Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 863: Joshua Young


Joshua Young

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Current Town: Bronx, NY

Q:  Tell me about Who Mourns for Bob the Goon?

A:  This play is dark comedy about a PTSD therapy group where everyone thinks they're third tier comic book characters. Specifically it's about vets who have coped with their PTSD by identifying with their lesser known comic counterparts as part of an untested (and maybe unethical) version of drama therapy. The group begins to unravel when a woman is admitted who believes she's from an anime, not a comic. The premise in writing was something very personal to me; I find that we, as Americans, often fail to mourn the lives who've impacted us the most.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm writing two plays. School Bus Witchhunt and Copper Pirates. School Bus Witchhunt is a story about a school's administrative board going after a white parent because her son was accused of calling a black friend on the bus the n word. Copper Pirates is about a man who hunts copper (something extraordinarily common in poor communities) whose stash was raided. The thin thread holding his life and family together falls apart because someone stole his copper. Both stories are 100% focused on poor communities in America.

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 think the older I get the more I reflect on visiting my father in prison when I was a child, and how that memory fuels my current activism as an artist. And how that memory fuels my sense of defiance.

My parents were both indigent and very young when they had me and it took some time for them to transition into being 'parents.' Longer for my father than my mother... and my father's getting in trouble with the law in my early years reflects that. I have two very clear memories of this experience. I remember when my father was in court for sentencing and my mother telling me it was important that we showed up, as the court was more lenient if they saw a sympathetic family in attendance. Crying children help. I also recall the process of visiting him in prison, and -to a child, maybe 5-7 years old- it just felt like a trip or something special to do. "Oh it's Saturday, we're gonna go visit your father."

It took many years to figure out my identity as an adult and embrace the environment I emerged from. It took many years in NYC to realize how different I was to so many people in the communities I was involved in. It saddens and scares me how out of touch people in theater are with these large swaths of America who are living in or near what we would classify third world environments. The disadvantages my folks faced in my youth, including my dad getting in trouble with the law, were dictated by where we were and are headed as a society. The lack of opportunity and even hope that is dictated to the lower class in this country... I'm trying to change that. I was lucky in that, despite the disadvantages my parents had to overcome, they were always supportive towards me... and genuinely bright people. The idea that poor folks in this country aren't bright is a mistake too many people make.

I pursued writing as an act of defiance. My folks insisted as I grew up that I fought for whatever I could cling to that brought my happiness. Their theory was that life was going to be miserable no matter what I did, so the least I could do for myself was find a path/ career/ life that could have the potential to make me happy. My not giving up my hopes and dreams as a playwright is a subtle and consistent act of defiance and protest to our society at large and an act of honoring that mentality my folks imbued in me. Going into the arts or actively finding methods of self expression, is overtly discouraged in poor communities. I think of my father being in prison, how he got there and why, how my parents dealt with their circumstances in life, how they raised me... and it really is the best little anecdote that explains who I am as a writer, a person, and an activist.

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

A:  The aesthetics, the types of stories being told, and even the way theater is made is far too controlled by the mentalities of people who have had affluent lives. The sons and daughters of the upper class, and even upper middle, and even middle class, at some point took over the theater scene, especially the downtown theater scene, and have made it an impenetrable monolith.

If I could change one thing... well I would tear it all down. I'd find an army of people from poor communities across America and jam them into every board of directors, theater company roster, and artistic role I could find. I can't do that... so instead I created my own company that is expressly aimed at supportive voices from lower economic background. It's a start.

The stories that need to be told from these communities are so important, and can be so entertaining, enlightening, and engaging... that we just have to build the infrastructure to have them heard, and more importantly, produced.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  This is a very good question. Typically I feel like playwrights talk about who influenced them and not who their heroes are. I've been influenced by Beckett, Albee, and Miller among others... but who are my heroes...? Thinking...

Spalding Gray is one of my theatrical heroes. His mother's suicide and later his own... when you look at his life and work through the lens of someone fighting so hard against a psychological disorder, but losing to it... it rouses something in me. A strength to fight on, even knowing you may lose. And I've admired the existential empathy he conveys in all his work. Watching one of his monologues has always made me feel less alone in the world.

Yukio Mishima is hero of mine. That dude just did not give. a. fuck. His politics are complicated but his acts of defiance for what he believed in were unyielding. And similar to Spalding, Mishima was validated by genuine brilliance as an artist. I look to him for a personal reminder of what it's like to have totally converged artistic life and private life, and how there is honor and positivity in that. On the other hand, he presents a cautionary tale of how converging private and artistic life too much... to an extreme and inflexible place, can lead to ruin.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Only theater that is uniquely theatrical excites me. We live in an age where there are a lot of mediums for telling a story. I have often seen plays and left asking myself, was this medium best suited for this tale. We have access to the technology to make podcasts, films, televisions shows, webseries, and so on... That's why I believe a theatrical piece should try to strive towards justifying why it belongs on a stage.

Ivo Van Hove's Scenes from a Marriage was a great example, so was Reid Farrington's Tyson Vs. Ali, other examples are Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again, SeaWife, and I could list many others. All of these very diverse stories from diverse artists shared one big thing in common, they could only exist on the stage. (*And I recognize the irony in writing that since Scenes from a Marriage was originally a motion picture, but in adapting it and using the Fefu and her Friends style story structure Van Hove and Emily Mann made something uniquely theatrical.)

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

A:  I'd say remember you'll only ever have yourself and your own ambition to trust, so fight for those things. Fight for yourself and your ambition. Fight to be a better human being. Fight to be a better artist. Fight to be a supportive artist. Fight to be collaborative. Fight for your vision. Fight for a better theater. Fight for better opportunities for marginalized artists. Fight for humility. Fight to be a better skilled playwright if your talent doesn't match your ambition. And most importantly fight for storytelling, and fight for the stories heard that deserve to be heard.

And never stop fighting, because that leads to feeling something passed you by or you missed your chance. Resentment, anger, darkness... lead to nothing good in the arts.
 
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Friday, July 22, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 862: Elenna Stauffer



Elenna Stauffer


Hometown: Scarsdale, NY is where I grew up.

Current Town: New York, NY is where my kids are growing up.

Q:  Tell me about Hysterical.

A:  It's the story of five girls' strange and terrifying year. One by one the girls on the Bandits' cheerleading team succumb to a mysterious illness, upending the traditional pecking order and testing the girls’ relationships with each other. It was inspired by actual news stories about mass hysteria among modern American high schoolers. If there is a theme in my work so far, it is that I tend to be interested in characters who might be written off as trivial, but who are struggling and trying desperately to be heard. In this play in particular, I have tried to focus tightly on the voices of the young women who are afflicted, so there are no mothers, fathers, coaches or teachers onstage. It is just them.

In an early draft, in a class I took at Primary Stages with Stefanie Zadravec, she identified an impulse I hadn't named but was following, about how I use the girls as their own Greek chorus to tell their stories. It gave a name to what I was trying to do, and I worked harder in subsequent drafts to make sure that I followed that instinct. So throughout the play, there are moments when it gets to be too much for the girls, when they break the fourth wall to comment on what is happening to them through fully embodied cheers. It requires an awesome cast able to reveal the delicate inner lives of these fragile young women, and also capable of stomping, shouting and doing stunts and splits. I like to think it is a poignant, cheer-full look at life on the cusp of adulthood.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I have a newish play about the corrosive effects of social media on human interaction, which needs work, and a couple of problematic older plays that I'd really like to get my hands dirty revising. One is about a group of pageant moms (and Sarah Palin makes a nice cameo), and the other is about a new moms' group and is the most naturalistic of all the plays I have written so far. I've also been given small short play assignments by a couple of theatre groups I write with (I'm on the board of a newly formed company called Mason Holdings which is having a launch this fall) so I've got the month of August, when I'm no longer allowed to revise Hysterical, when I'll need to write those.

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, in terms of ambition and a love of writing, it would have to be my impulse at age five to declare to anyone who would listen that I planned to be a novelist (pronounced NO!-velist). That was also when I would give impassioned introductions at imaginary conventions, jumping on my parents' bed, shouting "Ladies and Gentlemen! President Jimmy Carter!!" I'm still a fan of his, so as origin stories go, those two impulses still feel like honest seeds of the person and writer I hoped to be.

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

A:  Hm. I have to say that I'm heartened every time I see a play that changes my perception of the world and as far as diversity of voices goes, there may be some hopeful signs, but I think there's still much room for improvement. I also think that as much as I'd realized that making a career as a playwright would be no easier than making a career as an actor (in both cases, it's voiceover work that's paid my bills), I don't think I realized how difficult and isolating it can be to find community, which is so necessary (even more so!) as a writer. Coming at this after years as an actor, I have actor friends I can call on when I need to hear material read aloud, but there should be more institutional support for nascent playwrights to get to hear their scenes aloud. I've loved taking classes at Primary Stages. In addition to having excellent, working teachers, it's a place where they have opportunities for readings or just to borrow space and actors to hear things in a conference room, and without that I'm not sure how I would have developed. But classes are expensive and without that or the support of a graduate program, I'm not sure how an early career playwright gets that room to try and fail and stretch, so I think that there are barriers to entry that go beyond just programming decisions at big theaters. So I think there’s room for improvement there.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I'm going to answer this in a more personal way- I didn't start out as a playwright. I took a playwriting seminar at Yale and then a wonderful class in graduate school with Ellen McLaughlin, but I didn't really attempt to BE a playwright until after I'd already had my first baby. And it's been a reality for me, as it is for a lot of women, that it can be very hard to have children and still have artistic and personal ambitions, and so my heroes are all the women who have demonstrated that this can be possible (or, at least that I'm not nuts to try). So my heroes are women like Stefanie Zadravec and Brooke Berman, Sarah Ruhl (whom I've never met, but who wrote a series of essays that inspire me), and your wife, Kristen Palmer, among many.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I've always said that my favorite theatre is theatre that is fun and/or beautiful (which can be a terrifying kind of beauty). I came at this from having been a musical theatre girl. In that world, there's often a right and a wrong answer to the question "Webber or Sondheim," but I honestly was very split. I've come to love Sondheim, but I will still always pick Webber at the karaoke bar.

I worked as a stage manager on a production of Angels in America when I first moved to NY after college. I had no skills and didn't get paid, but I just really, really wanted to be near that script because that play is... obviously unbelievable. Working on it was a formative experience- the cast was wonderful and I just loved that feeling of working on something meaningful with people I genuinely loved.

As a spectator, I may never have another night at the theatre that makes me want to stop time just to keep thinking about what I saw the way I did when I saw Gem of the Ocean. And going back to the previous question about heroes? August Wilson. Definitely. His plays showed worlds I knew nothing about, and made me think about the world I lived in. Wendy Wasserstein is the playwright who made me wonder if I could write plays- seeing the Heidi Chronicles in high school was eye opening because it was one of the first plays where I saw someone confronting things that felt familiar to me. Because I came at this from having been an actor, I'm very aware that it's not just the playscript that makes a successful production. There are directors, like Simon McBurney, whose work would make me drop everything to search for tickets (as a side note, having been lucky enough to find Deborah Wolfson to direct this production of Hysterical! I've seen firsthand the positive impact a director can have- she manages not only to realize what I've written, but also to see what I've TRIED to write, and to make sure that that also is revealed). As for actors, I saw an understudy, Jerome Preston Bates, step in for Keith David in Seven Guitars, and he blew me away (and made me realize how many brilliant people are just waiting for their shot in this crazy talented city!). Michael Cerveris in Tommy. Sir Ian McKellen and Geraldine McEwan. Phyllicia Rashad. Lisa Gay Hamilton. This could take all day.

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

A:  Find really generous people to be around. I remember a classmate giving me the name of her voice teacher when I was a new-to-the-city actor. It stuck out because these kinds of acts of kindness seemed rare. In this industry, there are people who will be human beings and people who treat this as a cutthroat sport.

Having defined myself for so many years as an actor, it's taken me some time to be comfortable calling myself a writer, especially in the company of obviously talented writers who have started earlier and who have had more successes. That writing class I took at Yale was a class of ten. It included Itamar Moses and Quiara Hudes. So I have good reason to feel inferior. But when I first started writing, Itamar gave me one of the most generous, thorough and thoughtful reads of an early draft (when I really, really didn't know what I was doing.) I took it out recently to see if it was salvageable and it was TERRIBLE. But he took it seriously, which allowed me to take myself seriously and to keep at this. All the teachers and writers who have similarly shared their thoughts and dramaturgical instincts with me as I worked to find my own- I'm deeply grateful for them. And, of course, one of my first giggles post grad school was being listed in the credits of your Mask play playscript as having originated the role. So when you asked me to do an interview, I'll be honest, I was really touched. So, I guess I hope that I can be as nurturing as you all have been. And my advice to playwrights, to get back to that, is that while it's true there are only so many "slots" for productions, etc. etc, and that it's true that there is a lot still to be done to achieve gender and all other parity, that doesn't mean you have to be part of the shit show. Allow yourself to be a cheerleader and supporter for other writers, because there are many, many people itching to do the same for you.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I hope if you're reading this before August 24th that you'll come and see the NYC Fringe production of Hysterical! Tickets are available through www.fringenyc.org or you can check out our website: www.hystericalplay.com As our marketing materials say, "there may be tears; there WILL be cheers."

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 861: Joshua Kaplan



Joshua Kaplan

Hometown: Bellmore/Merrick, New York. Home of Amy Fisher, Deborah Gibson, and Ben & Jerry. Really, look it up.

Current Town: In transition (DC--->LA)

Q:  Tell me about Visiting Hours.

A:  My mother passed away last year after a long illness. Our relationship was very close and very complex. Over the past year, I've struggled to figure out exactly who I am without the person who served as the anchor, in ways both good and bad, to my life. A friend suggested I use my writing to channel all these conflicting feelings. So I set out to write Visiting Hours, which at its core is about the loss of a matriarch in a conflicted family (what family isn't?). But it would be a mistake to call this an autobiographical, or even semi-autobiographical, play. There are elements of my life, for sure, and reflections of some of my family dynamics (as I see them, at least). But really I hope this story stands on its own and has its own life. I find many autobiographical plays to be one-dimensional and unrelatable. I wanted this story to be about every family and no family.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Visiting Hours is the second play in a pseudo-comedic trilogy about aging, dying, and death. Funny stuff, right? Actually, Visiting Hours is the most "dramatic" of the three. The first play in the trilogy, So Late, So Soon, is a romantic comedy set in a nursing home that I wrote for the legendary Estelle Parsons. Ms. Parsons is now attached to that play, we have had some terrific readings in NYC and are now shopping it around. The third play, Happy Endings, is a farce set in a funeral home -- Noises Off meets Six Feet Under -- and is still in the drafting stages. I'm also entering USC's MFA Screenwriting program this fall, a new path that I'm excited to begin.

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

A:  Oh, man. That's a playwright-to-playwright question if I ever heard one. I learned the power of the written word -- not just its power to educate but to express a soul-felt truth -- when I was thirteen. My uncle had just passed away, and my entire family was staying in his apartment on the Upper East Side. I could -- and someday might -- write a whole play about that week, it was such a pressure cooker of love, anger, compassion, loss. At some point everyone else went out, maybe for a walk, maybe in search of more Valium. Like all teenagers, I didn't know the value of boundaries, so I started snooping through my uncle's things. I found his diary and flipped to the last page, I had some kind of morbid curiosity about his final entry. There were only four words on it: "My son, I love." Four words. Ten letters. So much meaning in so condensed a form. And that meaning, that feeling, it still exists, because those words are still there, on paper and in my head and my heart. The written word is the closest we can come to immortality.

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

A:  Less readings and workshops, more productions. There's value to the development process, absolutely, but at some point we all want to do what we went into theater to do -- entertain an audience. I understand the seductive attraction of risk aversion, and I understand the economics of what we do. I'm definitely not a head-in-the-clouds idealist, if anything, I could stand to stick my head in the clouds a little more often. But this isn't a matter of idealism versus realism. Theater is theater: it's putting something in front of an audience, warts and all. It seems like too many of us are so afraid an audience will see our warts, we don't let them see anything at all. We need to learn how to say yes more than we say no.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  It depends on how you define hero. I am inspired as a playwright by many of our greatest playwrights -- Edward Albee, Michael Frayn, Tennessee Williams, and so on. But I am inspired as a member of the theater profession (and as a human being) by Estelle. I've never met anyone as courageous, with as steadfast of a commitment to the art of what we do, as Estelle. It doesn't matter who you are or where you've come from -- what matters is the work. I learned from her that ego is the greatest enemy of creation. In fact, she'd probably slap me silly if I ever called her my theatrical hero, which makes her so even more.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love to laugh one moment and cry the next. I'll be honest, I have a hard time with pure drama, especially drama that is so dark it lacks any humor, levity, or lightness. Sitting through Long Day's Journey Into Night is like my personal long day's journey into night. I can see the artistry in pure drama, the beauty in the darkness. But when there's not even a glimmer of hope or humor or light, I immediately tune out. It's a defense mechanism, of course, this innate need to find the light in darkness. But as far as defense mechanisms go, it's not a bad one, not as bad as, say, an insatiable chocolate chip cookie addiction (which I also have). When theater makes me laugh and cry at the same time, that's when I'm in my happiest place. If I had to choose, though, I would choose laughter before I would choose tears. There are enough tears in the world already.

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

A:  Since I'm relatively new to this whole endeavor, I could probably use more advice than I can give. FWIW (as the kids say), my advice is the same as I give my creative writing students. Find your voice and trust it, but know the difference between voice and craft. A voice is innate, craft is developed. Stay true to your voice while you develop your craft. And remember, not everyone can be a great writer, but a great writer can be anybody. (Ok, that last one was a paraphrase from Ratatouille, but it's apt and that rat is so damn cute.)

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Come see Visiting Hours, at Theaterlab July 28-31!!! We have an amazing cast and creative team, led by the exceedingly talented Dina Vovsi. www.visitinghourstheplay.com

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Friday, July 15, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 860: Wendy Graf




Wendy Graf

Hometown: Los Angeles, Ca

Current Town: Los Angeles, Ca

Q:  Tell me about Please Don't Ask About Becket.

A:  In Please Don’t Ask About Becket I write of themes I return to again and again: family, identity, home. In much of my work, these themes have played out against a backdrop of the social, political and religious landscape of our times. In Becket, the heart of the story is a young woman’s journey to self-awareness as an individual, separate from her twin and from the rest of her family. Seen through the lens of upper middle class privilege, it is also the story of a family built around one member –Emily’s twin brother, Becket - and how he affects each of them, both uniting and dividing them as they struggle to reconcile their relationships. Becket asks questions about nature vs. nurture, to what extent parents are responsible for their children’s bad behavior, whether it’s possible for parents to love a child too much, and where the line should be drawn between standing up for our kids and forcing them to overcome obstacles on their own.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Right now I am deep in the world of this play and find it hard to work on anything else. I have been developing a play called A Shonda, about a closeted gay Orthodox Jew and a gay Southern Baptist who struggle to reconcile their faiths and their sexuality.

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

A:  This is a two part answer! First, what would I change nationally? I would change how theaters are so scared about their bottom line ie. putting butts in seats, that they keep recycling old standbys and are afraid to take chances on new work because they think people won’t come. Theaters like Steppenwolf in Chicago and The Public in New York have done just fine taking chances and developing new work and promoting new voices. Case in point: Fun Home and Hamilton!

Okay, Part 2: Los Angeles. I would change Equity’s crusade to eliminate 99 Seat Theater. Los Angeles has never gotten its due as a theater town because of the domination of the film and television industry. Los Angeles has one of the largest thriving, creative, thrilling small theater scenes around, with top artists, exciting and fresh new voices and a myriad of opportunities for playwrights who have not been lucky enough to have one of the very few Equity theaters (which by and large bring in productions from elsewhere rather than developing work of and casting local artists) as a home/place to develop and produce work. Over 400 new productions open each year, in everything from beautifully restored 99 seat venues to black boxes to garages and site specific locations. The fact that so many theater artists - actors, playwrights, artistic directors, designers, producers – have joined together, marched, shown their solidarity and overwhelmingly voted in support of the 99 Seat Plan and have now filed and served a lawsuit against Equity shows how vital that plan is to us. I would never have been able to grow and thrive as a playwright, to develop my work with top theater artists; in short, I would not be giving this interview if it weren’t for Los Angeles theater and the 99 Seat Plan.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tony Kushner, Arthur Miller, Stephen Sondheim (because his lyrics are really like little plays in themselves and I’ve devoured his 2 books, aspiring to “make a hat”). I’m inspired by the writing and direction of Moises Kaufman and also by the late Mike Nichols’ direction. Most importantly, my mentor, Gordon Davidson, director extraordinaire and Artistic Director of Center Theater Group for 35 years, is my biggest theatrical hero. My play Lessons was the only play he directed after retiring from CTG. During that over two-year collaboration I learned so much from him - about theater, writing, character, dramatic structure, how to show rather than tell, how to be a storyteller, what needs to be said and what doesn’t, how to be brave and listen to my gut. Every single day I find his words and adages echoing in my head.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I am a very visceral and instinctual writer and theatergoer. I don’t have any hard and fast rules; it’s about my visceral reaction. When I saw Fun Home my heart started pounding, I was completely engaged in the life of the family, I was moved to tears more than once, and I spontaneously jumped to my feet and cried “bravo!” when it ended. I also love plays that speak to me about different things and perspectives at different times of my life. I’ve always loved Death of a Salesman. In my younger days, I saw it as a play about a tragic guy who was over the hill and used up, struggling to maintain relevancy. When I saw Mike Nichols’ production a couple of years ago, suddenly it was a play about the lies family members tell one another to protect each other and preserve their fragile existence. I am excited by imaginative work such as that of Tony Kushner and Rajiv Joseph. I love to go to the theater, become immersed in the world of the play, cry, laugh, cheer…. the best theater is provocative as well as entertaining, challenging complacency and the status quo.

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

A:  Read plays and go to theater as much as possible! Learn the difference between a play and a TV or film script or a short story. They are not the same. Accept that writing is rewriting. And it’s important to hear your work instead of just reading it, so when you write something have a reading, even if you’re just grabbing a few friends and sitting around your dining room table. It informs you as to what is working and what is not and helps you on the journey of finding the play. Write from your heart, not what you think is commercial. And follow Tony Kushner’s great advice: Whenever you feel stuck, go back to your original impulse. I have that one hanging over my computer to remind me daily!

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  It’s been years since he disappeared, but Emily Diamond is still haunted by dreams of her twin brother, Becket. Kiff Scholl directs the world premiere of Please Don’t Ask About Becket, an enthralling family drama by Wendy Graf (All American Girl, No Word In Guyanese for Me) opening August 20 in an Electric Footlights production at the Sacred Fools Theater Black Box in Hollywood, Calif.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 859: Paola Lázaro




Paola Lázaro

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Current Town: New York Crispy City

Q: Tell me about your show coming to Atlantic.

A: First let me just say: Thank you to the Atlantic Theater and The Tow Foundation for making this crazy shit happen. I'm forever grateful.
The play is called "Tell Hector I Miss Him" and it's a 12 character beast with tentacles and algae and graffiti and a slight cocaine addiction. It follows the life of 12 people in a slum in Old San Juan.
Here's a little blurb:
"You're in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan. You're a tourist, you walk down the stairs of this beautiful old fort built by the Spaniards. When you reach the bottom, you realize you're in the hole, a slum. Welcome to La Perla, the barrio and the underbelly that lies under the tourism and behind the fort walls. You spend some days there, you don't want to leave. Oh no, you're addicted to the beauty, the women and the drugs."

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I'm working on a new play called "There's Always the Hudson" and it's about uh, two fucked up people who try and get revenge from the fucked up people that fucked them over.

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

A: Back in PR, 3rd grade. My best friend, beautiful, sweet, everyone loved her and looked up to her. Recess ends, bell rings, if you're late you get in trouble. I start running to the classroom, but I see my buddy sitting on the floor, not moving. That's weird. She's mad responsible, some shit ain't right. So I say, shit, let me go check on her. I go over and I say "Tiny, the bell rang." And she says: "Yes". I say "well, let's go" and she says "I can't" and I say " ¿Qué pasó? and she says "Acércate, come closer" and I do. And she whispers in my ear "Me cagué (I shat myself)" and I say "Right here?" And she says "Right here" and she's sitting Indian style on the floor in her uniform too hot for the caribbean weather. And the kids are still running around trying to get to class. And she says "Go to class, don't be late, tu mamá gets mad" And I look around at the kids hustling and I look at her and I sit on the floor next to her, Indian style, and I say: "No te preocupes por mi
​ni mami ​(Don't worry about me or my mom)". She's crying now. I say: "Tengo un plan. We're gonna sit here until everyone gets into class and then we slowly, hidden,
​chillingly, ​without any kids or teachers knowing, we're gonna walk to the bathroom and I'll walk behind you so nobody sees the poop and then we clean you and then no poop"
Basically, I'll stay and sit next to you when you shit yourself and I'll make sure no one makes fun of you or fucks with you. Then. I'll make sure you're clean so you can go on with the rest of your day.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: René Marqués
Miguel Piñero
Hector Lavoe (Salsa singer)
Raúl Juliá
Cheo Feliciano (Singer)
Danny Rivera (Singer)
Chuck Mee
José José (Singer)
Stephen Adly Guirgis
Kelly Stuart
Tony Kushner
Laurie Anderson
Woody Allen (his 70's shit)
​My father​ and mother and grandma
and more....​

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: Honest, transparent shit. I get enough bullshit on a day to day basis. I wanna see and hear people say the shit they can't say in life.

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

A: Write. Don't let the editor come into the room before they have to. The editor doesn't know shit about creating. The editor has no clue about it. Write. Don't judge it yet. There will be time for editing later. Trust. Don't fuck with the editor before you have to.

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Friday, July 01, 2016

READING NYC JULY 5

(Yeah in a couple days.)


FREE DRINKS!

LIVE MUSIC!

AND MY PLAY



Tuesday, July 5th @ 7pm
MERCY by Adam Szymkowicz
Directed by Scott Illingworth


Featuring: Mike Carlsen, John Doman, Kathleen Littlefield, Francisco Solorzano & Ashley Marie Ortiz 



All readings will take place at El Barrio's Artspace PS109 (215 E. 99th Street, New York, NY 10029)


All readings will feature LIVE MUSIC and FREE DRINKS; Suggested Donation: $5.

RESERVATIONS are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - email barefootrsvp@aol.com with DATE of reading you'd like to attend in subject line. We will email you back ONLY if there's a problem.

http://barefoottheatrecompany.org/readings.php

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 858: Reina Hardy




Reina Hardy

Hometown- definitely Chicago

Current Town- Interlochen, MI (teaching playwriting at summer camp)

Q:  Tell me about Bonfire and your Sky Candy show.

A:  Bonfire is the culmination of a very chill yet very helpful year-long development process that I've been doing as part of Pipeline's Playlab. I'll be presenting a reading of a play that's been tricky for me to write, and I feel like I'm the poster child for the usefulness of this process.

"Agent Andromeda and the Orion Crusade" is a devised circus show, helmed by my director soulmate Rudy Ramirez, (who directed my plays "Stars and Barmen" and "Changelings" at the Vortex) and starring the fine aerialists of Austin's Sky Candy troupe. The phrase "devised" sounds kind of artsy, but this is going to be an action comedy romp loosely inspired by Barbarella. Loosely, because we wanted to be queerer and less vintage in our demented sex positivity, and also because we wanted a real plot. A cheeky, referential sci-fi plot, but a plot nonetheless. I finished the rough draft of the script a couple weeks ago, and I'm really, really happy with it. It's hot. It's funny. It's about female desire, it treats sex as both ridiculous and important, and it contains a scene where two ex-lovers engage in trial by combat using a flying stripper pole.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I just got back from a workshop student production of "Fanatical," the science-fiction convention-set musical I've been developing with composer Matt Board and the Stable, a UK production company. I spent a month in glamorous Woking for rehearsals and constant brainstorming with Matt. We're getting things in shape for a UK production in spring 2017.

Finally, I have a new script in the works. It's a secret, but it's called "The Clone Princess."

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

A:  My grandma sent me a children's bible. Lacking context for the book, I read it cover to cover and concluded that it was very interesting but probably too structurally innovative for a small child. I mean, starting out with short stories, but then suddenly switching gears to a bildungsroman? And what on earth is going on in the final chapter?

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

A:  I'd like discussions of gender parity and diversity to start with writers, directors and other generative creatives, and I'd like these discussions to also include smaller non-equity theaters (which is where most people need to get their experience.) Oh, also, when I say "discussions," what I mean is "immediate drastic improvements."

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  For years now, my theatrical hero has been Bob Fisher of the Mammals in Chicago. He's set things up so he can make what he wants to make without being beholden to anybody. His work is totally unique to him, genuinely weird... but his response to feedback is to ask questions and push his work in new directions. He's my hero because he feeds himself first, and the audience first, and basically no-one else. It's a good thing to remember.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I'm a sucker for novelty, I'm actually a very cheap date that way. The first time I see something done, I'm always interested. The second time, I start needing to see you do it well.

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

A:  Get together with friends and make something. Don't ask for permission. Don't wait for anything.

Help other people. It's easy and fun. Think- "What can I offer this actor/director/playwright?" How can I be useful to them?" Organizing a reading for another playwright, for example, is a lot less work than organizing your own reading while still trying to be the writer in the room. And then, you get to take that burden off other people, while assisting in the creation of work that you could never personally create.

Finally, make it a goal to collect nos. If you don't have anyone saying no to you, you are probably not asking enough.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  In order....

Monologs for Nobody: I have two pieces in this interesting experiment at the Toronto Fringe:
http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/shows/monologues-for-nobody/

Bonfire series! EVER so much goodness
http://pipelinetheatre.org/second-stage/bonfire-series/

Agent Andromeda: The Orion Crusade
tickets on sale now!
https://www.facebook.com/events/1146286478767732/

I have a website: reinahardy.com
As well as an NPX profile, where you can read full length scripts: https://newplayexchange.org/users/223/reina-hardy
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 857: Allison Gregory


Allison Gregory

Hometown: Born and raised in Anaheim, California, then Orange County. How I turned out so blue is a mystery to my family.

Current Town: Austin and Seattle.

Q:  Tell me about Not Medea.

A:  With NOT MEDEA, I thought I was writing a solo riff on the Medea myth, but as the story took shape it also took on a life of its own and before long two other characters barged onstage and I just said okay, where are we going? That neatly parallels the audience’s experience of the play, and in fact the characters themselves are never certain what direction things are headed in, everybody goes on this ride! If we do our work, the play is visceral and dangerous and compelling — and funny. Courtney Sale, my wonderful director for the CATF production, is, along with some marvelous designers, creating a truly intimate, dynamic world, and our actors (Joey Parsons, Ben Chase, Rachel Balcanoff) are remarkable. I’m so in love.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I used to work on one play at a time; then a few years back I got stuck on this play I was wrestling with, looked out the window of my office, and just started writing about the commotion going on in the next-door neighbor’s yard. The resulting play — my distraction play I call it, turned out great. And when I went back to the original play I realized it was a one act and it was done! So now I work on several plays simultaneously, for sanity’s sake.

Currently:

MOTHERLAND -- a dark comedy inspired by MOTHER COURAGE, set in a food truck in a diverse section of a large city during the War on Poverty, which I’ve developed at Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble in L.A. and Theatre Lab@FAU in Florida.

WILD HORSES, a one-woman stampede for a kickass actress of a certain age about family, sexuality, independence, and finding your place in a complicated world.

SIX MITFORDS, a play in letters about the infamous British sisters who shook the 20th Century by its ankles, who wittily sparred and clashed over their passionate political ideologies between the world wars. I’m finding troubling similarities between many of their fascist/nazi diatribes and the mouthings of one of our current presidential candidates...

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 a kid growing up in a relatively rural area I would hang out in the corral with the animals (pigs, sheep, goats, horses) on the 4th of July, when everyone else was out setting off cherry bombs and m-8o’s. It wasn’t that I didn’t like a good bang, I just wanted to give the animals some assurance. See, they spoke to me, or anyway I understood something. I think the impulse to identify with the disenfranchised, whether that’s a wolf, a runaway Asian-American boy, a scrappy inner-city family, a stoned thirteen-year old girl, or a delusional Goodwill employee — all of whom have appeared in my plays — that impulse was in me from the start. Once I understood that I could harness it and use my powers for good, well, hello playwriting.

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

A:  The thing theater does better than any other medium is magic. And time. Because it’s always the present onstage and we’re all Right there in the same moment that the thing, the magic, is happening. We’re all present as witness, so more magical moments please. More falling in love and flashes of insight and lavish generosity and sudden poverty and immediate rioting. And music. More music.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  First and foremost, Steven Dietz. The kindest, most generous, inventive, and hardest working playwright in the American theatre.  The fact that he’s my husband is wholly irrelevant.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  All of the above.

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

A:  Be generous. Replace judgement with curiosity. Learn the language of other theatre artists (designers, directors, technicians). Be more generous. Make yourself useful. Be kind. Ask many stupid questions. Invest in real estate. Love what you do and be willing to share it. Make more cuts than you think you need to make. Keep being generous.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  NOT MEDEA: 
NNPN Rolling World Premiere, Contemporary American Theatre
Festival July 8-31 catf.org
Perseverance Theatre, Oct/Nov.
http://www.ptalaska.org/2016-2017-season-announced/

MOTHERLAND: 
Playfest 2016 at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, November
orlandoshakes.org , reading
The Road Theatre Summer Playwrights Fest 7
http://www.roadtheatre.org/summer-playwrights-festival-7/, reading
Theatre Lab@FAU, January 2017 workshop production
http://www.fau.edu/theatre/theatre_lab.php

JUNIE B. IS NOT A CROOK 
(based on the popular children’s series by Barbara Park):
Premieres at Childsplay, Inc. November, followed by productions at
Dallas Children’s Theatre, First Stage Milwaukee,
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and Adventure Theatre

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 856: K. Frithjof Peterson



K. Frithjof Peterson

Hometown:  Saginaw, MI

Current Town: Chicago, IL

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Rewriting two plays for some upcoming developmental stuff and working on a messy draft of a new play. I like to give myself a constraint when I start something new and see what can come out of that. This one is to write something with a larger cast that happens in real time. The next constraint in the queue is to write a two-hander. I like the play I'm working on to feel very different than whatever I just finished. Sometimes the constraints help with that.

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 about six or seven I'd get really excited when my parents had their friends over. Usually, I could beg an extra half hour or so to sit and listen to them talk. But I didn't listen very well. Anytime someone had a slight pause in their sentence I would try and guess the word they were looking for. The first couple times were usually received as "cute." Then I'd get sent to bed. Fortunately, somewhere in there, I learned it's way more interesting to let people keep searching for those words.

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

A:  Accessibility. Diversity. New Audiences. How people are invited into the theater. There's a lot of work and discussion happening right now to wrestling with all those issues. But something I can do better on weekly bases is think about how I invite people to theatre. I see something every week. I usually go alone. Part of that is easy excuse. I've got an erratic work schedule so I usually have to make last minute plans and see what's available on short notice. Not great circumstances to invite people into. But if I hear a great album or listen to a new band, I can be annoyingly evangelical about it. I'm trying to make new converts all week. Why am I less proactive when it comes to theatre? Practically, a ticket costs more and you're probably inviting them to an unknown commodity. The YouTube link was free and you already took the album for a test drive. So the fear has to be that I don't want to give them a bad experience. It's an unnecessary fear. Some of the best nights I've had after a show have been discussing a play that didn't quite connect for me with someone who doesn't see a ton of theatre. It's an opportunity to examine things I'm trying to do and get the perspective of someone who doesn't see the experience the same way I do. Also people who don't see a lot of theatre like readings and talk backs more than I would've ever anticipated.

So I'd like to get rid of my unfounded apprehensions about inviting more non-theatre friends to the theatre. I want to focus on honest ways of showing them the value of their participation and insight. I'd like to be better at plugging shows by filling the seat next to me instead of a social media post. I'd like all of us to find personal ways we can get people in the room that aren't currently sitting there.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Chicago storefront theaters. They make it financially possible for me to see as many shows as I do. And I get to see them in wonderfully intimate spaces. The energy and up close magic of those spaces makes it hard to lean back.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Any humble investigation.

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

A:  You don't have to write everyday. But work at being a writer everyday by practicing empathy.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I just got back from Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. The people and process were unbelievable. You want to send them your plays.

http://www.idtheater.org/submit-a-play.html

I've got a reading coming up outside Chicago this Sept. with William Street Rep's LAB Series. They've been really ambitious about building audiences for new plays with this series. I'm stoked to be a part of it.
http://wsrep.org/index.php/whats-on/lab-series/

And Strange Sun Theater in New York is giving me the opportunity to workshop a new play with them this winter. They're also deeply committed to new plays. http://www.strangesuntheater.com/


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