Gili Roskies and Matthew MacDonald-Bain in The Out Vigil. Photo by David Cooper.
Gili Roskies and Matthew MacDonald-Bain in The Out Vigil. Photo by David Cooper.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the men and women aboard the Cornelia Marie, Time Bandit or the Northwestern would never have guessed that they might one day inspire a stage play.  For playwright Julie McIsaac though, it was the combination of a Discovery Channel realty series and the realities of East Coast life that led to her writing The Out Vigil.

[pullquote]“There were these old boats lying on their bellies all along the shore and it just felt like the land was aging.  I had this feeling of profound sadness.” – playwright Julie McIsaac[/pullquote]“I started thinking about the play in 2007 when I was watching Deadliest Catch, and thinking about the people who do that kind of work,” says McIsaac, who combined her fascination with the reality television show with the reality of the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland to write what she describes as “a modern fable”.

With family in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, McIsaac says she has always had an interest in the Maritimes, but it wasn’t until a trip to Newfoundland in 2011 that it all became that much more real for her.

“I was in this wonderful small town with all the buildings painted these beautiful fun colours, but no one was there,” recalls McIsaac.  “There were these old boats lying on their bellies all along the shore and it just felt like the land was aging.  I had this feeling of profound sadness.”

No stranger to the water herself, McIsaac remembers the water being very volatile as she grew up on one of the Great Lakes.

“I remember things like ‘red sky at night, sailors delight’,” says McIsaac who took a cue from the maritime superstitions and lore she heard about while growing up and invented her own fable as the centerpiece for The Out Vigil.

Working on the script since 2007 in between other projects, it, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that McIsaac says she became increasingly serious about completing her first script, forcing herself to complete a full draft that culminated in a professional reading in 2011.

“Among those in attendance at the reading was Sabrina Everett of Twenty Something Theatre, who invited me to be part of their Spotlight on Emerging Playwrights program,” she explains.

Ostensibly McIsaac’s first script, she says that while she identified very strongly as a writer when she was younger, her career ended up taking her in a different direction as an actor, director and musician.

“This is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” says McIsaac.  “Being invited to be part of this spotlight series has definitely helped re-establish my love for writing.”

But while it may have taken McIsaac years to get back into writing, it is clear that her career as an actor that eclipsed her passion has definitely helped.

“I don’t know if we make better writers,” she laughs, “but alone in my room I start acting out and generate some of the dialogue.  I definitely use the actor muscle in my writing”.

The Out Vigil plays the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr) as a workshop production May 28-31.  Tickets are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.  Visit http://twentysomethingtheatre.com for more information.