Dispatches from Deneh’Cho Thompson on creating his Fringe play
This is the first of a series of notes by Deneh’Cho Thompson on creating and developing his Fringe play. Deneh won the Fringe New Play Prize based on a statement of intention and some writing on a piece called The Girl Who was Raised by Wolverine. It was apparent that there was something of a nod to traditional Wolverine tales of the Dene people, and Deneh made it clear that he wanted to pay attention to Indigenous dramaturgy as well as the things he learned at university in creating this tale for 2016.
Tabula Rasa – the ‘clean slate’. The genesis of The Girl Who was Raised by Wolverine is as old as I am, older even. I am a mixed race Dené man, raised in a white middle class neighbourhood. I grew up on a mix of powwows and 90’s gamer culture. I maintain a degree of traditional practice, yet have never visited my traditional territories. It is this internal conflict that is the central exploration of this work; this work that I did not give myself permission to do until my late twenties.
After more than a year of wild and unfocused development of The Girl Who was Raised by Wolverine I won the Fringe New Play Prize. Sh*t got real. I now have a very real performance date, I have brought on a creative team, and have even entered negotiations with a lead actress. So, I guess I better write this play. Working with Kathleen Flaherty at PTC has brought me back to the ‘whys’ of this play. Why am I doing this work, and more importantly, how can I be strategic in my process so as to create the best opportunities for me to tell this story?
So, back to basics. More than sixty pages of work filed away, not gone – just put aside for the moment. My conversations with Kathleen to date have been about constructing process. We have chosen to look at this work as a longer process than a Fringe show. There will be more than one iteration, there must be. This choice has allowed us to become very specific in what we are currently exploring and it is this specificity that has cleaned my slate. My goals have become, not simpler but, more easeful. I have started all over again because I am not exploring an entire world but specific possibilities within an entire world. Focusing on a smaller part of the everything has allowed me to create more, because suddenly every detail matters. Every detail matters. For you gamer types out there – it is the difference between trying to advance the linear storyline and grinding for that purple, PKing,epic lvl, 1/140 drop. It’s all in the details.