The Mob, book one in drama department head Clem Martini's Feather and Bone: The Crow Chronicles trilogy, is a mult-ifaceted novel now adapted to the stage by the University of Calgary drama department.
The play showcases many parallels between humans and crows. It delves into society as a whole and causes viewers to re-examine themselves and their relationship with the natural world. According to Martini, this helps to get "in the sense of truly trying to get to the core of another species."
Martini, genuinely passionate about crows, found his inspiration for the trilogy in a conversation with his youngest daughter one spring morning. While waiting at a bus stop, they witnessed a flock of birds rise up from a valley and commandeer an entire tree. The southern migration of crows, his daughter suggested, is like a family reunion. Martini began to wonder:
"What would they talk about? What kind of conflict would there be? 'Cause there's always conflict at family reunions."
Soon after, he decided to write a novel, one page every day for a year, which later evolved into a captivating trio of narratives.
First optioned as a film, it became apparent The Mob could work as a play, thus kicking off a two-year theatrical endeavour which premiers this week.
"It goes adaptation to adaptation -- it's a singular thing," explains Martini. "Some experiences are harder to adapt, [while] some are more suited to one form than another."
The essence of The Mob is not lost, though, in translation. Although time constraints and design challenges caused some events to be cut and others to be altered, the novel's focus on a growing awareness of change and a desperate attempt to maintain tradition in the face of disaster is well represented in the play, explains Martini.
"What you lose in the way of confidence and intimacy [when in a theatre as opposed to reading a text], you gain from an experience that feels genuine and experiential," he says. "It's not as though someone tells you anything, you go and you use your own perception to make sense of the world."
While the play enacts a fictional crow's perspective of an experience, that experience is still real -- the crows are individuals who, like ourselves, are constantly bombarded with change.
"At one point or another, you put aside that they're crows and you think of them just as individuals," says Martini. "On the one hand, it's a matter of trying to hold onto and embrace everything that we value and, at the same time, it's trying to figure out how to cope with the change that's occurring, how to control the change that's occurring and how to come through it safe."
Martini hopes an audience will "come in, view it and look at the world differently." He explains that literature, theatre and art "were once informed by the natural world, a world beyond our own," but have long since adopted an unhealthy separation.
For example, Martini notes that short-sighted thinking, such as placing negative labels on crows, causes trouble. After experiencing The Mob, audiences of all ages may feel enlightened to explore questions pertaining to the kind of balance there is in their living experience, who they share the world with and how they share the world.
"Even if they [only] look at crows differently, that's great," he says.