Greg Everett’s play Carrion Birds is one of two plays featured in this season’s Acting Out series. Originally drafted for a script writing class at UNB, Carrion Birds has played a pivotal role in Everett’s development as a writer and a playwright. Over the past few years, the script has been revised and workshopped, dissected and rewritten a number of times before a final draft was completed in time for this year’s festival.
Drawing together elements of regional folklore and Everett’s own experience growing up in rural New Brunswick, Carrion Birds will make its onstage debut with performances August 2-4 at Memorial Hall.
Earlier this week NotaBle Acts’ publicist Matt Carter caught up with Everett to ask a few questions about the play and its development.
Can you tell us a bit about where the idea for your play Carrion Birds came from?
Honestly, the play is a blend of so many different inspirations it’s hard to peg something down. I guess chronologically the idea comes from my childhood, when a farmer from up the road mangled his arm trying to clear a jammed manure spreader. It’s a story that I’ve always been fascinated by because it has a sort of grim, cynical poetry to it: he lost his arm digging in shit just trying to get the job done. That imagery has bounced around in my head for a long time. But it wasn’t until I became really serious about writing, let’s say the last five years, that Carrion Birds started to take shape. The imagery that I had been holding onto became a part of the supernatural world that I write from, and eventually mixed with local myth and a little bit of nightmare to become the script that’s being produced.
In a conversation I had with Len Falkenstein, he described the play to me as a very “Ryan Griffith” style story in terms of its use of supernatural elements. Has Ryan influenced your writing at all?
Ryan was actually the dramaturge for the 2016 Script Happens competition in Saint John, for which one of my scripts was selected (Machines of Loving Grace); so he’s directly influenced the mechanics and narrative flow of my writing, as I was privileged to get to work personally with him on the rewrite, and that’s helped me a lot going forward. In a broader sense, Ryan has been breaking trail a long time in the same sort of genres that I like to explore, so seeing his work produced has always been an inspiration to keep striving. I think when it comes to style and vision, Ryan and I inhabit a very similar space because we come from very similar sensibilities and regional backgrounds.
Can you tell us a bit about the development process and how this play moved from draft to final script?
Carrion Birds was first submitted as a draft for a class assignment in Len Falkenstein’s script-writing class at UNB. The draft I submitted to NotaBle Acts was probably the twelfth draft I’d written, and I’ve revised it twice more to get to the final version for the festival. So I’ve received a lot of help and constructive criticism along the way to get it to where it is. Once the crew was arranged and the casting was done, and I had a revised draft after dramaturgy notes, we had a table read and an open discussion about the narrative, the characters, etc., which gave me even more feedback to work with. And then when rehearsals were underway, I was able to sit in and see how things played out on stage as opposed to paper, and get real physical feedback about the dramatic action, the emotion, etc. That’s been a really crucial step. And that’s only the work that I’ve put in; before I even had a first revision finished, the crew was working on putting the tech elements together, set design, prop design. Everybody works on a really tight schedule for the festival, and it’s been amazing to see the effort people are willing to put in to realize a vision.
What excites you the most about being part of this year’s NB Acts festival?
Really I’m just honored to be selected and humbled at the dedication of everybody involved. I’m proud to have my work featured alongside so many other local writers, and I consider myself lucky to have such a talented cast and crew bringing my script to life.
Greg Everett recently returned to Fredericton after living in his hometown of Plaster Rock and, before that, Saint John. His scripts have been read as part of the 2015 PARC Playwright’s Cabaret, and the 2016 Script Happens contest, but Carrion Birds is the first to be produced. He has also been reviewing theatre for almost five years (including a slew of NotaBle Acts productions); current and past reviews can be found at Stureviews.ca. Questions, comments, and ideas for collaboration may be sent to email@example.com.
About The Play: Carrion Birds
In a dark and bleak forest where the birdsong is a murder of crows’ caw, the last scion of a cursed family ekes out a meager living from an impassive wilderness. But a hard land does not give easily, and life must be repaid with blood.
Playwright: Greg Everett
Director: Robbie Lynn
Featuring: Kyle Bech, Ryan Griffith and Kat Hall.
Dramaturge: Len Falkenstein
Stage Manager: Patrick Lynn
Tech: Devin Rockwell