2014 Ottawa Fringe – 5 Questions with NATALIE JOY QUESNEL

Natalie Joy Quesnel gave me my first ever comp ticket for a show, so blame her for this blog still being here and me not being broke yet seeing shows. I met her properly when she invited me into the Ottawa Fringe offices during her days as executive producer of that festival, to work on an archival book project for the Fringes 15th anniversary, and we’ve been pals ever since. And while she’s no longer the big boss of Fringe, it’s still in her blood (she even did some guest reviewing for me at last year’s festival), and this year she’s returning to performing after a long hiatus to debut her original one-woman piece FIRST WORDS

Natalie Joy Quesnel in FIRST WORDS.  Pix by Trevor Laforce.
Natalie Joy Quesnel in FIRST WORDS. Pix by Trevor Laforce.

– This year marks a major change of hats for you in Fringe, from executive producer to playwright/performer. How are you finding that adjustment?

It’s been an equal combination of fear and elation. I had been wanting to spend more time on personal projects for a while so this past year has been a real blessing. I’ve had this play in my head for almost a decade now. I decided it was time to face the challenge and I’m extremely happy I did.
– Is this your first solo show?

Yes it is. I suppose I chose for this to be a solo show partly because I felt it serves the narrative best, but also because I wanted to dare myself to try something new.
– When did you first start performing at Fringe?

My first Fringe show was Opération:Xérus with Groupe des deux in 2001. I was still in university at the time and had to go through an audition process to get the part. It was my first role outside of a school production and I was so green. I remember falling in love with the Fringe model that year. I saw some amazing and some really terrible shows too. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a life changing experience.
– How did the story of FIRST WORDS come about?

First Words first came about when I wanted to write a story inspired by the women in my family. I’ve always been curious about the nature versus nurturer debate and I thought it would be interesting to examine how I’ve been influenced by the women in my family. The play then evolved to be inspired by my family as a whole. First Words is inspired by the true story of a house fire that killed five of my aunts and uncles. My Grandmother vowed to replace all of the children that she lost, and she did. She even named them all the same names as the deceased children. While my play is fiction with fictional characters, much of the play has a very personal connection to me.

First Words 5 (cred Trevor LaForce)
– No solo show is ever ‘solo’. Who else are you working with on this project?

Emily Pearlman is my amazing dramaturg and director. Steven Lafond is the play’s composer and sound designer. My stage manager is Emily Carvell, because I can’t seem to have just one Emily on my team. Madeleine Hall is my publicist and Trevor LaForce is my print media designer. I’m very fortunate to be working with such a talented team.

FIRST WORDS plays at Academic Hall during the Ottawa Fringe Festival, June 19th to 29th. Full show schedule and advance tickets available HERE.

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