New Brunswick

Fredericton playwright's answer to zombie apocalypse genre to launch as podcast series

A dramatic podcast series begins Friday, based on a play by Ryan Griffith, that's part adventure and part mystery, with an element of the supernatural.

Fortune of Wolves is a cross-country audio odyssey with a cast of 66 amateur players

Jason McIntyre, the lead actor in the series, reads a scene in a TNB wardrobe closet that was used as a recording studio, while assistant director Jillian Hanson listens. (Submitted by Matt Carter)

An amateur theatre group in New Brunswick has come up with an entertainment alternative to binge-watching during these cold winter months.

Big Noise Audio Collective has produced a dramatic podcast series that's premiering this week, called Fortune of Wolves.

It's based on a play by Ryan Griffith of Fredericton, described as part odyssey, part exploration and part mystery, with an undercurrent of the supernatural.

The podcast tells the story of a young man who is living in Nova Scotia when his last surviving relative dies, said the writer. 

Being "kind of obsessed with sound" and missing the "noise" of having friends and family in his life, he sets off for the West Coast, to hear whether life is any better in Tofino, B.C. 

Each episode features people he meets — and records — on his cross-country trip.

"As he starts travelling further west, things get a little weirder and weirder," said Griffith.

When the play was written in 2016, a number of end-of-times shows such as The Walking Dead were popular.

"I thought there was something wrong with the apocalyptic genre," said Griffith.

It started to seem like a "consumer fantasy," he said, where no one was left to compete for resources and a person could just walk into a store and pick up anything they wanted.

"I personally thought that if a person were to be part of an apocalypse, it would not be the funnest thing," he said. "And that we would miss a lot of human elements of society."

Retired St. Thomas University drama instructor Ilkay Silk, left, goes over a scene with playwright and podcast writer Ryan Griffith. (Submitted by Matt Carter)

It was early in the pandemic when Griffith started working on adapting the play into a podcast series.

Griffith thinks the themes of the play are "stronger" because of what's happened during the last couple of years.

"Because no one could perform live and galleries were closed and artists everywhere were like, 'What happens now?,'" said project partner, Matt Carter.

They wanted to involve as many New Brunswick artists as possible, Carter said, and enlisted the help of "just about everybody they could."

Matt Carter, co-producer of the series, said he grew up listening to CBC Radio dramas, so a dramatic podcast series was right up his alley. (Submitted by Matt Carter)

They went through their "Rolodexes" and shook "the trees" to find people interested in trying something new, also reaching out to non-actors whose voices they liked, including musicians, visual artists, teachers and a yoga instructor.

"It was a fun hodgepodge of people," Carter said.

They ended up with a colossal cast of 66. 

All except one are New Brunswickers. (An artist of Mohawk ancestry was hired to play a character of Mohawk ancestry.)

None are professional actors. 

"You didn't really know what they were going to bring to the table," said Carter.

"To hear them knock that character out of the park — for me that was the most rewarding part of the whole thing."

Because of the size of the cast, Theatre New Brunswick couldn't have afforded to produce it, said Carter, who also works as TNB's director of development and communications. It has to hire professional actors and pay union rates.

Instead, TNB is the presenting partner of the series and provided free space and other resources to help make it, including wardrobe closets that were used as makeshift recording studios.

Originally, said Carter, they thought they could get everyone to record themselves at home, "stitch it together and bingo bango get a podcast."

But they quickly realized it was "impossible" to get consistent sound quality that way.

So they brought people in one by one to record. It took 13 months — the same length as the story itself, he noted.

In the stage version, the actors rolled dice to see which 50 monologues to include in each show. In the podcast version, every character will be included over 13 episodes.

The first episode of Fortune of Wolves will be available for free on Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Theatre New Brunswick website.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton


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