A graphic featuring Daniel Puglas' play, A Conversation in the Night shows two dark figures in a living room in conversation.
A graphic featuring Daniel Puglas' play, A Conversation in the Night. The play is about "how much people are able to bottle up before they let loose and explain everything," says Puglas. Image submitted by Daniel Puglas
Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Nanaimo Fringe Festival: Two to watch

Don't miss these two local performances written and directed by former Vancouver Island University students.
Julie Chadwick August 19, 2021

Sign up to receive local news highlights straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletterNanaimo This Week.


Daniel Puglas: A Conversation in the Night

“The play is centred around two friends who haven’t talked to one another in a year or so, and one of them tries to just get up and leave,” says playwright and director Daniel Puglas, about his latest play A Conversation in the Night, presenting at the Nanaimo Fringe Festival.

“The conversation between the two shows how much people are able to bottle up before they let loose and explain everything, because a good portion of the play is a lot of back and forth, trying to find out why one of the main characters wants to leave in the first place.”

Daniel’s play is one of several at this year’s Nanaimo Fringe Festival, the 10th annual, which marks a return to live theatre after their festival went online-only last year.

This week people can catch Daniel’s play during the festival’s second and final round of shows before it finishes up on Sunday, Aug. 22. 

There’s an incredible lineup of shows from playwrights both local and far-flung, but I wanted to highlight a couple of local performances written and directed by former Vancouver Island University students that are not to be missed.

“In high school, probably about Grade 8 or 9, I decided to do a bunch of film stuff. Originally it was so I could impress a lot of people but then I realized that I really love doing anything to do with the performance arts,” Daniel says with a laugh.

After he won a film festival award at the Cowichan Film Festival, Daniel received a scholarship to the Gulf Islands Film and Television School on Galiano Island.

When he enrolled at Vancouver Island University, Daniel noticed there wasn’t much there in the way of film so he decided to do theatre, which he fell in love with. He now works with Western Edge Theatre as one of their artistic associates.

A Conversation in the Night marks his first to be featured at the Nanaimo Fringe Festival, and was written last year as a fundraiser for his grandmother, who recently passed.

Characters Ash and Grace from A Conversation in the Night pose for a photo with creator Daniel Puglas onstage.
Characters Ash and Grace from A Conversation in the Night pose for a photo with creator Daniel Puglas onstage. Photo submitted by Daniel Puglas

“I was trying to get more funds to help make her life more comfortable for however long she had left,” says Daniel, who is from the Kwawkwawkw Nation of the Gwawaenuk Tribe. “So I wasn’t exactly in the best mindspace while writing this play, but I know that while writing I just kind of wanted to escape everything and just kind of… move away and start a new life somewhere and find out who I am as a person, [so that’s] what I was going through when I was writing the play.”

A Conversation in the Night is showing at the Port Theatre on Aug. 19 at 5:30 p.m. and on Aug. 21 at 8 p.m.

Connor Runnings: Built Different

Another play worth checking out at this year’s Fringe is Built Different, written by University of Victoria theatre student Connor Runnings, which is an exploration of what happens when four autistic young adults get together in the aftermath of the death of their mutual childhood behavioural consultant.

“Whenever I write, a lot of my characters tend to be autistic but they tend to be like, self-inserts for me. A lot of the trouble with it for me is that there’s just one type of representation that we’ve been seeing everywhere and that’s like, ‘the skinny white kid who’s good at math’ that we’ve all seen in shows like Atypical or Sherlock or The Big Bang Theory,” says Connor, who was diagnosed with autism when he was nine years old.

“I kind of just wanted to write something that showed a bunch of different autistic people acting a bunch of different ways, with different personalities and quirks and things that might bother them, things that might make them happy. It’s a spectrum, that’s what it is.”

The cast of Built Different sit on blue bleachers outside gazing in different directions.
The cast of Built Different includes Connor Runnings who plays Steven, Jesse Wilson who plays Russ, Adrien Kennedy who plays Arlen and Meaghan Soloway who plays Kate. Photo submitted by Connor Runnings

One of the characters in Built Different is Steven, played by Connor, who is “not very well-adjusted, he’s gone through a lot of pain and hardship because of… not necessarily his autism but because of how people react to it. He has a hard time being himself. They all do to varying degrees,” he says.

There’s also the artist Arlen, “very quiet, easily overwhelmed by loud noises or fighting,” and Russ, who “kind of butts heads with Steven a lot because he’s really sensitive and they kind of have the ‘little kids fighting over a toy’ dynamic.”

Kate is the only female character in the group and was diagnosed the latest, says Connor. “She kind of acts as an involuntary mom for the group when the behaviour consultant isn’t there.”

Now entering his third year of the theatre program at the UVic, Connor says that his 10-year plan is to move into film writing and acting but that this is the resource available to him right now, and “a lot of people have eyes on it.”

Members of the Built Different production team work late into the night huddled on the floor.
Members of the Built Different production team work late into the night. The play is stage-managed by Chris Carter, directed by Sam Caul and written and acted by Connor Runnings. Photo submitted by Connor Runnings

You can catch Built Different at the OV Theatre (formerly Harbour City Theatre) on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 12 p.m. and on Sunday, Aug. 22 at 4:30 p.m.

Sign up to receive local news highlights straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletterNanaimo This Week.