mentorship by Lois Brown of several emerging directors including Jordan Canning, Brad Hodder and Mark White. In 2007, these emerging directors participated in exploration of the notion “shorter is better,” along with established artists including Andy Jones, Robert Chafe, and Susan Kent. The result was an evening of six very short plays. The plays were followed by NAX’s first public discussion: “What is a play?” led by Beni Malone. Statements from invited theatre practitioners, filmmakers, and academics were followed by an open public discussion.
These short plays went on to other lives. “Busking in October” evolved into a feature-length screenplay by filmmaker Justin Simms. “Sweet Pickle,” adapted to film by artist Ruth Lawrence and directed by Lois Brown, was awarded two honourable mentions at the Baltimore Women’s Film Festival. “Travel Anywhere” became a webseries; Season One was screened over three nights at John’s International Women’s Film Festival. “Travel Anywhere: The Movie” premiered at The Nickel Independent Film Festival and was a part of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival Roadshow.
Also in 2007, NAX and White Rooster Theatre co-produced “Ain’t poetry grand.” This event featured readings by six Newfoundland poets.
In 2008, NAX co-produced Ain’t Poetry Grand. NAX’s shorter is better project took the shape of 5 Very short plays in a tub. Set in the complete round at Rabbittown Theatre, the centrepiece – a tub – was about two feet from the first row of audience members on either of four sides. Influenced by its interest in promoting an intimate relationship between the public and theatre art, NAX’s invitation to the public to be seated close to the action and to see it in context of other viewers is an elegant, if obvious, evolution. The seats are limited, fifty a night – intimate and exclusive – heightening this particular experience of performance-in-the-round.
As well as mentorship and opportunities for exchange between new and emerging directors and playwrights, NAX offered a Master class by established artist and actor, Mary Walsh for the participating artists.
Also in 2008, NAX began development of three new works by artists Ruth Lawrence, Andy Jones and Lois Brown. All three works focus on mental illness. Ruth was the furthest along and NAX was able to produce a public reading of her musical about the issue of bulimia and body image, “Big in Myself.”
The company planned to bring a production of “Offensive to Some” by Berni Stapleton with Bridget Wareham, directed by Lois Brown and stage managed by Shannon Hawes to Toronto’s TPM. When Lois Brown was hit by a vehicle at the Magnetic North Theare Festival (while there with Andy Jones' “An Evening with Uncle Val”), and hospitalized, they co-produced (with White Rooster and RCAT) a remount of” Nan Loves Jerry” written and performed by Sue Kent and directed by Sherry White.
Because of difficult recovery, Lois was not able to carry out the intense artistic direction required of the AD for the Shorter is Better 3 project. Instead, N.A.X. co-produced Sex the rules of with White Rooster. Written and directed by Lois Brown, White Rooster provided dramaturgy for this project with playwright Anne Chislett.
“Sex the Rules of” opened at the Halifax fringe and then ran at Rabbittown Theatre. “Sex the rules of” featured Marthe Bernard, Aiden Flynn, Ruth Lawrence and Mark O’Brien. Staged simply during a microscopic rehearsal period, this production relied solely on the text, choreography, a huge piece of fabric, a couple of flashlights and powerful acting talent. It received high praise.
The Way I See It said: “If this the kind of theatre coming out of Newfoundland, I need to book myself a flight to the rock. Pronto.”
The Coast said: “Engrossing theatre” “Riveting”
The Evening Telegram said: “Intelligent, witty adult comedy.” “Staged with elegant economy.” “Four high-powered and sophisticated actors.”
The Current said: “Mature and polished.” “Smart, funny and profoundly moving.” “The small house, bare set and minimal props combine to heighten the shows intimacy.”
In November, they produced “Offensive to Some,” directed by first-time director Shannon Hawes. Each show featured a talkback. Lois originally directed this production with Berni Stapleton in the role and she had recently directed Bridget in the role as well, with Shannon as SM. With Shannon as director, Lois devoted her time to creating public forums about the play. NAX held a talkback with Berni Stapleton about the writing of “Offensive to Some.” And a talkback with Rhonda Fiander about domestic abuse.
With Lois still recovering, this year was one of reflection, though we did begin planning “5 Very Short Plays in the Sand.”
White Rooster and NAX turned Ain’t Poetry Grand over the WNAL, though Lois and Ruth continued to host the event.
In 2010, NAX with Rabbittown AD Aiden Flynn continued to investigate the City for alternative spaces for theatre, visiting all of the Community and Recreation Centres.
In November 2011, NAX produced “5 Very Short Plays in the sand” in conjunction with shorter is better 3. The project comprised comissioning five new short plays, a week of dramaturgy led by Emma Tibaldo of Playwrights Workshop Montreal and Robert Chafe, with the playwrights, directors and actors. Once we went into rehearsal, NAX programmed a roundtable on the subject of dramaturgy for local writers and theatre practitioners, held at Resource Centre for the Arts’ LSPU Hall.
As we moved into production, we worked at Rabbittown laying down a box of sand and placing it in the round. This year we extended the project, two nights and a preview. We had a full house everynight and even the LT. Govenor and his wife attended.
In September 2012 Lois was invited to be Artist and Dramaturg-in-residence at Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal.
N.A.X. embarked on Shorter is Better 4 with Robert Chafe, Jane Maggs, Jeremy Taylor, Leah Lewis, and Peter Trosztmer.
NAX developed an administration mentorship with Marlene Cahill and an expanded director mentorship, that will eventually become a part of the shorter is better projects.
Ruth Lawrence’s musical Big in Myself, co-written with composer and songwriter Cherie Pyne, completed a residency at Playwrights Workshop Montreal in February with dramaturg Emma Tibaldo and Lois Brown and was read at The Women’s Work Festival in March.
Sex the rules of was published by Playwrights Canada Press in an anthology of Contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador Plays, edited by Denise Lynde.