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1000 PLAYWRIGHT INTERVIEWS

1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Apr 11, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1035: Chris Cragin-Day




Chris Cragin-Day

Current Town: Weehawken, NJ

Q: Tell me about The Rare Biosphere:

A:  The few months leading up to the 2016 presidential election I was teaching a class of college Freshman, about one third of whom happened to be first generation Americans--children of immigrants. One of them, her name is Stephanie, was particularly studious and all around bad ass. She told me the story of a relative that came home from school one day to discover that her parents had been deported. When she told me this story, I imagined Stephanie as this girl, and I wondered, how might a typical white suburban middle-class American male enter into this other American reality that is so different from the America that he's experienced? And what if, what's more, he cared about someone across the breach? How would all of that change him?

Q: What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished the first draft of a play, OKC Bombing, about the trial of Timothy McVeigh. I was a senior in a high school in Oklahoma thirty minutes away from the Federal Murrah Building when McVeigh detonated the bomb that killed 168 people, many of whom where children. Looking back at the event in the present political climate, McVeigh's fear of government over-reach, especially in regard to stricter regulation of guns, resonates in a particular way, and I'm interested in that. I'm also working on a commission from River and Rail Theater, a musical called The Burn Vote, which I'm writing with Don and Lori Chaffer, about the single vote in Nashville, TN, that tipped the scales allowing for the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Also, another play I wrote immediately after the 2016 election, A Woman, about a NYC professor challenging her church denomination's deeply entrenched policy against women elders, will receive two staged readings this summer, one at the Women's Theater Festival and one at Baylor University, both directed by Kel Haney.

Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Well...I was born in the Philippines and raised in Hong Kong and mainland China until my family came back to the US (Oklahoma) when I was thirteen. Both of my parents were military kids. My sister works in counter-terrorism. I'm a playwright. Somehow all of that adds up to my writing.

Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:   I love theater. I've been doing it practically full time since high school and it's still magical to me. And I love love love the theater community in NYC. But if I could change one thing, it would be equal opportunity for women and people of color. I don't believe that the decision makers are consciously biased against us. But I do believe that the structures upholding the industry have these biases embedded. I wish I could change that.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:   I love Rajiv Joseph, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Annie Baker, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Caryl Churchill, Helen Edmundson, Martina Majok...there are so many.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A:  For me, it's the specificity of human interaction that thrills me. Human beings will forever fascinate me. I want to understand these creatures, because they are remarkable in their kindness and cruelty, courage and cowardice. Ultimately, I suppose I want to understand myself. So I like all kinds and genres of theater as long as it gives me that thrill of seeing something that shows me some small truth about who I am.

Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Read lots of plays. Go to all of the rehearsals. Listen to your actors and directors, but also trust your instincts. Don't let go of the impulse.

Q: Plugs, please

A:  I have a really fun musical called The Zombie Family Musical, a Jungian comedy, also co-written with Don Chaffer, that is super smart and commercial and it needs a first production, please.

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Apr 3, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1034: Carl L. Williams



Carl L. Williams


Hometown: Houston, TX.

Current Town: Houston.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Answering these questions! No, actually I'm working on a couple of short plays to enter into play competitions around the country. I've also started work on another full-length play, but I haven't gotten very far with it. I do know the ending of the play. Now I just have to fill in everything that leads up to it.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  This is a tough question to answer. I was a relatively quiet child who liked to read (as well as watch TV and go to movies, of course). As an outlet for my imagination, I began to write stories, as I suppose many children do. It's a mystery how our personalities develop, but for whatever reason I was always comfortable being alone. It wasn't that I didn't like people. It was just that I felt no particular need to be around them all the time. So I would create worlds of my own, inspired sometimes by the things I read, or simply situations I imagined. When you invent stories, you are naturally the sole determiner of how the story progresses and what all the characters say. It is a way of creating order in a world we can otherwise not control. I enjoy being able to do that, while all the real world outside goes spinning around in its own bizarre, uncontrollable fashion. Although I've had a few short stories and poems published, and a Western novel (which was fun), I am most of all a playwright because that is where I can see actual live people (otherwise known as actors) populate the worlds I have created. I've always had a greater knack for dialogue than for narrative description, so playwriting has become my greatest means of imaginative expression. And, uh, what was the question again?

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I hope no one is offended by this, but I would like theater to take itself less seriously, even when it's doing heavy drama. I've never cared for pretentiousness, and there's a great deal of it to be found in the arts. I'd also like a greater realization that just because you can throw together a lot of peculiar behavior and dramatic non-sequiturs on stage, that doesn't mean it deserves to be hailed as anything terrific. But then, I'm the kind of guy who prefers Rembrandt over Picasso.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I don't much go in for heroes. I suppose I'm primarily a traditionalist in my theatrical preferences, as opposed to things that are excessively avant garde. Arthur Miller was someone I admired. I enjoy Alan Ayckbourne. Most of my plays are comedic, so I have to recognize Neil Simon, but especially the way he mixed dramatic elements with the comedy in his later plays. I'd hate to start naming names. Hey now, how about that Euripides?

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  More than any one category of theater, I have to say I'm excited whenever a play is professionally well-done (even if performed by amateurs). I have no patience with poor pacing or bad direction or clumsy staging or badly delivered (or forgotten) lines. When everything clicks the way it should, that's what excites me.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Join a playwriting group. Read each other's plays. Accept criticism, even if you don't agree with it. Recognize weaknesses in your work. Keep rewriting. When you think your play is finished, arrange a reading of it with actors so you can hear it and better assess it. When you see a first production, look for places that need strengthening - things that don't work the way you intended. And realize that some people will like your stuff, and some people won't. Write short plays first and enter competitions. Think about craft as well as creativity. Be disciplined, not only in sitting down to write, but in what you construct on the page.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  A full-length play of mine called Some Other Verse just won The Stanley Drama Award, sponsored by Wagner College in New York. Now all I have to do is find someone to produce it! Any volunteers?


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Mar 23, 2019

UPCOMING

PRODUCTIONS


The Wooden Heart
Production #1 of The Wooden Heart
Acadiana Repertory Theater
Lafayette, LA
Opens September 6, 2019.

KODACHROME

Production #9 of Kodachrome
Actors Bridge Ensemble
Nashville, TN
Opens July 12, 2019.

Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood

Production #18 of Marian
Shakespeare Performance Troupe
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA.
Opens March 28, 2019.

Production #19 of Marian
Regis College
Weston, MA
Opens April 11, 2019.

Clown Bar

Production #34 of Clown Bar
Liverpool University Drama Society
Liverpool, England
Opens May 7, 2019

Production #35 of Clown Bar
Padgett Productions
Prohibition Hall
Kansas City, MO
Opens June 5, 2019.

Production #36 of Clown Bar
University of Wisconsin,
Stevens Point, WI.
Opens November 8, 2019.

Hearts Like Fists
Production #41 of HLF
Martin High School
Laredo, TX
Opens March 20, 2019

Production #42 of HLF
Cyrano's Theatre Company
Anchorage, AK
Opens Sept 19, 2019

Production #43 of HLF
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, VA.
Opens April 3, 2020.

Pretty Theft
Production #14 of Pretty Theft
Houston ISD UIL Dept.
Houston, TX
Opens March 23, 2019.

Nerve
Production #21 of Nerve
Dead End Kids
NYC, NY
Opens April 25, 2019.

Production #22 of Nerve
Ikag Productions
The Elephant British Pub
Adelaide, Australia
Opens June 5, 2019

Rare Birds

Production #5 of Rare Birds
Highland, CA
Opens March 28, 2019.

Production #6 of Rare Birds
University of Indianapolis
Indianapolis, IN
Opens April 12, 2019

7 Ways To Say I Love You
a night of short plays

Production #29 of 7 Ways
Northern Illinois University School Of Theatre And Dance
Dekalb, IL
Opens March 20, 2019.

Production #30 of 7 Ways
Scotch'n'Soda Theatre
Pittsburgh, PA
Opens March 23, 2019

Production #31 of 7 Ways
Ursula Franklin Academy
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Opens April 20, 2019.

Production #32 of 7 Ways
Auburn Community Players
Fiskdale, MA
Opens July 12, 2019.

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Mar 20, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1033: Emily Hageman




Emily Hageman

Hometown:  Highlands Ranch, CO

Current Town: Sioux City, IA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  What am I NOT working on right now would be a better question????

I just finished up an extremely successful speech competition season with my students at Siouxland Christian (our tiny school with an enrollment of 68 just secured our second Critic’s Choice Banner in the area of one act, making us the first school in the history of the program since 1982 to be named the top one act in the state of Iowa twice in a row). This was achieved our first year with my one act “Back Cover,” and this year with my one act “The Cages We Build.” I am currently working on creating a full length play that I would feel comfortable submitting (right now, the only place I’m comfortable putting my full lengths is in the garbage disposal). I am also writing a one act for my middle schoolers (all twenty-six of them!) as well as the one act for my high schoolers next year. I am also trying to stay alive, but that’s been sort of placed on the backburner for the time being.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  When I was in third grade, we were learning about writing using quotations. I wrote a story about my family during a thunderstorm (for whatever reason, I can still remember my opening line--"YIKES," Emily said as a bolt of lightning streaked through the sky.) My third grade teacher, who spent most of her time glaring at me because I liked to walk around the classroom without my shoes and had the habit of rolling my eyes every time we had to do math, pulled me aside before class began. Naturally, I assumed I was going to be chastised for my eye-rolling, shoeless ways. Instead, she asked me, “Would you mind if I read this to the class?” Baffled, I said yes. She read the entire short piece for my class and praised me for my creativity and descriptiveness. I wasn’t a popular child. I wasn’t athletic or particularly good at anything. But in that moment, I was heard and I was understood, and I’ll never forget it.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I want there to be better roles out there for young people, and for women. I want women to be allowed to tell their own stories, not to have their experiences explained for them. I also am desperate to get better scripts in the hands of young people. I truly believe that high school age actors should have opportunities to act in plays where they get to play their own age, but also where they get to explore modern issues. I am really tired of seeing the same plays getting produced over and over again. Teenagers need to be able to do plays where they feel like their voices are being heard--they desperately want to tell noble, important stories. Our best playwrights should be writing for high school. It is an incredibly worthy endeavor.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I love the work of Arthur Miller. Reading Stephen Karam’s The Humans changed me as a writer. I am a huge Charley Evon Simpson fan. Jennifer O’Grady is one of the best people I’ve ever met, and she is also a magnificent playwright. And beyond that, there are truly too many to count and list.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theater that makes me feel. I love plays that are strange, frightening, hilarious, touching, but more than anything, I am drawn to theater that is genuine. I love theater that makes me feel connected to the performers, the playwright, the director, and the audience around me. I love theater written by people who love people--or at least people who are fascinated by people. Theater that has a profound emotional impact on me (not an easy thing to do) inspires me.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Write what YOU want to write. Don’t worry so much about getting produced. Try not to sweat the rejections. I view any production I receive as an honor. It’s incredible to have your voice picked out as being valuable, and heard. Determine why you are writing and go from there. Let yourself be inspired by the people around you and their incredible stories. Write as a gift, expecting nothing in return.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  On March 10, my play “The Orchid” was performed at the Dramatists Guild of America for their “Talking It Out” event, which is a series of plays that have to do with mental illness. Many high schools across the country are performing my plays--"Back Cover," my award winning one act, being the most popular choice (thirteen productions and counting!), but I’ve also had “Character Arc,” “Something Profound,” “One Seriously Ugly Duckling” and “The Thought Doesn’t Count” picked up by Universities, High Schools, and Middle Schools. I also recently had my play “Everafter.com” published by YouthPLAYS.

https://www.youthplays.com/play/everafter-dot-com-by-emily-hageman-517&ref=search.php%3Fquicksearchbox%3Deverafter.com



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Mar 8, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1032: Nicholas Linnehan




Nicholas Linnehan

Current Town: New York New York

Q:  Tell me about Identity

A:  Identity was written when I was trying to reconcile aspects of my own identity. I was and am gay disabled and Catholic. These three things don't seem to go together. So I wrote this play as a way to explore these concepts in order to figure out how I was going to reconcile them for myself. It was written in 2005, and performed off off Broadway in 2006. Now it has undergone a revision and 12 years later it's grown into something that I didn't expect but I'm very proud of ..This play celebrates individuality and teaches us to live fully so that we can embrace the sunlight of the spirit.

Q:  What else are you working on now? 

A:  I have written a short film called Catfish that is in post-production. Catfish deals with sexuality and disability. What happens when two men meet up for a casual encounter and one is in a wheelchair but didn't tell the other that he is? How do they negotiate this situation?

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person. 

A:  I remember seeing my sister perform in Sweet Charity. I knew right there and then that I wanted to do theater. Then I was cast as the Mayor of Munchkin City in 7th grade and once I experienced the exhilaration of performing I knew I was home.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? 

A:  It will be more inclusive of actors with disabilities and use them in every kind of roles not those just written for characters with disabilities

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Peter Dinklage who shows us that actors with disabilities exist and are talented and can do great things

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I like theater that pushes the envelope and dares the audience to think outside the box

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out? 

A:  Don't be afraid to dream. Imagination knows no disability

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  Be an advocate for change. Rethink the Impossible because we are only limited by ourselves. If you dream it, it can come into existence!
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Feb 27, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1031: Yilong Liu




Yilong Liu

Hometown: Chongqing, China.

Current Town: New York City.

Q: Tell me about June Is The First Fall.

A: It’s a play about being queer in Hawaii, eating mooncakes on made-up family holidays, and learning to sing Frank Sinatra in China. It’s a story for those who feel they have to leave home in order to find their true selves - no matter how far we’ve gone, the weight and pride of the culture and family histories we carry is always in the room.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I’m working on the first draft of my EST/Sloan Project commission, which is a full-length play about online censorship and video games. I also wrote a short play for the EST science brunch about the first genetically edited babies in China which I am interested in developing into a full-length.

Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A: I was traveling with my cousins in Hangzhou when I was maybe 5 or 6. Growing up as the only kid, my cousins were like siblings to me. My aunt agreed to buy us those jade paperweights at the gift shop. There was a single Chinese character carved on each of them, usually something nice and auspicious, like “knowledge”, “health”, or “love”. I went through the pile of paperweights and finally chose “忍”, which means to endure, to put up with, or to have patience, etc… but I probably didn’t know all of the meanings back then. The character itself is quite fascinating too, because it is literally a blade hanging on top of the heart. I remembered my aunt telling me that she was a little shocked because it was not something a kid would normally choose. Looking back I guess that did make lots of sense. I’ve been quite patient as a person and a writer. And to live and write in American right now you kinda need patience and endurance.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I hope there could be more appreciation and even a hunger for a diversity of narratives when it comes to stories about minority groups and other cultures.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker. I took my first few playwriting classes from her when I attended University of Hawaii. She writes in the Hawaiian language and her use of traditions, mythology, and history in storytelling shows so much pride in one’s cultural identity. It was really inspiring and empowering to me as someone who’s also living in another culture and writing in English as a second language.

Gregg Henry at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. I honestly think many of the amazing things that happened to me happened because of KCACTF. For me, theatrical heroes are someone who not only creates and makes things happen, but also connects, believes, challenges, pushes boundaries… and Gregg is all of them.

I guess this question is making me feel very grateful for the wonderful artists that I get to learn from: Alice Tuan, Prince Gomolvilas, Mark Bly… the list goes on and on.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that’s deeply honest and personal, where I can tell the story is haunting the writer so they have to get it out.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  I’m still new but I’ve discovered that supporting each other’s work has helped me grow as a writer and become part of a community, which is very important if you are new to New York. So I’d say, go to readings of new plays! It’s free. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. And you don’t know who you will end up meeting there!

Q:  Plugs, please:


A:  June is The First Fall is running at New Ohio Theatre March. 31-April. 20!

Upcoming: My play Joker is part of National Queer Theatre’s Criminal Queerness Festival at IRT theatre this summer. It’s a festival that explores global homophobia and pride for WorldPride 2019, showcasing plays from Egypt, Tanzania, Pakistan, and China. The festival runs June. 13- July. 7!

Know a theatre: if you ever travel to Hawaii, please check out Kumu Kahua Theatre. In my opinion, it’s one of the coolest theatres in America. They are dedicated to producing plays about life in Hawaiʻi, plays by Hawaiʻi's playwrights, and plays for Hawaiʻi's people.

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