GREAT an original radio play by Parrish Turner performed by Steve Allen directed, edited, and produced by Grace Connolly
Recorded Performance, full text, plus an interview with author Parrish Turner .
An Interview with Playwright Parrish Turner
GC: What was your inspiration to write this script?
PT: This project started as an assignment in a playwriting workshop. We had three hats to pull from. One hat was our setting; the options ranged from space station to public library. The next hat contained “things that must be referenced” which was mostly historical events. And in the final hat was the number of characters we had to work with, and I had the luck (or misfortune) of drawing only one character.
This was a great exercise as a writer to play around. I often come back to this challenge when I am struggling with some form of writer’s block.
I found myself sitting and wondering what reason would a person be alone at the Pyramids of Giza. And I began to spiral from there.
GC: Who are the main characters in this play?
PT: Great only has one character: the last man on earth. I envisioned him as a generic “every man,” a sort of blank canvas to explore the ideas of humanity’s legacy. As a writer, my favorite part of working in theatre is the influence of collaboration. I like to give directors and actors room to interpret what they see in a text. While I have a huge back story for the character, he is described simply as Man. I am always delighted to see what others see in their own characterization of him.
GC: Why the Pyramids as opposed to any of the other natural wonders?
PT: As I mentioned before, I didn’t exactly choose it, but I remain fascinated by the Great Pyramids and modern humans’ feelings about them. They are so old that we almost consider them natural wonders, even though they are man made. Between the alien conspiracies and mummy myths, these piles of rock are loaded with meaning. But it is hundreds of different meanings.
GC: What playwrights/writers have had a particular influence on you?
PT: I am most influenced by interesting thinkers and those who try to present those thoughts in creative ways. Lately, I have been consuming a lot of nonfiction work, like Maggie Nelson. Eula Biss is someone whose work I am eating up because she manages to talk about tough and dense issues in beautiful and literary ways. Most of my writing comes from me trying to work through my own thoughts on an issue, so I love seeing other writers doing the same in their own ways.
GC: How long did it take you to write this play? How has this piece evolved throughout time, over the course of its development? What has been the development history of this script?
PT: This piece hasn’t changed too much since it was first written. There was a lot of editing to make sure it actually fit the shape I wanted it to be. The first draft was probably written in an afternoon. I tend to be a fast writer when I am in the right headspace for it. There were some factual details that were tricky to make believable. For example, I have done the math on how long it would take to sail to Egypt from the US and doubled that plus some, but people still didn’t believe that he had taken long enough to get there. It is such a grandiose story that it is tricky to strike the right balance of realism.
It was started when I was still in school, so I had a week to turn around scripts for class. It went from there to my school’s short play festival where I was able to see it come to life with a director and actor, although I was out of the country when it was performed, but my friend recorded it on her phone!
GC: Where do you write?
PT: I am a coffee shop writer, which my wallet doesn’t love. I have a favorite coffee shop that is usually full of other writers so I get to feed off of their energy in order to stay focused.
GC: I love the epic journey of this ten minute piece. Would you say that you have an esthetic as a writer you tend to adhere to in your scripts or are there themes in common in which you explore throughout your body of work?
PT: I like the grandiosity of everyday life. I am always exploring the influences that shape our lives, for example religion and gender and sexuality and regionality all shape how we view and navigate the world. We usually don’t realize that other people view the world differently until you are forced to examine that, like when you meet someone new or the world ends. What does it mean to be a human? And how do we approach the ways we tell our stories? You know, the ways that we crop or cherry pick in order to present the image we want to present.
GC: What’s something new you’re working on now?
PT: I actually just finished a masters degree in creative writing, where I focused on nonfiction, so most of my writing as of late has been in that. But now I am free to write whatever I like! I am aiming to finish my collection of personal essays and find new outlets for my work. A lot of nonfiction writing is pushed to be in a sort of clickbait format, which can be beautifully done, but isn’t how my work usually turns out. But I am excited to start some new projects.
Read Parrish Turner’s Script:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.cleavermagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Great_A-Radio-Play.pdf” title=”Great_A Radio Play”]
Playwright Parrish Turner hails from Georgia. He is a writer, essayist, and playwright. With his fellow playwrights, Parrish was honored with the Metro Atlanta Theater award for his work on the musical By Wheel and By Wing. He was a Lambda Literary Fellow in Nonfiction in 2014 and received his MFA from The New School. Parrish’s essay “Sound Over Water” was recently featured on The Rumpus. His work centers around regionality, gender, sex, and religion. He currently works with the Lambda Literary Review. .
Grace Connolly (Producer) has developed, staged and performed work(s) at venues including LaMama E.T.C (script development with Obie-Award winner Ping Chong), Primary Stages, The Wild Project, Dixon Place, Bowery Poetry Club, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Krane, The Fresh Fruit Festival, Great Lakes Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Freddy’s in Brooklyn. Training and Professional Development includes: UCLA, Primary Stages and Kent State University where was the only person ever to complete a year long independent study on Women in the Restoration. Her literary publications include Never Apologize/Year of The Pig (Bluestockings), Flying (Cleaver Magazine), The Fool (Blackheart Magazine), and The Real Bourgeois (The Commonline Journal). Twitter @reforminghpstr.