In honour of the Opening Night of our One-Act series (8pm at Memorial Hall, UNB, July 31-August 2), we have a featured interview with one of our playwrights! Jeff Lloyd, one of the winners of our Playwriting Competition for his script Jobbers, is a Drama teacher at Bernice McNaughton High School, and is no stranger to NBActs. Check out his interview below, and see you at Mem Hall!
Tell us what inspired your play?
After I graduated from university, I was back home living in Chipman for a bit. At the time, a family friend was running a backyard wrestling promotion with a bunch of his buddies. They were taping one of their shows for a school project, and so he asked if I would come to the match and do a play by play. I thought it was an odd request, but they had also recruited my brother to play the part of a hired goon for one of the wrestlers. We thought it was a bit too strange of an opportunity to pass up, so we both agreed to participate. The event was held on a Sunday night, at a horse stable, they had costumes, a sound system, entrances music and over one hundred people showed up. It was a bizarre but thoroughly entertaining evening. So that experience was a huge inspiration for writing the script.
From the start of grade one until the end of grade five wrestling played a huge part in my life. My friends and I had our own playground wrestling federation, I played countless hours with my rubber wrestling action figures, and I honed my interest in creative writing by crafting articles for my home made wrestling magazines. My parents weren’t crazy about my obsession with wrestling, but they allowed it, but to keep me firmly grounded in reality they made sure that I understood that it wasn’t real. This idea of people playing characters and performing for an audience was probably my first introduction to theatre. Without wrestling, I may never become a playwright or a high school drama teacher, so I’ll always be a little grateful to Hulk Hogan and The Macho Man.
The two plays in Acting Out present a wonderful study in contrasts in terms of style and subject matter, yet there are links between them as well. Both are recognizably set in Fredericton and feature casts of tightly knit characters among whom dramatic tensions erupt. In what sense and to what degree would you consider your play a New Brunswick story?
It seems that more than ever, New Brunswickers are forced to leave the province to find more opportunity. Luckily, I was able to find a teaching job in NB and have been living and working in the province since graduating from university. However, I’ve watched lots of friends, family and colleagues wrestle with the decision to uproot and move to a different part of the country. Each of the characters in Jobbers are trying to decide where their true home is. Is it a geographical place or is it with people they love. It’s these questions that hopefully make Jobbers not only a New Brunswick play, but a play that resonates with anyone who’s ever had to consider leaving a place they consider home.
You have been involved with the festival in previous years in different capacities. How have your experiences this year compared, and any thoughts on the festival as a whole?
It’s a wonderful opportunity for New Brunswick playwrights and other theatre artists to have a festival devoted to developing and staging new plays. Without this festival, I’d rarely have an opportunity to develop my adult voice as a playwright. As a high school teacher, I have ample opportunity to create interesting teenage characters, but NB Acts provides a venue for me to submit work that has themes and characters that are more mature. The collaborative nature of the festival, and the dramaturgical support provided is also invaluable. There’s no doubt that the script being performed this week is a stronger piece of writing than I submitted in April. I also enjoy the variety of theatre I am able to watch in a rather short period of time. I’m glad the festival continues to grow and I hope to keep submitting my work for years to come.