An Interview with Eric Dufault, writer of Year of the Rooster

At the halfway point of ESTs Year of the Rooster, I sat down with playwright Eric Dufault.  After I had read the script, and before I actually met Eric, I envisioned Eric as a wisened, hard man with maybe half a dozen birds in his apartment.  Imagine my surprise when a bespectacled young man in plaid sat before me.  I had to know more about this emerging young artist, and now so can you.  See our interview below! 

Kristin Ciccone: When did you start playwrighting?  Was there a moment you knew you wanted to be a playwright?

Eric Dufault: I probably started writing because I was anxious and sad and it made me happy.  I went to an alternative charter school situated on an army base. We were given a terrifying amount of freedom. But I probably owe the school a huge amount of credit for all the habits I have formed.
In my senior year, students were given an hour or so every day to complete a project of their own choosing. I wrote and produced a play. It was called One-Headed Boy and directed by my first-ever-girlfriend, and my fanaticism towards the play totally destroyed our relationship. I remember shouting “Don’t walk away from me!!” to her in the school parking lot at one in the morning as she gave me the finger.
Not writing plays would be so, so unhealthy for me.

Have you ever seen a cockfight?

When I was teaching algebra in Washington Heights, one of my ninth grade students offered to take me to a cockfight in the basement of an apartment building. I refused, thinking that if the administration found out, I would get fired, which I definitely would have.  But I probably still should have taken him up on the offer, right? Probably. Guys, make sure to make the most of all the illegal opportunities suggested to you by minors.

What made you choose cockfighting as the subject of a show? 

I read a book by Hal Herzog called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, which features a chapter on cockfighting and McDonald’s, and realized almost immediately that it was always meant to be a play.  It was when the cockers talked about how much they loved the birds. That was when I knew.  I really believe talking animals work better in theater than in any other medium. Sorry Babe, Pig in the City. 
I don’t know. I also like loud, angry things, even though I am neither loud nor angry.

If you had a Rooster what would you name him?

First Draft.

Describe YEAR OF THE ROOSTER in five Hashtags.  

I feel kind of uncomfortable using hashtags. Like, I’m not sure exactly how to employ them correctly. I’m sort of sixty years-old inside. But here goes:
#pitem #billemup #winnerwinnerwinner #fortheloveofgodseethisfuckingshow #picturesofcats
Did I do that right? You know what, don’t tell me.

You, mostly, did do that right.  What play are you most looking forward to seeing this season?  

Good Person of Szechwan, with the incomparable Taylor Mac. I see it in two weeks and I’m all eager. Between Riverside and Crazy by one of my heroes of playwriting, Stephen Adly Guirgis. Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl. I also can’t wait for the triumphant resurgence of Hand to God by Rob Askins. It’s a good crop.

What's your favorite food? 

I was going to cheekily say chicken, because I feel obligated to. But my dad bakes bread like you would not believe.

The play has grown into something so rich since the workshop, what was the focus of your rewrites in the past year?  

I’m going to say 15% of Act One is totally different, and about 50% of Act Two. Maybe more? I should maybe try to calculate it.  I was just trying to focus on telling a better, richer story. A lot of that came down to some of the basics of playwriting that are all too often ignored by myself amongst others: clarifying character’s arcs, creating dramatic tension, etc.

Was there anything you cut that you wish could still be included in this draft? 

I’m weirdly all for killing my darlings. If it was up to me, the whole play would just be a big graveyard of my favorite moments.  I have a great and terrible habit of coming up with a thousand different ideas for what the play could be, and I could easily envision a dozen different alternative Year of the Roosters occurring on parallel world as we speak.
Some of the scenes/elements I wrote/thought about that are not included in the production are, a scene involving an anthropomorphic version of the Sun,  and a Greek Chorus. Possibly made of chickens? Or McNuggets?
It’s probably for the best these things don’t exist. But we do get the Legend of Cassidy Coltrane provided in the program!

See Year of the Rooster, there's three wekends left and you don't want to miss out on this laugh-out-loud thrilling piece.  

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