I’ve been working on a new performance piece since the beginning of this year, a sort of companion to my show, Piecework: When We Were French, that approaches some of the same themes, but from a more personal perspective. This summer, as I’ve been thinking about how to expand this new piece into a whole, I’ve returned to one of the central images of Piecework: my great-grandmother’s quilt, which I used as a backdrop when I performed. The quilt, and sewing more generally, have become central to how I think about writing and storytelling (which is why you see a detail from that same quilt on this page). Most stories — the ones we tell ourselves and each other — begin as fragments, and it is only through the effort of sorting, piecing, and stitching them together that we come to something that resembles order, or narrative.
I was excited to find a recent essay by non-fiction writer Sarah Minor that explores this very idea, in which she says that “writing the truest version of a story is often a process of unifying disparate and sometimes contradictory materials.”
With my interest (and perhaps my faith) in this notion of a quilted story renewed, I’ve begun an online collection of material that’s contributed to the creation of the new show thus far, and to which I’ll continue to add. It’s intended to be like a sewing basket, a haphazard collection of scraps, fragments, loose threads, and incomplete ideas. I thought I’d share the link here in case you’d like to follow it or make your own suggestions based on what’s there already. Please check in out and keep in touch.
I’m excited to be contributing to The Bridge, “an artistic interrogation, exploration and celebration” of Canada 150 by a whole gang of Fredericton artists. Spearheaded by local theatre company Solo Chicken Productions, the project is part art installation, part historiographic jam session. On the evening of Friday, September 8th, Fredericton’s Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge will be converted into living time tunnel, and the public will be invited to pass through artists’ interpretations of various moments, events, and encounters in Canada’s history.
I’m honoured to be collaborating with Wolastoqiyik artist Natalie Sappier-Samaqani Cocahq on a new performance piece on the theme of Reconciliation, and I look forward to sharing more details of our work as the event approaches. Stay tuned!
There are just two weekends left of David Budbill’s Judevine at Montpelier, Vermont’s Lost Nation Theater. I expect these shows to sell out, so if you plan to attend, get your tickets in advance to guarantee yourself a seat.
With our opening weekend behind us, we’ve received thoughtful reviews from Montpelier’s Times Argus and Burlington’s Seven Days, which, if you’ve never seen the play, will give you some sense of what to expect. Seven Days‘ Alex Brown describes Judevine as “drama with the harmony of a choral work; poetry built of clothing, posture and accent; spectacle found in the jumble of a junk shop’s wares; tragedy bolted to poverty and comedy born of haplessness. It’s swearing, bitching and moaning, some of it aimed right at its Vermont setting. It’s the humor of petty gossip and a dozen daily battles against insensitivity that finally allow compassion to drive itself up like spring’s first crocus.”
I’m not French-from-France, nor quebecoise, nor Acadian. I’m Franco-American, like Jack Kerouac.
My solo show, Piecework: When We Were French, explored the enduring influence of Franco-American culture in Vermont and New England. But when I’ve performed the show in Canada, where I live, I’ve felt that audiences needed a fuller introduction to the history it documents. Now, I am searching for a way to make Franco-Americans visible to their northern cousins by developing a new script, a companion to “Piecework,” that includes more of my personal experience of francophonie, as well as my impatience with Jack Kerouac.
I’m grateful for the chance to present a reading of the current draft of this work-in-progress, tentatively titled Tous mes cousins / All My Cousins, at Lost Nation Theater, which has provided a creative home for my work many times in the past. This new, bilingual play will capture the complex relationships between distant relatives, who tell different stories about the ancestors they share. This informal evening will include a presentation of 30-40 minutes of new material, in addition to a lively discussion of the themes that it explores and the challenges of playwriting in general. I hope you can join us!
I’m very honoured to have two (two?!) poems on the 2017 shortlist for Poem of the Year by the editors of Arc Poetry Magazine. Arc is a consistently excellent, surprising, and diverse Canadian journal of poetry. I’m excited that these poems caught their eye, as well as to be in such stellar company.
You can read all of the shortlisted poems at Arc‘s website and even cast a vote there for the Readers’ Choice Award.
By David Budbill
April 20-May 7, 2017
Lost Nation Theater, Montpelier, Vermont
Directed by Kim Bent and Starring Ben Ash, Sean Gregory, Ashley Nease, Robert Nuner, Abby Paige, Scott Renzoni, and Mark Roberts
This month I return to Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, Vermont for a very special production of the beloved play Judevine, which captures the beauty, isolation, poverty, and resilience of a small Vermont town. Judevine is a creation of the gifted Vermont poet and playwright David Budbill, and it is as real to me as any village in northern Vermont — maybe even moreso, since I have spent so much time there, in my imagination and as a cast member in two — now three — productions of the play. David, who was a beloved friend as well as an artist who I deeply admired, passed away last fall, and our current production is a celebration of his life and work, as well as the opening to Lost Nation’s fortieth season. I’m honoured to be included.
To learn more about the production, including showtimes and ticketing information, visit Lost Nation’s website. You can listen to David read his poem “Ode to Our Woodstove” here and watch him perform with musical collaborators William Parker and Hamid Drake here.
An Evening With Abby Paige
Thursday, March 23, 7:00pm
University of Maine, Orono
The Franco-American Center at the Orono campus of the University of Maine is an unbelievable resource, for Central Maine and for anyone interested in the French heritage of North America. In addition to the Center’s oral history archive, bibliography of Franco-American source materials, and monthly newsletter, the university maintains the country’s only (to my knowledge) Franco-American Studies program, which offers university classes and language programs to support the French-heritage student body and community nearby.
This month, I’m delighted to present a staged reading of a work-in-progress at the Center, a new performance piece tentatively entitled, Tous mes cousins / All My Cousins. Based on my own experiences as a Franco-American living in French Canada, the show will explore what it means to be French on both sides of the border, the affinities and ambivalences between distant relations, and why Jack Kerouac pisses me off. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us.
Last year I was honoured to be selected as an Artist-in-Residence by the Fredericton Arts Alliance, which hosts a group of local artists each summer in the historic Barracks District of downtown Fredericton. For the week-long residency, I was paired with visual artist Allison Green, who that week was painting on silk. The theme of the residency was “New Ground,” inspired by the arrival of thousands of Syrian refugees to the area in the previous months, and Allison and I thought and talked a lot about notions of place, home, and belonging as we worked and chatted with visitors to our little studio in the Barracks.
The work developed by us and the summer’s other Artists-in-Residence will be exhibited this spring at the Fredericton Public Library between March 3 and 30, with a special opening reception on Wednesday, March 8. I am contributing to the exhibit some new writing, including dialogue sketches and poems that grew out of the residency. I’m excited to be included in this exciting and diverse group of artists. Please come visit if you’re in the area.
In January, I was delighted to be included in Shorts and Sweets/Culottes courtes et sucreries, a bilingual theatre party presented by Satellite Theatre and Théâtre la Cigogne of Moncton in collaboration with Fredericton’s Solo Chicken Productions and The Next Folding Theatre Company. After an exciting night of performance and power-outages during an ice storm in Moncton, we’re looking forward to presenting the same collection of short pieces at Fredericton’s Charlotte Street Arts Center on Monday, March 6. The fun will get started at 7:30 that evening, and will feature new works of physical theatre, puppetry, playwriting, and bilingual comedy. It will be a great cabin fever cure, of which I am certainly in need these days. Check the Facebook event listing for more info. Hope to see you there!
I am very excited to present some new performance work next week with a whole gang of exciting New Brunswick theatre artists. Culottes courtes et sucreries / Shorts and Sweets is a bilingual theatre party presented by Satellite Theatre and Théâtre la Cigogne of Moncton with Fredericton’s Solo Chicken Productions and The Next Folding Theatre Company. I’m delighted to be included, and it’s going to be a blast.
I’ll be sharing some new work that explores the meaning of my own Franco-American identity in a Canadian context. My solo show, Piecework: When We Were French, looks at how Franco-American New Englanders interpret and preserve their heritage. However, as someone who lives in Canada, I struggle to understand my place in a landscape where identity is defined primarily linguistically. While the new piece I’ll be performing draws from Piecework, it also reaches into more personal and uncharted territory, including thoughts on Jack Kerouac, feminism, and Canadian language politics. Also, it’s 8 minutes long.
The fun begins Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30pm at Centre culturel Aberdeen in Moncton. We will reconvene in Fredericton in March to present the same works to a different audience. You can find more info here.