Greg Everett talks about Gullywhump, his NotaBle experience and the plays he’s most excited to see.

Following his 2018 one-act play Carrion Birds, which was a featured as one of two one-act plays in our 2018 festival series Acting Out, New Brunswick playwright Greg Everett is back this year with his latest work, Gullywhump.

Based on a fictional monster from a distant childhood memory, Gullywhump finds Everett continuing to create work set within the eerie, mystical (and highly fictional) world of Bvrntland.

“I have a series of one-act plays mapped out that all take place in the world of Bvrntland, an alternate-reality version of the upper Tobique River Valley and the deep interior of New Brunswick. Gullywhump is definitely part of a larger vision,” said Everett.

“A gullywhump is an indeterminate monster that my father used to tease me with when we went for walks together,” said Everett.  “Looking back as an adult, I realized that I had never even had a tangible vision of what the monster looked like, or what it did. Following Carrion Birds, when it came time to think of the next installment from the world of Bvrntland, Gullywhump is the vision that rushed to the surface – the story of an amorphous monster that stalks a pair of siblings as they revisit memories from their childhood. However, this script more than any other has grown far beyond what I ever thought it would be. It’s a story of trauma and abuse, of rupture and return, of magic and ritual, all framed by and embodied within the gullywhump.”

Everett says the play was created as a direct result of his past experience as a participant in the festival, and credits the development time, criticism, feedback and the deadlines for helping him grow as a playwright.

“One of the most important structural elements of creating, for me, is the pressure of deadlines. Another is criticism and feedback,” he said. “Without NotaBle Acts as an impetus, Gullywhump would still be an amorphous blob in my head. And there are challenges associated with the NB Acts guidelines – limits on the number of characters, simple set design, etc. – which go a long way in giving shape to something that otherwise might remain totally shapeless, so making the submission is a healthy, helpful habit even if the scripts never get selected.”

One of the biggest challenges facing New Brunswick playwrights has always been the ability to place critical and encouraging eyes on their work. This is especially true in Everett’s case. As a self-described singular and solitary artist, he’s always found support within the community that surrounds NotaBle Acts.

“I am very much a voice in the wilderness,” he said. “So to be welcome into a community and institution such as NotaBle Acts; to have other artists, and experts, say explicitly, ‘your work is worthwhile, you are worthwhile, and we believe in your vision.’ It’s indescribable. And for that to happen two years in a row, it’s no great exaggeration to say that NB Acts made my career, even though I’m in the very fledgling stages of it.

“I went from having my first play produced in last year’s festival to receiving a Creation Grant from ArtsNB for a full-length, site-specific script. And now to be back this year, to have Natasha MacLellan read my work as part of the selection committee, and to be able to work with Rob Kempson as a dramaturge. This is so cheesy, but when people ask me how things are going lately, my honest answer is absolutely amazing. Like, genuinely unbelievably well. And that’s not something that I say lightly.”

For Everett, the festival also offers a chance to be inspired by the work of other New Brunswick writers, some at a similar stage in their careers as he is.

“I was very, very excited for Fruit Machine, and I got to see that opening night,” he said. “I saw it as a work in progress last year and the way it has grown and taken shape since then is really moving. The story is important but I think the experience more poignant and that’s what Alex [Rioux] is communicating – the experience of the gay military purge of the 60s, rather than just the story of it.

“Past that, I’m very much looking forward to seeing With Love, Josephine, the other Acting Out one-act. I have so much respect for playwrights who can convey human drama and emotion in a real world, and I’m excited to see what Sophie [Tremblay-Pietre] has done.

“I’m still kicking myself for missing Jean-Michel Cliche’s site specific play S.C.O.P.E. last year,” said Everett. “I heard the latest draft read as part of the festival kickoff party and it’s aesthetically, emotionally, and structurally exactly my kind of play. So this year I’m resolved to not miss out on a first look at something that may be something much bigger again by next year.”

Greg Everett’s play Gullywhump will run August 1-3 at Memorial Hall as part of Acting Out: Two One-Act Plays. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the door.

Rob Kempson – NotaBle Acts’ Artist In Residence for 2019

Toronto-based playwright Rob Kempson has been working closely with many of this year’s featured playwrights in preparation for the 2019 edition of the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival. 

Matt Carter

If there is one lesson Rob Kempson hopes to teach the playwrights involved in this year’s NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, it’s that a first draft is never a final draft.

“The journey for each play is totally different and I think it’s important to remember that playwriting is not like other writing,” he said. “A play is meant to be spoken and not read so that means you have to take a crack at it, hear it, and then take another crack at it. You’re never going to find it all in the first or second draft.”

Kempson is this year’s NotaBle Acts Artist in Residence. As an instructor at Humber College, Randolph College and Centennial College, he spends a lot of time working with new playwrights to help them develop their voice and grow their work.

This month he is in Fredericton working with a dozen young and emerging New Brunswick playwrights whose work will be featured as part of this year’s festival lineup.

“It’s not only about learning and developing at this stage,” said Kempson. “It’s actually about learning professional practice, the practice of developing a new play.”

Kempson is an active contributor to the Toronto theatre scene and has written, composed, performed and directed on many of the city’s notable stages.

“This is the first time I’ve been an artist in residence at a festival. Every other residency I’ve had was based on something else,” he said. “I was either there just to write or to just to teach workshops.  This is a little bit more fulsome than what I’ve done in the past.”

Kempson began working with many of this year’s festival playwrights earlier this month via Skype before he arrived in Fredericton. Those early discussions helped spark new ideas, providing many of this year’s writers with their first outside feedback on their work.

“I’ve made some great connections so far and have seen some really exciting movement in the work,” said Kempson. “Sometimes with newer writers there can be a really hesitancy to take those big steps and make big choices and changes in their work. It can be scary. But everyone I’ve been working with have been totally fearless in that they have embraced this collaboration as a real collaboration.”

NotaBle Acts’ 2019 lineup includes the work of 14 New Brunswick playwrights including the winners of this year’s middle and high school playwriting competitions.

An important festival on the city’s annual calendar of events, each new edition of NotaBle Acts’ provides audiences with numerous opportunities to engage in theatre with fully produced plays that take place in theatre, outdoor plays that require little to no staging, site-specific work and readings of new plays in development.

“The range of stories is huge. It’s really diverse. I think what I’m really excited by about this festival is that I didn’t know the multiplicity of kinds of people that would be involved,” said Kempson. “I knew there would be some current and former students of Len’s [Falkenstien] but I wasn’t expecting the passion in this community for this kind of work.

“So often in community theatre settings, there isn’t the opportunity to engage new writers and new scripts and to develop that work. And that work is ultimately what Canada does best. We aren’t known for having this long back canon that we pull old favourites from like the British and the Americans do. So for me, NotaBle Acts is such a great training ground for new writers to get experience. As a dramaturg, I feel really grateful to get to intersect with these artists at this point in their writing and their journey.”

NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival runs July 23 – August 3.