Theatre New Brunswick’s latest production, Fortune of Wolves, written by New Brunswick playwright Ryan Griffith, had its world premiere Oct. 12 at the Open Space Theatre. The play will be running in Fredericton between Oct. 19 and Oct. 22, and will spend the rest of the month touring the province.
The piece is described as “the dark imagery of Stephen King meets the catastrophic world of The Walking Dead” and “an epic sci-fi adventure set largely in New Brunswick involving more than fifty characters from communities like Aulac, Meductic, Perth-Andover, Fredericton and Griffith’s hometown of Woodstock, NB.”
Each performance will have a different cast of characters, determined by the roll of a dice before the performance.“Each performance will be completely unique,” said Matt Carter, director of development and communications at Theatre New Brunswick.
“Ryan has structured the story in such a way that the four actors involved roll dice prior to each performance to determine which characters will appear that night. So while the story remains the same, the characters involved are different night after night.”
I spoke with Griffith about the new play—his third to be produced by TNB as he enters into the national theatre scene. A graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Griffith is passionate about his home province and having his plays performed in NB. His work has been published by Playwrights Canada Press, featured in the National Elevator Project Plays produced by Theatre Yes, and he is currently working on a piece in association with Banff Playwrights Colony, Arts NB, PARC, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The Brunswickan: Being a New Brunswicker yourself, what aspects of the province and the Maritimes do you wish to portray in your work?
Griffith:I really want to try and represent the voices of the people here—our way of life—and showing that they have value, [that] our culture here is just as valid as anywhere else in the world and that we should not be ashamed of our stories—to understand that our stories are just as rich as those from any other place in the world.
Bruns: What was enticing about presenting NB in the post-apocalyptic setting?
Griffith: Well, I think there’s a whole bunch of factors. I enjoy writing monologues and New Brunswickers, and I love it in books of fiction when you read about a place that is near where you live. Like, I really enjoyed reading a lot of Stephen King as I grew up, and it’s the same deal there in his books when he would refer to real places and landmarks. That was also super exciting to me, because you’re reading about vampires in Salem’s Lot and a landmark that’s somewhere in Maine, and you say, ‘Wow, that’s only an hour away from where I live!’
Also, New Brunswick is in some ways very big—but also because of its population, in some ways New Brunswick is not the biggest place in the world. A lot of times you’ve got to be careful when you’re writing certain voices, because sometimes the communities [are] so small they think you’re writing about them. So, I’m always trying to mythologize New Brunswick’s landscape to avoid that problem and I’ve used science fiction to do that.
Bruns: The dice roll aspect of the play is very fascinating. What idea are you bringing to the piece with this part of the show?
Griffith:Well, the idea of the show is that it’s a young guy who decides to take his grandma’s car across Canada, and he’s going to interview people along the way. On a road trip like that, you never really know what kind of people you’re going to run into along the way; it doesn’t really fit a normal story arc or that sort of thing.
What I wanted to represent was that sort of randomness a kid would have if he actually took a road trip like that; you would never know who you would come across. That’s how the play actually works with the way we’re doing it. As the writer I know all of the monologues, but every night I watch it, someone pops up that I had no idea was going to pop up and it’s a great surprise. It keeps the play active even for me, and it’s great that I can go to a play excited, in terms of I don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s working really well.
Bruns: Being the creator of the show, how does it feel to watch a director interpret your work?
Griffith: The relationship I have with Theatre New Brunswick is a pretty good one. Each one of my scripts that they’ve produced has been directed by Thomas [Morgan Jones], so I trust him a lot. I’m starting to understand his stylistic influences and his method of working.
Another thing is that I’ve been writing plays now since 1999, so when I first started out I had to police every moment of every play. [Directors] have their own art form too, so you have to let them create as well. Me and Thomas have been back and forth about the script for two years, so I knew he knew the material really well. I went out to the first rehearsals and I watched the exercises he was doing with the actors, and I knew the method he was using; I felt completely comfortable with them and made sure that I was available for them.
Bruns: If you could give someone the most important reason for someone to come see the show, what would that be?
Griffith: It’s never been done before. The show you see tonight, it’s never been performed this way and it’s never got the same content that this night will have due to the dice roll. The odds are about twenty-five million to one that the show you’re about to see tonight will ever happen again.
Fortune of Wolves will be playing at Fredericton’s Open Space Theatre until Oct. 22. For more information, visit Tnb.nb.ca/fortune-of-wolves.