Saturday, May 27, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 944: Christy Hall





Christy Hall

Hometown: That’s a tough one for me. There are two houses that exist in the world that nurtured the bulk of my childhood, but they are in different states, and no member of my family lives anywhere near them anymore.

Basically, I am a direct product of the American Midwest. A small town girl. I grew up gazing at the stars, listening to crickets and quite often feeling utterly restless and anxious to bust out.

But I am ultimately proud to have participated in the poetry of growing up in the smaller corners of the world. There’s a complexity embedded within the simplicity of living in a place where things rarely change and everyone knows your name. Because of this, I truly wouldn’t change my upbringing for the world. It’s gifted me a very challenging perspective as my life has become far more urban.

City verses country. No matter what either side may claim, there are glaring positives and negatives to BOTH. And I’m grateful I feel just as comfortable wearing work boots as I sweat in the middle of an Oklahoma field as I do wearing high heels as I sip Prosecco and gaze out from the top floor of a Manhattan high-rise. This dichotomy has serviced me extremely well as a writer. It’s allowed me to be the vessel of highly contrasting characters. And I love that.


Current Town: The last nine years I have inhabited three different apartments in Harlem. New York City, baby!

Q:  What are you working on now? 

A:  Currently, I'm working on a new play called THE NATURE OF KNOWING. It's a two-hander set in Brooklyn. My last three plays have actually been placed in New York City. Let’s see, I have a play about two estranged sisters who are forced to live together in a very small Harlem studio apartment, I have another play that is fully encompassed in one single cab ride, and now I'm writing a play about an older man who lives in Brooklyn.

This wasn’t planned, but I suppose these three plays have organically manifested into my little trilogy of love letters to this remarkable city. I mean… there's a reason a great many tales use New York as its backdrop. I think it's because this city requires its residents to be a little crazy in a way. From Wall Street all the way to the gutters, a human doesn't exist in this city unless they possess certain extremes within their personality. I'm the same. The grit, the noise, the danger, the difficulty - it all requires a stubborn resiliency, a whimsical sort of madness, an unbending drive toward something - which we New Yorkers wear like a badge of honor.

Because of this truth, New York inherently has become this vast and highly unique treasure trove of characters. I could spend the rest of my life writing about the people of New York and never repeat myself, not once. And at the end of my life, I would not have even come close to scratching the surface.

As for my new play, THE NATURE OF KNOWING, my lead character's name is Larry, and he forgets things. And as I write about Larry - as the details of his story have slowly been revealed to me - this character has completely broken my heart. Because I know there are many like him, the real Larrys of New York City, quietly shuffling about their third floor walk-ups, a metropolis of millions racing about them, casting not a care if they live or die.

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

A:  Most artists suffered some form of turmoil growing up. And I am no exception. My childhood was marked with a series of very painful events, events that I will respectfully not unpack in the here and the now. But… I believe it’s all very purposeful. It is no coincidence that from a very young age, I thought a lot about the nuances of loss, of death and life, that fine line between love and hate, truth and lies - because I had to. Because the human condition - our perfect imperfection - was directly demonstrated to me in a myriad of ways, time and time again.

For me, I suppose writing naturally began as a means of therapy, a way of processing pain, though I didn’t know that is what I was doing at the time, I was a kid. Looking back, it was so clearly an escape, a means of survival within the powerlessness of childhood. It gave me a safe space in which to unpack all the things I wasn’t allowed to say out loud.

As the years have gone by, however, my writing has evolved from an impulsive act of raw human expression to more of a decisive, disciplined dedication. You cannot be a professional until that change has occurred. There’s a great quote by Stephen King that says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” It is so very true.

Not to say that I don’t still use the great pains of life in my stories. I very much do. And those who know me, know me well, watch my work and can easily point out all the sincere truths embedded inside the fiction. But writing is not therapy for me anymore. And if it is, I am no longer the patient in that scenario. I am now the therapist. My characters come to me these days, begging for help. Not the other way around.

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

A:  I do wish we had a countrywide dedication to new work. If every theatre in the United States did ONE brand new play every season, or even every other season, it would drastically change the health and future of the American theatre. It’s a frightening restructuring to undertake, I do understand. But I’ve seen audiences even in the smallest of theatrical communities embrace new work. Theatre goers are by nature highly curious and incredibly savvy. They actually want to be challenged with new narratives. Many of them simply don’t have the access. We as a theatre collective cannot continue to regurgitate the same stories again and again, or theatre in this country will continue to greatly suffer. Some artistic directors that I’ve spoken with bemoan the difficulty of securing solid, new work to produce. But I directly challenge that notion. In an age of information, we are far too connected to have an excuse. If you run a theatre company, become a member of resources like the National New Play Network. The future of theatre is literally happening right now. And it cannot begin and end with Shakespeare. Shakespeare himself would not approve. Keep in mind, at one point in human history, Hamlet was a brand new play that no one had ever heard of.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Just this last weekend, I saw Enda Walsh’s new play Arlington at St. Ann’s Warhouse and I’m still processing what I saw. There’s fearlessness in Mr. Walsh’s work. An unapologetic sense of self. He’s not afraid to allow his stories to feel dangerous, uncomfortable and unsettling. I felt a great deal watching that play - the full spectrum of human emotion. From horror to happiness to confusion to comfort and all way back again. I walked out of that play with a sincere desire to be bolder in my work. And that is deeply exciting.

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

A:  Don’t judge yourself too harshly in the beginning. And don’t worry too much about that deep, sickening feeling of inadequacy. We all start out feeling a bit insecure, often questioning what the hell we are even doing. It’s because choosing art - any form of art - as a professional has and always will have its monumental challenges. No one would ever make a doctor question whether their profession is necessary or worthy of financial support. Yet, society needs stories just as desperately as our need to ward off sickness. Choosing the path of playwriting is choosing a path of vulnerability. Be kind to yourself in that endeavor. And just keep writing. What you are doing is important. You know it’s important, because, odds are, the power of theatre saved your life at some point. And now you seek to return the favor. Art saves lives and stories matter. You know that. I know that. The rest of the world just might always drag a few paces behind. And that’s okay. It's partly what makes art so magnificently glorious. Because it's hard. Even from the very inception of an idea, the act of creation is never easy. And would we have it any other way? Artists are like New Yorkers, after all… driven by a whimsical madness, a stubborn resiliency. And, honestly, I can tell you that living in that kind of extreme passion and purpose, day in and day out, is an honor. To be a playwright is a privilege. Never allow fear to cause you to forget that.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  www.christyhall.com

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Monday, May 22, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 943: Becca Schlossberg



Becca Schlossberg

Hometown: Originally from Livingston, NJ

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  The two things I am juggling right now are BLOOD MEMORY, a solo show about tracing the line of trauma from the Holocaust between my grandmother, my mother, and me. Its also kinda funny. It’s been a big dream of mine to do a solo show and I’m very happy I’m finally doing it. It also goes into my love of musical theater, and theater in general, and the connections between theater, therapy, and religion. Theater has helped me heal in a real way. The second thing is THE UNTOLD YIPPIE PROJECT, a passion project of mine for about 6 years now. It’s a docudrama about a day in 1970 when a group of Yippies closed down Disneyland. (Do a quick google search and you will yield some fantastic results.)

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 loved Lego sets and I would do anything I could to get my hands on them. Every birthday or holiday, I would usually ask my parents for one. So, for years my mom and went to Toys R Us to satisfy my Lego craving. Then one day when I was about ten and we went to Toys R Us, they had redone the store to create Boys and Girls sections. The Legos were now in the Boys section. My little ten-year-old self had my first moment of female outrage. I remember thinking how ridiculous that was and reasoning there was no reason this should be a ‘boys’ toy. Part of what I take from that event is that most of us don’t really change or gain strong beliefs until we really are confronted with reality. Most times, we like to avoid those things. In my life I like to run from drama. My plays are when I stop running. In my plays, I like to confront the things that are haunting me.

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

A:  I would do more colorblind / gender blind / diverse casting. In many plays, we are asked to go on a journey and suspend our disbelief to a certain extent. In many ways theater allows us to more heavily rely on our imagination, which is great. That’s why I really feel like with theater, more than film or TV, where we are made to see something as ‘reality,’ theater is really a place where we can cast whoever we want for many, many stories and people will absolutely go with it. They just want to see great performers.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Martin McDonaugh (Pillowman blew my little 16 year old mind), John Leguizamo (dude had a massive effect on my personality), Arthur Miller (genius), Lin Manuel Miranda (double genius), Claudia Weill (pioneer and genius), Kenny Lonergan (incredible, I want to write like him; he set the standard of naturalistic dialogue for me), Amy Herzog (gets me right in my feels), Robert Askins (dialogue like honey; stories that slap you in the face while making you weep), Paula Vogel (pioneer, role model, and unbelievable body of work.)

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like stories that go straight for the heart. I love the moments when you're watching a play and you feel your heart connecting to who is onstage and the door inside of yourself, often that you didn't even know was there, opens. I'm also a big fan of ensemble-driven work. I like what everyone has their say and their moment to shine. In many ways, I really feel it is the best way to represent the communal experience that is Theatre. I also really like plays that explore movement like PETER AND THE STARCATCHER or LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. They create a type of holistic experience in theater, a type that engages all of the senses that I feel is often lacking from plays.

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

A:  Someone said to me that you should give yourself permission to write the worst shit in the world. I think that’s definitely true. You have to open yourself up enough to get a writing flow going and sometimes that means writing bullshit. You can always throw that away later, but you gotta get the gate open. Also, read/see plays; never be ashamed of that. You should know your history.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:   Come see THE UNTOLD YIPPIE PROJECT this summer! Coming to Access Theater August 5th-12th. I’ll post ticket info on my website here and on the Sunglasses After Dark Facebook page (my production company that I run with brilliant director Madeleine Parisian) here. Also, I make bad fan art so you can follow me here.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 942: Alexis Roblan







Alexis Roblan

Hometown: Coos Bay, Oregon

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York

Q:  Tell me about Samuel.

A:  Samuel is what I would call a horror play, about family and memory. In a literal sense, it’s about four adult sisters who can’t seem to agree on anything, past or present – but it’s really about the anxiety of realizing that your memory is fallible. I’m not sure how many people have this experience, but I remember as a kid, my mom used to occasionally ask me if anyone had touched me inappropriately or done anything to make me uncomfortable – just doing her due diligence as a parent and early childhood educator. And I would always have this moment of internal terror, like… Did something happen to me? What if I don’t remember it?

In a lot of ways, Samuel is about that. It’s also about trauma and grief and the ways we construct reality. And about what happens to our relationships when we don’t have shared stories anymore.

It’s also a comedy.

I’ve been developing it in the Clubbed Thumb Early Career Writer’s Group this year, and in June, it’s going to have a reading at The Wild Project as part of the Summerworks 2017 Reading Series, directed by Jess Chayes.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  The biggest thing is a project called Red Emma & The Mad Monk, which is going up in June as part of Ars Nova’s ANT Fest. It’s a crazy anachronism of a play about Rasputin, Emma Goldman, and an American 12-year-old who spends too much time on the internet. My director, Katie Lindsay, and I originally came up with the idea after a couple months of conversations about what exactly “political action” means – what’s the difference between speech and action? Why do we make fun of Twitter “slacktivism,” but admire protestors, when both things are essentially speech? The questions of the play have evolved a bit from there, and are honestly being driven by a lot of the deep questioning we’re all doing of our own politics, tactics, and worldviews these days. This one’s also funny, by the way! And it has music! I’ve been collaborating on songs with composer / playwright Teresa Lotz, which is a first for me, and it’s been a blast.

I’m also delving into some new creative territory by devising a piece with Dara Malina (who directed the very first reading of Samuel!), Eunyoung Bona Jung, Gina Manziello, Kea Trevett, and Kenard Jackson for The Brick’s This Is Not Normal Festival. Our piece is called This Is a Protest of What Happened, and we’re in the midst of using Futurism, Phantom of the Opera, and a million think pieces to engage with the idea of the deconstruction of the administrative state.

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 started having pretty intense panic attacks when I was 7 years old – about a second after I first realized that I was going to die. A lot of my creativity is driven by a sense of existential anxiety, and by my own experience of ideas creating visceral emotional and physiological responses in me. It was pretty lonely to realize, at a certain point, that most people don’t have the same relationship to things they perceive as “intellectual.” So I think a lot of my writing is an attempt to bridge that gap. How do you make someone feel an idea?

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  John Guare was my first honest hero. I became obsessed with him when I was an 18-year-old college actor and his work is a huge part of the reason I became a playwright. To this day, every time I engage with his writing I feel like I’m taking a master class in what theatre is supposed to be able to do. I’m also a big fan of Jean Genet, Strindberg, Amiri Baraka. Contemporary heroes are Lisa Kron, Sheila Callaghan, Annie Baker, Anne Washburn, Kate Benson. Richard Maxwell. All for different reasons, but a lot of it’s about finding new ways use theatricality.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I get most excited when I don’t immediately understand my response to something. That moment when you start crying or get CRAZY GIDDY and you have no idea why and it takes months to unpack it, or maybe you never do.

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

A:  This is a career path like any other. It’s built out of working every day for a very long time, because that work is what you want to be doing with your time anyway, even if no one notices.

Q:  Plugs, please:

Samuel
Clubbed Thumb Summerworks Reading
Wed, June 14, 3pm
RSVP - http://www.clubbedthumb.org/readings/

Red Emma & The Mad Monk
Part of Ars Nova’s ANT Fest
Fri, June 16, 7pm
Tickets & info - http://arsnovanyc.com/antfest/6.16

This Is A Protest of What Happened
Part of The Brick’s This Is Not Normal Festival
Sat June 24 @ 7pm, Sun June 25 @ 3pm
Info - http://bricktheater.com
Tickets - https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/973528


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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 941: Peter Grandbois





Peter Grandbois

Hometown: Born in Minneapolis but grew up in Denver

Current Town: Granville, Ohio

Q:  Tell me about The Woman Who Was Me:

A:  The poet, Rumi, says, “There is a kiss we want with our whole lives.” Well, this is a one-woman show about the effects (both good and bad) of getting that kiss. The main character, Lanie, is sleepwalking through life when a stranger kisses her on her way home from work one night. That kiss changes her understanding of who she is in profound ways. The play follows Lanie as she explores the boundaries of feminine identity society has set for her and that she’s set for herself.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I always have various projects in development so there are a few. First, I’m working with Convergences Theatre Collective on the final touches of a stage adaptation of my second novel, Nahoonkara. The stageplay is set in a Colorado mining town in the 1800’s and pushes the boundaries of theatricality. Second, I recently completed a fairly straightforward comedy-drama that takes place in the waiting room of a mental hospital. That play is called The Rules of the Game and questions not only the rules of our failing health care system and the rules we follow in determining who is “sane” or “crazy,” but also the rules—both imagined and real—that determine the responsibility we share in our interactions with one another in a civil society. Finally, I’ve written the first draft of a musical entitled At Night in Crumbling Voices. It’s inspired by the 50’s B movie The Mole People and takes camp to a whole new level as the mole people sing siren songs to the people in a small Ohio town, leading them to adventures beneath the earth.

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

A:  That’s a fun question! For a large part of my childhood I really believed I could fly. I thought if I could only run fast enough, I would take off. I had a recurring dream of this for many years, but the dream seeped into my waking life, and I carried that belief around with me for a long time. I think that belief in flight makes a great metaphor for the magic and wonder that is always part of my writing. Even in a drama as intense as The Woman Who Was Me, there exists the wondrous possibility for magic, for transformation, as she metaphorically turns into a tree. Nahoonkara is full of magic as the mountain town is buried in a snow that never stops, and the people tunnel through town, eventually creating a sort of ant-like society…..and then of course, there’s the magic and strangeness of the mole people musical!

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

A:  I would take money out of the equation. Of course, if I could change one thing about society, it would be the same thing. Capitalism corrupts. Everything it touches. And it has corrupted American theatre. I understand the reasons why. It’s difficult for theatres to make it, so they have to choose the plays that will appeal to a wide audience and make enough money to sustain them. But too often this means another performance of Carousel or worse! Imagine what might happen if every theatre in America was given a grant to produce one show a year where they didn’t have to worry about having a box office hit. Imagine the willingness to take risks that would inspire! Theatres would be free to produce plays that dare to be different, that dare to speak to more transgressive or difficult aspects of the human experience—as opposed to what we have now, which for the most part seems a pale imitation of TV, i.e. plays that make us comfortable.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  So many. Shakespeare of course. He taught me so much about plot and language and complex, conflicted characters. Beckett, who is, for me, the greatest playwright of the twentieth century. And Edward Albee who is a close second. But also Harold Pinter and Sam Shepard and Arthur Miller. When I think of the theatrical experiences that have shaped me, I have to also include seeing Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters, Lanford Wilson’s The Rimers of Eldritch, and Wilder’s Our Town.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that takes chances. Theatre that steps outside the box of realism. Theatre that recognizes the stage is different than film or TV.

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

A;  Getting a play produced is in many ways harder than getting a book published. I know. I’ve done both. So don’t despair. Don’t give up. Keep reading plays. Keep going to theatres. Keep writing and sending your work out. And remember, 10 minute plays are a good way to get your foot in the door. There are many, many festivals for shorter plays. They don’t cost as much, and theatres are more willing to take chances on unknown playwrights when they’re put together for a night of short plays.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A;  The Woman Who Was Me will be showing at Theatre Lab located at 357 W. 36th St. in New York from May 23rd through June 11th. If you want tickets, here’s the link:

http://www.theaterlabnyc.com/upcoming-events/


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Monday, May 15, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 940: Stacey Rose





Stacey Rose

Hometown:  Elizabeth, NJ/Charlotte, NC - They share custody. For the most part it's an amicable arrangement.

Current Town:  Avenel, NJ (which is basically Woodbridge ... but yeah.)


Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A gaggle of really exciting things, but I'll stick to the top 5:

1. Moving into the next phase of parenting my son Zion who is now 18. I feel like my tribe and I have raised a good one. I look forward to what he's going to be in the world.

2. Re-writes on Bones, Bonez, Bone$ the second in a series of 4 one acts plays adapted from Brothers Grimm stories filtered through the lens of my Black experience. I started them with The Amoralists 'Wright Club, which created such an amazing opportunity for me to play with adaptation as I'd never tried it before. I've found that I like it! I really like it!

3. A pilot set in the world of ancillary health care providers (basically everyone who isn't a doctor or nurse) that marries the styles and themes of The Wire, Rock, and HBO's terribly underrated Getting On (one of the few shows that, to me, tonally nailed what it's like working in healthcare). This one is particularly exciting because I've been a respiratory therapist for 19 years and it's the first time I'm writing healthcare in such a detailed way.

4. Legacy Land a play about two sisters, their decades of secrets, their lovers and a freak Thanksgiving Day Blizzard. Oh, and String Bean Casserole.

2a., 3a., 4a. - Seeing this work manifest by any means necessary.

5. Moving to Minneapolis to be a Many Voices Fellow! I'm equally excited and terrified. That's always a great space for me to be in. I'm SO looking forward to making Playwrights Center a creative home. Time, space, and support for my writing is something I've been burnin' incense, throwin' bones, prayin' and wavin' church fans for, FOREVER. I'm eternally grateful.

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

A:  In fifth grade, as I was grappling with the idea that maybe I was a little too fat, I got my very first and very last grade school love letter. The young man wrote in as much detail as a fifth grade boy could, about how attracted to me he was and how he "loved my body." Here I was actively hating my body and this lil muphucka loved it! I mean he even wrote a letter! I had no other choice but to immediately fall in love with him and begin planning our future. Just as I was settling on baby names, I returned to school to find out that he'd settled on another girl who was less chubby. I was reserved for secret flirtations and kisses that I ought never tell anyone about.

This situation reinforced my already warped internal programing that said I was not good enough. I was fat. I was ugly, and worst of all ... I'd never be pick't. The neurosis situations like this created made me a very intuitive writer. When you spend so much time trying to "small" yourself and go unnoticed you get really good at observing social cues and reading character. The flip side is as I realized how jacked a mentality this is, I made a spiritual practice of choosing myself. That way, I am always pick't. It's also a very healthy way of thinking to strive for when living a creative life.

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

A:  The Hunger Games of it all. Being an "emerging playwright" and especially an "emerging playwright of color" sometimes feels like a cut throat game of winner takes all for fellowships, residencies, and development opportunities that may or may not lead to your work actually appearing on somebody's stage. It's exhausting and it fosters buckets of anxiety, pettiness, and resentment among artists who really should be working together to ensure as much representation as humanly possible of our own voices. As a great friend often reminds me, there is room for us all.

I mean ... maybe we can reduce the discussions around who has a right to tell what stories when the folks whose stories need tellin' have a legitimate shot of tellin' them they damn selves. Creating these opportunities I feel lays, in-part, at the feet of the industry as it benefits monetarily and creatively from the work theatre artists give. It also rests with the artists. I refuse to sit around for all eternity waiting for someone to deem my work worthy of production. You shouldn't either. Young Jean Lee didn't. 13P didn't. Taylor Mac didn't. Daaimah Mubashshir didn't. Amina Henry didn't. We can argue issues of privilege and access until the cows come home (and we should), but if Black folks can survive & revolutionize in America during and post slavery, surely you can do the obligatory "apply for everything" and put up your magical realistic puppet show about the Golden Girls and ageism. Better yet, you can help someone else put up theirs.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:
Suzan Lori-Parks &
Eduardo Machado &
Annie Baker &
Edward Albee &
Adrienne Kennedy &
Lynn Nottage &
Lorraine Hansberry
(who was far more gangsta than outside narratives would have you believe) &
Jimmy Baldwin (though The Amen Corner is WAAAY too long to me.) &
Richard Wesley &
Amiri Baraka &
James A. Tyler &
C.A. Johnson &
Donja R. Love &
Korde Tuttle &
Logan Vaughn &
Tiffany Nichole Greene &
Christopher Betts &
Pernell Walker &
Darell J. Hunt &
Basically, all of my theatrical ancestors, predecessors, and contemporaries &
New Dramatists
The Public Theater (also a great place for writing and dreaming) &
The Amoralists &
Brooklyn Generator &
Playwrights Center &
The Bushwick Starr &
any person or institution that goes out of their way to contribute time, money, resources, creativity or all of the above to theatre artists of color, who are differently abled, and of varied sexual/gender identities. It is the only way to ensure an American Theatre that is a true reflection of what this country is.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind I like to call "Dead Ass" Theatre. "Dead Ass" Theatre is straight up no chaser. It makes no apologies for what it is and refuses to put gentile sensibilities before its truth. Latest examples:
The Death of The Very Last Black Man - Suzan Lori-Parks at Signature
Dolphins and Sharks - James A. Tyler at Labyrinth
Everyday Afroplay - Daaimah Mubashshir at JACK

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

A:  You belong. Welcome.
When in doubt, or feeling unworthy, or feeling jealous/unpick't, or feeling great: Have a meal. Drink some water. Call a friend. Take a nap. Cry. Scream ... and when you're done, write.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My new one act Bones, Bonez, Bone$ will have a "dangerously staged" reading as part of The Amoralists Theatre Company's 'Wright Club on June 5th at 7:30 pm at  Medicine Show Theatre
549 W 52nd St, Fl 3rd, New York, New York 10019  (It'll be the last thing I have up in NYC for a while so come thru!)

To keep up with my antics visit StaceyTheRose.com and FromTheRosesMouth.com

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 939: Chris Harcum





Chris Harcum

Hometown: Like John Coltrane, I was born elsewhere but grew up in High Point, NC.

Current Town: Like John Coltrane, I’ve lived six years in the area where Harlem and the Upper West Side meet. The similarities drop off sharply from there.

Q: Tell me about Martin Denton, Martin Denton.

A: Martin has been a great champion of indie theater since before it was called that. During a dinner last summer in New Jersey, he started telling Aimee and me these incredible stories that I don’t think many people know. People who know and love him might not know his origin myth. People who don’t know him probably do not know the impact of his work. An injustice that must be rectified!

I interviewed Martin over several days just before the last big election and had a ton of material. Martin has so many good stories there was about 10 hours of audio of him talking about his formative years and covering theater over the last two decades. I took a staycation week from my Clark Kent job and started transcribing the recordings myself. But I got lost in thinking about how to portray him and putting things in context. My playwright, performer, editor, and producer brains were at war with one another by the end of that week. The despair was thick and I was very frustrated with myself. How would I ever get through this process?

The transcriptionist I hired sent me a 385-page doc of the rest. More material than can fit into a single evening of theater. I morphed that, along with conversations with other theater artists and my own experiences, into a two-hander. It takes place in the fall of 2014 in the West Long Branch apartment where Martin and his mother, Rochelle, moved. Martin gave me five pages of notes on the first draft, which helped the next one take a huge leap. I am pleased to say Martin has given the script his stamp of approval. I feel it has a good blend of material for those who do or do not know Martin.

I play Martin and a few other characters. Marisol Rosa-Shapiro plays Rochelle and many other characters. The style is like what might happen if a comedy duo were performing at a storytelling slam, with many indie theater tropes and devices sprinkled throughout for flavor. As I write this, I am still on the hunt for how to play Martin. I don’t want to do a caricature or impersonation because I want this character to be an authentic person presented on stage.

I wrestled with doing this piece considering what is happening now in the world. But I figured it is a service to do something at this time that is big-hearted and reminds people why making and experiencing theater in a room, with other people and no screens, is necessary.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: Staying sane and healthy in this crazy time. Seeking positive ways to channel my fears and anger. Feeding my mind, body, and soul so I am ready and available to share what I have to offer in my life and my work. Getting comfortable with and fighting against maturity. Recognizing the value of forcing myself to have rest days. Failing at all of these things.

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 very little, I had a red corduroy Superman cape made by an aunt. I would put that on and leap off the front porch over and over expecting to fly. For a second or two, I did.

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

A: Classism and bags of M&Ms. One or both contaminate many a night in the theater.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: My partner in life and art Aimee Todoroff, who is directing Martin Denton, Martin Denton. Most of my other heroes are comedians and rock musicians.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: Things where a lot of thought and care have shaped something brave and visceral. Events where I laugh deeply and unexpectedly are usually the ones that touch me in other profound ways. I like things that are entertaining and have a good deal of craft. More and more I’m running around to catch performers, companies, or spaces that are going away.

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

A: Your breath enters your body when it is needed, it is then released, and that is followed by a pause. That changes when it is observed or you do something to control it. There are many inconsistencies in life but these things remain true until your body no longer takes in breath.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: Martin Denton, Martin Denton. Produced by Elephant Run District and FRIGID@Horse Trade. July 6 to 23 at the Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street. Also, the first season of the hERD Play Podcast Series will be released soon.www.elephantrundistrict.org.

The League of Independent Theater is endorsing a slate of arts-friendly candidates. If you are not a member and are reading this, please join and get involved. Indie theater is an important economic and cultural engine of NYC. Help make sure it stays that way. When they go low, we go local. www.litny.org.


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