Killing Earl at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Killing Earl by Josh Languedoc

King Edward School (8525 104 street) August 14 – 18, 21, 22


J. Nelson Niwa, Mary E. Stevenson, Laura Niwa, and Christine Maydew. Photo credit: Josh Languedoc.

J. Nelson Niwa, Mary E. Stevenson, Laura Niwa, and Christine Maydew. Photo credit: Josh Languedoc.

An interview with Josh Languedoc.

Describe your show in five words.

Innocently Twistful, Character-Based Comedy, and Mistakes!

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

Mary, Anne, and Wanda have grown up in their small country town their entire lives. Now in their thirties, Mary and Anne set out to California for their first big adventure full of mistakes and fun. Wanda stays home in her own comfortable lifestyle. Then a stranger comes to town looking for a new life in the country…his name is Earl…Wanda falls for his charming awkwardness right away. But when Earl starts behaving strangely and seems to be hiding secrets, Mary and Anne don’t believe he is who he says he is.

Is Earl who he says he is? Is Wanda safe with this man? What is he hiding from everyone?

All to be revealed in the play 🙂

Why did you want to dramatize the lyrics of “Earl Had to Die”?

To be honest I don’t remember what inspired me to dramatize this song. I’ve always been a big fan of the song and it always made me laugh. At the time I started writing it, I was sitting in the middle of the Catskills Mountains in New York on a writing retreat. It may have been the mood I was in or the music I was listening to, but something about the fresh country air and the small towns around me inspired me to connect with the heart of the drama of the song, and soon I began to picture the characters in my head. Then they began speaking on my computer and their personalities began to take shape. The plot itself took a number of years to solidify, as it underwent a series of intense re-writes.

In the original song, the implication is that the events happened soon after high school. In Killing Earl, your characters are in their 30s. How does aging the characters help contribute to the story you wanted to tell in Killing Earl?

The easiest and quickest answer is I always pictured these characters in my head as older: 33-35 or so. In my head they spoke like older women and had the charm and sophistication of older women, but still retained a youth-like innocence and curiosity.

A longer more interesting answer is having these characters as older women adds to the overall theme of the play. As I re-wrote the drafts of my play, it became clear to me that this play was no longer about revenge. It was about being brave, making mistakes, and taking your own life choices into your hands. These three women have lived fairly comfortable lives in their small town and have never gone off and experienced the bigger world. When Mary and Anne decide to do so and Wanda stays home, the play becomes a journey for Wanda. The audience understands her meekness and her desire to live a comfortable life. But through the actions of the play, Wanda begins to make choices that don’t make sense to her own self – finding an impulsive first love, helping out a man with a temper, deciding to take fate into her own hands, and finally accepting that life is going to be full of mistakes and adventure. Having these women as older makes the stakes of this theme higher – don’t let your life go too far without having made a few mistakes :p

Throughout the history of Killing Earl, you’ve created and workshopped it with the help of some well-known local playwrights, including Vern Thiessen, Colleen Murphy, and Vlady Pechov. How has the development process helped get Killing Earl to where it is now?

It’s given me expert insight as to how to construct drama and how to organically earn moments in a play. Largely, the first few drafts were plot-driven: I basically staged the story of the song and added dialogue. However, through careful questions by Vern, Colleen, and Vlady, I was able to get to the heart of the characters. I began to concentrate on the characters and how they contribute to the action of the story. As I worked through this process, the characters started to make decisions I did not anticipate they would make. After a few drafts, it led to the current draft I have right now. Letting the action come from the characters makes for a very organically-feeling play, rather than a forced plot. This is the biggest lesson I learned from the experienced playwrights and how it has shaped this current draft.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

This play was recently workshopped at the U of A’s New Works Festival where it received a positive audience reaction. Also, be prepared for some twists and turns, because if you’re looking for an exact re-telling of “Goodbye Earl,” this is not what the play is 🙂 It is inspired by the song and draws its dramatic tensions from the song, but there are some character-based twists that make this play a hilarious comedic ride through a whirlwind of curiosity and tension.

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

Directed by Bradley Bishop, who directed “Rat Wives” at the 2014 Edmonton Fringe. The cast are all local actors at various community theatre organizations:

Cast: Mary E. Stevenson
Christine Maydew
Laura Niwa
J. Nelson Niwa

Josh is also involved in Go 4 Broke Productions’ shows of Improv Against Humanity and Simulation Over.

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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