Playwright to present recent film, theater work
London-based playwright Stacey Gregg, currently in her first residency at the MacDowell Colony, has been busy. Her recent streak getting plays produced and film scripts considered for production is good news for the young writer, but it cuts into her time for, well, writing.
That’s why Gregg is at MacDowell. She’s working on two projects while here: one is a feature-length screenplay for a film that is in development with an independent production company in the U.K. and the other, called “Margery,” is, as Gregg explains, “a fusion of opera and theater.”
Gregg will talk about her latest endeavors and present snippets of past writing, including a clip from a short film released last year, as well as a reading from a 2011 play, in a MacDowell Downtown program at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture’s Bass Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
She’ll show a short excerpt from her film “Spoof or Die,” which centers on a group of young people trying to make sense of their lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and have some current MacDowell fellows read from her 2011 play “Perve,” which has been produced in Dublin, Galway, Montreal and Brisbane, Australia.
“Spoof or Die” is a short film about the “anxiety and displacement experienced by young men,” Gregg said, as they grow up in Gregg’s native Belfast. While the city is currently at peace, there are still problems with sectarian angst, said Gregg. The film, which has been broadcast by the U.K.’s Channel 4, has also been shown at both the London Short Film Festival and the Belfast Film Festival.
“Perve” is a play about censorship, sexuality and hysteria. It centers on seven characters that represent what Gregg referred to as a “microcosm of a suburban community that reacts to a young man trying to make a documentary” about the suspicions people have of certain members of the community.
One of Gregg’s goals while at MacDowell is to complete the screenplay for “Here Before.” It’s a supernatural thriller set in Ireland centered on a family that moves from a working-class neighborhood to a middle-class neighborhood. But while she admits there “seems to be an appetite for supernatural thriller stories,” Gregg said, “The film is really about the psychology of grief.” There’s also a subtext that focuses on class difference in the writer’s native Ireland.
The other project is the story of two medieval women, both considered heretics in their time. One is an historical figure, Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century Christian mystic who wrote “Revelations of Divine Love.” That book is believed to be the first published in the English vernacular, and one of the first books written by a woman. The other character in “Margery” is the woman the work is named for, Margery Kempe. She’s in her 50s, illiterate, announces to her husband she is now married to Christ, risks charges of heresy, and ultimately travels alone to Jerusalem. Before she died, she dictated one of the first autobiographies to a priest, who, fearing for his life, hid the manuscript. It wasn’t discovered until the early 20th century.
“Julian will speak in a libretto and Margery will speak in a much more modern parlance,” Gregg said, explaining the combination of operatic and theatrical elements. “At some point, these two women had lunch,” she added, explaining that Julian was a walled-in contemplative ascetic, while Margery was extremely public and showman-like.
Gregg, who earned a degree in English from Cambridge University before moving on to a master’s in documentary film, said that while this work is in the very early stages of development, she has a commitment from a young composer and director for the production once the draft exists.
MacDowell Downtown, a series of free presentations by MacDowell Colony artists, is presented the first Friday of each month from March to November. Doors open at 7 p.m. See www.macdowellcolony.