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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...

Feb 26, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1074: Greg Kotis




Greg Kotis

Hometown: Wellfeet, Massachusetts.

Current Town: New York City.

Q:  Tell me about I Am Nobody.

A:  I Am Nobody is a low-budget, guitar-driven musical comedy about people grappling with the excesses of modernity. A tech worker ventures out into the American continent to find and stop his friend from destroying the modern world. Young lovers meet, fall in and out of love, and vice versa. Five characters, fifteen songs, about ninety minutes.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a zombie musical with my longtime writing partner Mark Hollmann. It's a dark comedy about a fast food chain that launches an ambitious new menu item that, apparently, turns people into zombies.

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

A:  More public funding for smaller theater companies.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  David Mamet and Sam Shepherd are two favorites of mine. Both started in storefront theater, developed distinct voices, and wrote great plays. Also, anyone, anywhere who tried - or are trying - to create comedies.

Q;  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  This will sound vague, but I'm most excited by theater that feels like it's honestly pursuing a kind of truth. I trust comedy the most to do this because there's something about laughter, or the right kind of laughter, that's the closest thing we have to agreeing on what's true.

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

A:  I would give the advice that I got way back when from longtime Second City producer and director Bernie Sahlins. He said find a way to get your work in front of an audience. This may mean putting on plays in living rooms or cafe basements or converted garages (all of which I've done), but there is no substitute for feeling how an audience, even a tiny audience, is reacting to your work.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I Am Nobody opens March 5th and runs at The Tank (312 W. 36th Street) through March 28th. Come see! Also...

Necromancers of the Public Domain, Ayun Halliday's variety show inspired by books ninety-five years old or older, plays monthly at The Tank. Next up Perkin Warbeck: Pretender to the Crown of England, March 16th at 8P.

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Feb 25, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1073: Lizzie Donahue




photo by Jessie Weiner

Lizzie Donahue

Home Town:  Staten Island, NY

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about A Barn Play.

A:  It’s a quick-full length without an intermission. There are seven characters who go by the name of the animal they are. Owl, Chicken Cow, Sheep, Cat, Dog and Pig. We come upon them at the crack of dawn as they prepare to rehearse a play that Owl has written and is directing. Unbeknownst to them it also happens to be the day that something momentous is going down.

I wanted to investigate the inequity of life from the perspective of certain animals who have no agency. I absolutely mean it to be an allegory and at the same time quite literal. I would love for it to be performed anywhere from a real barn to a parking lot and in between. Maybe the lobby of the Pentagon.

I have only heard it read out loud a few times. It reads very differently than it plays. There is a lot of physicality and non-verbal moments that speak volumes.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  A play about a despotic Presidents last day in office. Working title “One Nation Under Water.” I’m working towards getting a couple of other plays into ‘good enough’ shape for a table read.

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

A:  Christmas Eve, 1972. I am 8 years old unable to sleep because of the presents waiting for me under the tree. Due to a major fear of the dark my bedroom door was ajar. I could hear my two oldest siblings Maura (14) and Bobby (13) discussing a major US offensive - “The Christmas Bombings.” Maura said, “Bob, isn’t it weird we’re all excited about tomorrow and there are kids being bombed in Vietnam?” In a flash my anticipation was obliterated. I cried myself to sleep.

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

A:  Intersectionality casting as the rule not the exception.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Lisa Kron, Lady Bunny, Basil Twist, Anna Deveare Smith, Lily Tomlin, George C. Wolfe, Caryl Churchill, Andrea Hairston, Linda Manning, Jane Wagner, Sarah Fearon, Sutton Foster, Joey Arias, Ntozake Shange, Jeff Baron, Wole Soyinka and Samuel Beckett. To name just a few.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Immersive theatre. Although I find I’m often disappointed because I think it doesn’t go far enough. I’d like to give it a go myself. I have a few big ideas.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Vote!





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Feb 17, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1072: Kareem Fahmy




Kareem Fahmy

Hometown: Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada 

Current Town: New York City 

Q:  What are you working on now? 

A:  I’m both a playwright and a director. On the writing side, I’m doing some revisions on my latest play, A Distinct Society. The play's inspired by a remarkable real place, a library that sits on the border of the U.S. and Canada that has become a safe space for Middle Eastern families separated by Trump's “Muslim ban.” It's a little bit of all the things that define me: Canada, the Middle East, America. I’m also in the early stages of writing a play about a female college basketball star who decides to adhere to the Ramadan fast during her championship season. As a director, I’ll soon be at the helm of a workshop of a cool new Crystal Skillman play, Pulp Vérité, followed by a gig directing some 2nd year MFA acting students at NYU.


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 grew up in French-speaking Canada, and my family was one of the few English-speaking ones in our neighborhood, and definitely the only Muslim one. That feeling of otherness and isolation was definitely a defining quality of my growing up. I managed to overcome that and find my tribe of theatre people (outsiders attract other outsiders!) but the characters in my plays tend to have that quiet loneliness that I was so familiar with in my youth.

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

A:  I’m the co-founder and co-chair of the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab at The Lark, and of Maia Directors, a consulting group that works with artists and organizations telling stories from the Middle East. Advocacy for Middle Eastern inclusion in the American theatre is what I do day in, day out, both as a writer and a director. While I think this change is already (slowly) happening, I would like to see the emergence of a real “canon” of contemporary Middle Eastern American plays, that provide a broad spectrum of stories, forms, and voices. My community is still hugely underrepresented compared to some of our sister communities, and I’m trying to change that one conversation and one play at a time. 

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

A:  Build your network. A huge part of what I do every day is connect with people: other writers and directors, actors, dramaturgs, literary managers and artistic leaders. You have to build relationships with people so they want to work with you. That takes years! A colleague and friend of mine said to me recently: “It's been AMAZING for me to see how well you leverage your authentic relationships.” I loved that! Because for me relationships in this field have to be authentic and meaningful, not opportunistic or surface-level. And it’s the support and encouragement I’ve received from this incredibly kind community of theatremakers that has kept me going all of these years and brought me to where I am today. 

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  My latest play, A Distinct Society, is part of New York Stage & Film’s Winter Season and will be getting a reading on Thursday 2/27 at 3pm at The Lark, directed by Taylor Reynolds. Info & link to RSVP is https://www.newyorkstageandfilm.org/nycprogramming

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Jan 13, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1071: Chloé Hayat





Chloé Hayat

Hometown: Roosevelt Island, NYC

Current Town: Astoria, Queens! (I moved all of eight minutes away from my home-neighborhood, but the bar and restaurant options are so much better! And I absolutely can’t afford to live on Roosevelt Island these days…)

Q:  Tell me about His Majesty, Herself.

A:  I have been obsessed with the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut since I was little, but I only realized how important she was to me as a historical figure recently. She was famous for her seemingly deceptive depiction of herself as male during her reign as Pharaoh rather than accepting the position of female regent. There isn’t actually any evidence that she was queer, but the ancient Egyptians had no great fuss about homosexual behavior, and there aren’t records of Hatshepsut’s sex life so I’m going to believe what I want about that haha. There are so few queer Arab icons let alone queer female Arab icons who were also rulers of kingdoms that I feel like… just let us have this?? She was the first female pharaoh to come to the throne by merit over potential male heirs, and fought her entire reign to keep her power. When white guys working for the Met discovered her temple in 1927, it was mostly destroyed and her body was missing from the tomb. These men decided that the violence of the destruction and the implied disrespect to her physical body must mean that she had deserved this horrible fate. She was called the first evil stepmother for keeping her more deserving male stepson/nephew from his rightful throne throne. However, when her body was rediscovered in 2008 (with many more women in the field of archeology and Egyptology), they took a better look at Hatshepsut’s legacy and the merits of her reign. I’m fascinated by how culture and gender alter the perspective on someone’s legacy. This is also the first play I’ve written this blatantly about being a queer Arab woman and the challenge has been intimidating and exciting. But I am looking forward to having a play that I can point to and say “that’s me!” and feel like I’ve accurately depicted myself at this moment in time.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  This play has been so intimidating to tackle that I haven’t really been able to balance this and any other projects at the moment. I recently wrote a one-act I’d like to revisit at the next opportunity. The End of Incorporated Filth, is a real-time cabaret about the very last burlesque show in New York as Mayor LaGuardia began harshly enforcing the Hays censorship laws through queer communities.


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 this is fun! Uhm okay. I have two (I can’t pick)- 1. When I was really little, I had this box of little plastic figurines, and I would put together these wildly intricate and hard to follow storylines for my parents to play with me. I totally knew what was going on, but my parents were always playing catch up (they didn’t get the script I guess). But my dad likes to remind me of a time where he picked up a Simba toy and I stopped him, insisting that that wasn’t Simba it was The Wicked Witch of the West pretending to be Bugs Bunny wearing a Simba costume. And there were always **notes** when the storyline wasn’t being properly followed hahaha 2. When I was a preteen I was deeply obsessed with Victorian literature- specifically Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo. So, when I was 13 and my family went on vacation to Paris, I reread Les Miserablés and made a list of specific locations from the book and what happens in each scene, then I took my parents and 9 year old brother on a walking tour of Les Misérables through Paris. Needless to say, I had an incredible time hahaha

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

A:  Arbitrariness and funding. In relation to each other and individually. Who gets funding for what project what gets the most success- it all seems so arbitrary. This trend of blockbuster-movie-turned-Broadway-musical is going on much too long, and I know so many deserving playwrights who could use those insane budgets for shows with authentic representations of marginalized voices. The arbitrariness of getting a production or a residency with no distinguishable pattern.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Wow there are so many people, and so many different lists. My first theatrical heroes were cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Madeline, and Disney’s Robin Hood. Then it was Shakespeare, Albee, Pinter, and Beckett, but as I continued to study and research playwrighting I added contemporary writers- Lynne Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Kane, Paula Vogel, Lucas Hnath, Christina Anderson, Sam Hunter, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Simon Stephens, Will Arbery, Olivia DuFault, Jennifer Haley, Mona Mansour (wow I could literally list playwrights forever… and I know I’m still missing idols here). And there are more flamboyant figures who have influenced every part of my life as well as my theatrical tastes like John Waters & Divine, Liza Minelli, Joe Strummer, Noel Fielding, Billie Joe Armstrong, Bettie Page, David Bowie, Debbie Harry, and Freddie Mercury. (My friends make fun of me for having an endless list of “loves of my life” as you can see here, it’s very real and very long) Oh! And the people I admire endlessly for making things happen and giving artists a platform like Emily Morse and Joel Ruark at New Dramatists, Michael Bulger and Maria Striar at Clubbed Thumb, Emily Simoness at Ryder Farm. People who do the hard work of supporting and creating spaces for artists to develop work. They form spaces of excitement, community, and passion and that is incredible.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Right now I’m really interested in fully immersive storytelling. Theater that engages all five senses and keeps the audience moving. I’m obsessed with incorporating food and scent especially. I haven’t been able to enact this idea to the fullest extent yet, but I’m excited by the concept! Also, I’m fascinated by augmented reality storytelling!

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

A:  I am definitely still in the phase of “starting out” but what has been helping me move forward in my career so far has been applying to everything, and volunteering for and supporting as many projects as you can be a part of, while not sacrificing your ability to complete and enjoy your own endeavors.


Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I don’t know if this is a plug necessarily, but I made myself a website recently! https://www.chloehayat.com/

But- I do a lot of self-producing!! I started After-School Special Theatre https://www.afterschoolspecialtheatre.com/ with friends from college, a company of scrappy young female-identifying writer-producers that value accessible, organic, and experimental theatre. I am also a part of Breaking and Entering Theatre Collective, https://www.bethtrco.org/ dedicated to the Pre-Emerging theater artist.

We’re always up to something.

And this year I’m so excited and grateful to be co-producing the Hit and Run Reading Series with Matt Freeman and Theater Accident! Our first reading is **tomorrow!! 1/13/2020** of my play His Majesty, Herself!


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Jan 9, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1070: Haleh Roshan




Haleh Roshan

Hometown: Miami, FL

Current Town: The Bronx

Q:  Tell me about the play you just had published with DPS.

A:  The play I just had published is A PLAY TITLED AFTER THE COLLECTIVE NOUN FOR FEMALE-IDENTIFYING 20-SOMETHINGS LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY IN THE 2010s, haha, which (I hope) speaks to what it is. It's a Brechtian response to narratives that purport to be about "girls," particularly millennial young women living in a coastal urban center. All the young women I know who are technically that demographic are rabidly intelligent, profoundly politically engaged, and incredibly astute as to how the patriarchal capitalist world is operating upon them (even if they/we can't figure out how to escape that pressure), and yet media mostly just shows us as childish narcissists who can't get their shit together about men. So I wrote about the young women I know. But the play is also more generally about all millennials' unbearable anxieties, staring down a totally uncertain future, and how we can hold on to hope for saving what's best about humanity--borderless community, mutual aid, intellectual inquisition, art.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  My primary project is a play about the parallels between the Iranian and Cuban revolutions, and the effects of American geopolitics throughout the 20th century on our conception of identities; it's about how the material consequences of political borders (including economic borders, e.g. sanctions) manifest differently for individuals depending on class, gender, physical appearance, etc.
I also have an Ibsen adaptation in the works I started for a specific director but then got super excited about personally, and a couple adaptations of texts translated from Farsi: an Evin Prison memoir by a communist woman and a meta-play by a radical Iranian writer written in post-Revolution Parisian exile.

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

A:  Not a story per se, but recently I found in some of my mom's saved papers from my childhood a book report I wrote in maybe 3rd grade; whatever book I read was about the history of wild mustangs in America, and for a solid 4 pages I take adults present and historical to task for allowing millions of mustangs (this is true!) annually to be slaughtered by ranchers or otherwise horrifically injured and left to die to keep land open for cattle grazing and oil drilling.

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

A:  ONE THING ONLY? I would get rid of the reverence for Broadway as arbiter of theatrical standards. Maybe a more positive way to frame this is I would revive the Off-Off-Broadway scene as its own flourishing identity. (And not center it in Brooklyn; let's distribute wild theater across the boroughs, and the country.)

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  I call Arthur Miller my favorite playwright and I've spent many years engaging in my work directly with Brecht's theories, but I tend to have plays that are theatrical heroes rather than playWRIGHTS. Antoinette Nwandu's PASS OVER is a hero, AN OCTOROON obviously, Churchill's LIGHT SHINING IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, Fornes' FEFU, Hellman's WATCH ON THE RHINE, Pinter's THE DUMB WAITER, most shows by Elevator Repair Service...

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I'm most excited by theater that has no idea what theater is supposed to be. Or, theater that knows exactly what theater is "supposed" to be and actively, intentionally resists the subjugation. Theater founded in exploding the boundaries of theater, and of what we call society.

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

A:  Read things that are not plays! Read fiction and poetry, read the news, read smart criticism of other art forms. See plays all the time, as much as possible for what you can afford. See things you've never heard of, see things by artists from cultures and backgrounds you know nothing about.
Also, learn how to send a good cold email--everything in this industry runs on sending and receiving cold emails.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  Corkscrew Theater Festival! https://corkscrewfestival.org/

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Dec 28, 2019

Year In Review

2019



So since 2007, I've been doing a version of these posts.  So that whole 10 year thing, end of a decade look where I am now is possible, in a way.

In 2009, I was 2 years out of Juilliard, living in Minneapolis for half a year for my wife's Jerome and  then wrote for 5 months for a tv show in Atlanta.  I had 8 productions of my plays and wrote 5 episodes of that TV show that year and 2 plays.  I think I had 5 plays published total at that time.  That was the year Hearts Like Fists went up at Juilliard and Pretty Theft went up in New York with Flux.

Today I have 14 plays published.  I have not written any more tv since '09.

I wrote 2 1/2 plays this year, and half a screenplay.  I reached a milestone this year.  I wrote my 50th play.  (I started counting maybe 23 years ago and I count anything over 45 minutes.  So some of these are not long plays.  Some of these are not good plays.  Still that's a lot of plays to write.)





This year was by far the most full length productions I've ever had at 47.  Up 16 from last year, although it should be said a lot of these productions were at schools.  (In other words, fewer performances than small theaters doing a three week run, for example.)










Of these 47 productions, 6 came about through some previous relationship or production.  There were 10 productions of Kodachrome, 1 Incendiary, 7 Marian, 8 Clown Bar, 6 Hearts Like Fists, 5 Rare Birds, 4 Nerve, 3 Adventures of Super Margaret, 1 The Wooden Heart, 1 Stockholm Syndrome (Premiere!), 1 Pretty Theft.

2 were middle school productions.  15 of these were high school productions.  10 were college productions.  2 were at theater schools.

Thee was a premiere of Stockholm Syndrome with The NOLA Project and a first production of The Wooden Heart at Acadiana Repertory Theater in Lafayette.

There were also 10 productions of my night of one acts, 7 Ways to Say I Love You.

I think it's worth saying that my monologues are being done a lot these days at auditions.  I sell a lot more books than I used to because my monologues are out there in a way they weren't say 3 or 4 years ago.  Mostly, I think people find them online in the various places I have put them.  There are kind of a lot of videos of people doing my monologues posted online.

This year I traveled to New Orleans, LA; Nashville, TN; Elon, NC; Las Vegas, NV; Lafayette, LA; Charlottesville, VA, and various places in CT.

I continue to work as Literary Manager at The Juilliard School, supporting the playwriting program there.

There are 18 or 19 planned productions so far in 2020 including the premiere of Clown Bar 2 in Vegas in May.  There will be 3 school productions of The Book Store, all from NPX inquiries.  I think 2 plays will be done in Turkey soon, in Turkish.  I also have a commission to write in the new year and probably another next year.




Kodachrome and Mercy were published by Samuel French this year.

I am interviewing again, slowly.  49 interviews this year.

I sent out submissions to 220 places.

That's it.  Another year wrapped up.  May all good things come to you.  Hope you have a Happy New Year!

My previous year in reviews, in case you are interested:

2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007

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