Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 914: Jean Ann Douglass



Jean Ann Douglass

Hometown:  North Providence, Rhode Island

Current Town:  Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming show.

A:  The Providence of Neighboring Bodies is actually set in my hometown, or perhaps a slightly more magical version of my hometown with an alternate history from the one we know. It's two women living in an apartment complex, with adjoining balconies, sparking friendship with each other despite being far more comfortable inside their heads than they are in the world. We see them both in their confident inner space and in their awkward external reality. And then a stranger comes to town, and to say more would be spoiling some fun twists.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished a play called Ladycation, set on a 'girl's weekend' for seven old college friends, also starring various objects they brought with them (a car, a jar of coconut oil, a hula hoop) - which are all played by men. I'm starting work on a sex comedy about the Seneca Falls Convention that reflects the racism of that wave of the women's rights movement. My partner, Eric John Meyer, and I are also co-writing a play with the working title Thought Leadership Pleasure Cruise for our company, Human Head Performance Group. We'll also be reviving an older piece of ours, Obfuscation, which is about language and secret meetings and training yourself to manipulate people and takes place in the back of an actual box truck.

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 child, I was obsessed with Disney World. Before we'd go on vacation there, I would study several different official and not-official guide books. I knew how to plan your day to hit rides in a certain order to minimize your wait. I knew about the lagniappe on almost every ride - a hidden Mickey Mouse icon made out of found materials. But maybe more than the rides themselves, I was obsessed with the waiting areas. I loved the effort they put into the installations that you walked through while you waited in line. I loved that the unavoidable reality of the long wait in line was repurposed from something utilitarian to something slowly and effectively getting you even more excited to ride the ride. And that after you finished a ride on a spaceship, you could buy astronaut ice cream.

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

A:  I wish that the New York theater people could all afford to live in an area and also make work in that area. We've all moved to the ends of the subway lines in the search for affordability, and I think it would be nice if we could be neighbors, instead. And walk home after our shows.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theater that's inventive in the service of rawness. I like writers that leave their hearts on the page. I like finding poetry in unexpected places. I like productions that prioritize the totality of the audience experience.

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

A:  Make a lot of things and sometimes they will be plays and sometimes they will be things other than plays. Making not-plays will teach you what your plays could be. See lots of art that isn't theater. Find paying work where you work with people who are not theater-people. These things will help you continue to be obsessed with theater.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Providence of Neighboring Bodies is being produced by Dutch Kills as an Ars Nova Fling and opens on February 13th.

Check out Human Head Performance Group (http://www.humanheadperformancegroup.com/) and The Truck Project (http://www.thetruckproject.com/) for the work I do with Eric John Meyer.

We even have a book of our plays you can buy: Truck Plays (https://www.amazon.com/Truck-Plays-Backroad-Winehouse-Obfuscation/dp/0692359176/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486098063&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=truck+plays+jean+ann+douglas).

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Thank You, Flux Theatre Ensemble!



Over the years I've been fortunate enough to have development support and productions from various organizations.  Some of my biggest supporters have included Ars Nova, The Juilliard School, MCC Theater, The Chance Theater, The Dramatists Guild Fund, Primary Stages and Theater of Note.  There are many more individuals and companies who have helped me work on my plays or have produced my work.  But one of my biggest consistent supporters has been Flux Theater Ensemble.

I first started hanging around with Flux in '07 or so, bringing in 10 pages a week to their Sunday staged reading workshops.  Since then, they've done public readings of mine, private readings, summer retreats and even commissioned a play from me.  They've also produced 3 (THREE!) of my plays, Pretty Theft in '09, Hearts Like Fists in '12 and running until the end of this week, Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood.  (The last three performances are sold out but there's a snowstorm.  I bet if you showed up, you'd get in)

Flux has been a big part of my artistic life and they're my friends.  I'm really thrilled to work with Kelly and Gus and Will and Heather and everybody yet again.  They're super talented and committed wholly good people who have done great plays for 10 seasons now.

In any case, I just wanted to say, Thank you Flux Theater Ensemble for all the support.  It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to put on a show like my Robin Hood.  Here are some of them.  (And special thanks to Jodi Witherell , the amazing Stage Manager)



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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 913: Dan Fingerman





Dan Fingerman

Hometown: Huntington, NY

Current Town: Astoria, NY

Q:  Tell me about Boys of a Certain Age.

A: “Boys of a Certain Age” is about four gay Jews spending the weekend together. Their weekend is met with unexpected division and ideological differences as they navigate their own interpersonal relationships past and present.

Q:  What else are you working on now? 

A:  I’d really like to also do something with less linear structure. I’m not really sure what that is yet.

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 we didn’t have cable and I used to bike to the village library and take out VHS cassette tapes. After a while I had worked through most of their kid-friendly selection so I decided to start watching films that won Oscars. I was maybe 11 or 12 watching films that either were inappropriate for me or went totally over my head. I remember everyone talking about Terminator and I just couldn’t believe nobody had seen Kramer vs. Kramer or Ordinary People.

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

A:  Accessibility. I know a lot has been done to improve this, but for a lot of people it’s still too expensive to see shows often, and for artists there are not enough spaces to do their work in.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  I love Richard Nelson’s work. The Apple Plays and the idea of setting a play on the day that it opens has greatly influenced Boys of a Certain Age. It’s not as easy as it looks, and I have such respect for the way he’s repeatedly done it with such excellence and insight.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  Theater in general excites me. I like theater that makes people think, makes people smile. I try to do both.

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

A:  Go have experiences, seek out unfamiliar situations, make questionable choices, talk to strangers and most of all listen. Being able to get inside another person’s head and think the way they do will allow you to write vivid characters in a way you’re never going to learn from a book or a professor.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  Come see “Boys of a Certain Age” February 8-25 at Theaterlab! www.boysofacertainage.com Go see other people’s work. Support live theater. 
 
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Sunday, February 05, 2017

Coming Up Next


PRODUCTIONS

Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood

Production #1 of Marian
Flux Theater Ensemble
The New Ohio, NYC
(This play was commissioned by Flux as part of Flux Forward)
January 28-February 11, 2017.



Production #1 of Rare Birds
Red Fern Theater
14th Street Theater, NYC
March 23-April 9, 2017


Production #20 of Clown Bar
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City, OK
Opens March 2, 2017.

Production #21 of Clown Bar
Charleston Alley Theater
Charleston, IL
Opens March 17, 2017.

Production #22 of Clown Bar
The Duluth Playhouse
Duluth, MN
Opens March 30, 2017.

Production #23 of Clown Bar
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY
Opens March 31, 2017.

Production #24 of Clown Bar
Corn Productions
Chicago, IL
Opens May 12, 2017.

Hearts Like Fists

Production #32 of Hearts Like Fists
Naugatuck Valley Community College
Waterbury, CT
Opens April 6, 2107

Production #33 of Hearts Like Fists
Keizer Homegrown Theater
Keizer, OR
Opens May 4, 2017

Production #34 of Hearts Like Fists
Norwood High School
Norwood, MA
Opens May 4, 2017.

Production #35 of Hearts Like Fists
John Glenn High School
Norwalk, CA
Opens May 5, 2017.

7 Ways to Say I Love You 
(a night of short plays)

Production #9 of 7 Ways To Say I Love You
Ohio State University
Columbus, OH
Opens Feb 8, 2017

Production #10 of 7 Ways To Say I Love You
The Art Club
Sierra Vista, AZ
Opens Feb 10, 2017.

Production #11 of 7 Ways To Say I Love You
Centralia College
Centralia, WA
Opens March 17, 2017.

Production #12 of 7 Ways To Say I Love You
North Mecklenburg High School
Huntersville, NC
Opens April 1, 2017. 

The Adventures of Super Margaret

Production #5 of Super Margaret
United Activities Unlimited
Staten Island, NY
Opens March 1, 2017

Pretty Theft

Production #12 of Pretty Theft
Norwood High School
Norwood, MA
Opens March 2, 2017.

Production #13 of Pretty Theft
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
New York City
Opens April 1, 2017.

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 912: Brian Parks






Brian Parks

Hometown:  Birmingham, Michigan. Or Ann Arbor, if you want to start at the very beginning.

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming show.

A:  “Enterprise” is a fast-paced, somewhat surreal comedy about four businesspeople trying to save their large company overnight. Aside from a stock price crisis, the company might have an imp eating the office supplies. “Enterprise”is 75 minutes long and told in many, many short scenes. The show, which is produced by Gemini CollisionWorks and happening at the Brick, reunites the team that did my play there last year, “The Golfer.” We were fortunate to win five Innovative Theatre Awards for that one. So we’re giving it all a whirl again. The piece is performed by Fred Backus, Adam Files, Derrick Peterson, and Alyssa Simon, and directed and designed by Ian W. Hill, assisted by Berit Johnson. Kaitlyn Day, who did the fun costumes for “The Golfer,” is suiting up this cast.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m looking forward to a new production of my play “The House” at the Human Race Theatre in Dayton. It premiered in 2014 at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, where it was a big success, and it’s also had a German-language production in Frankfurt. Plus a small production in London. Sitting around my apartment are the usual stack of two or three new pieces awaiting their next draft. Not sure which I’ll get back to first after “Enterprise.”

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 childhood has no real relevance to my writing today. The biggest inspiration for my own plays are the pleasure I’ve taken from writers like Preston Sturges and Tom Stoppard. The first play I ever saw and loved was “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” which may explain a few things.

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

A:  Ticket prices.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  “Heroes” is too fraught a word. How about writers I’ve liked? Mac Wellman, Richard Foreman, Maria Irene Fornes, Stoppard. Among contempo folks, people like Richard Maxwell and Will Eno. The two Philippe Quesne shows I’ve seen in recent years have been pretty great. Most of the Ivo van Hove shows I’ve seen.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The weird or funny stuff. Especially when combined, which is sort of what I do.

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

A:  Just don’t be boring. Also, you can’t sit back and wait for things to happen with your script. Find some collaborators and get the pieces up on their feet, even in a modest way. Also, prepare to drink alcohol on a regular basis.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  "Enterprise" runs February 2 -18. The Brick is located at 579 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, between Union and Lorimer, close to the G and L subway lines. Tickets are $18, and available at the door, bricktheater.com, or at 866-811-4111.


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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 911: Zachary Fernebok



Zachary Fernebok

Hometown: Darnestown, Maryland

Current Town: Atlanta, Georgia

Q:  Tell me about the Pirate Laureate series.

A:  In the world of Ephrata, the power of poetry trumps that of any sword, pistol, cannon, or cutlass. That’s why the Pirate Laureate is the most important member on any pirate crew!

My plays (The Pirate Laureate of Port Town and The Pirate Laureate and the King of the Sea) follow the story of Finn, the Pirate Laureate of The Chartreuse. Under the leadership of the bombastic Captain Grayscale, and with Finn’s brilliant poetry, the Chartreuse is one of the most powerful and notorious ships to ever sail the Ocean Ephrata. Also on board are first-mate Hue, Sandy the engineer, navigator Opal, and Ruby the lookout. The crew is a big family, and they get into equally big adventures together. They often have to out-smart the devilishly fancy pirate Captain Robin LeReif.

The Pirate Laureate series started off as a one-act play that I was writing for a Playwriting 101 class I took in college. Three years later, when I was the Playwright-in-Residence at American Ensemble Theatre, I dusted it off and expanded it. My longtime friend and collaborator, Jason Schlafstein, directed the first reading and I think he fell in love with the story and characters as much as I had. I think a lot of people have been warmed by the story and the characters.

The truth is, there's a lot I could say about the series as I've lived with it for much longer than I ever anticipated. The first play was a side-story of a much larger world I was creating. Now the Pirate Laureate universe is bigger than the original epic it was spun off from.

And after the first show closed, I never thought there would be a staged sequel. I had the story in mind--I even teased it at the end of Port Town. But it happened! Which was amazing. Few playwrights get the chance to see their characters evolve from one adventure to the next, and even fewer get to see those characters be re-interpreted by new and returning actors. That was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me as a playwright.

My life has been greatly enriched by the family I've made working on this series--and I'm pretty sure others in the cast and crew would say the same.

Q:  What's next for the Pirate Laureate series?

A:  Well, I have a few ideas floating around for a third installment, to make it a proper trilogy. I also have a prequel story in mind (no pirate ship racing). Most likely, I will try to tell the story of the first play in a different medium, whether that be in a comic book, in clay, or even a video game only time will tell. Maybe a movie. As you can see, I'm clearly not done with the series.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm actually not doing much writing these days. The various stories in my head are fighting each other to be written next. In the meantime, I've returned to sculpting, which was my art of choice before I found theatre. I'm currently enrolled in a figure sculpting class and thinking of future ways to combine storytelling with my clay creations. I don't think there'd be many objections to some claymation Pirate Laureate films!

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 I was obsessed with X-Men, and I'm still a huge fan. I read the comics, watched the cartoon, and--most of all--collected the ToyBiz action figures. I would say I currently have around 350-400 living in several boxes at my dad's house. When I found the comics boring and I couldn't watch "Pryde of the X-Men" on VHS one more time, I would make up adventures with my toys. That's when I first started telling stories and developing characters. I know this not very rare behavior for a little boy, but the memories have stuck with me. And I think I played with my toys until I was far too old. In fact, I still am. So I think that's me as a writer: I create characters that are familiar to people and put them in new adventures.

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

A:  I think plays inspired by Asian stories, people, and culture are too few and far between. I would love to see more of those stories on stage.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I would say anyone who pursues writing, acting, directing, or designing for theatre as their full-time profession is my theatrical hero. Other than that, I think I have creative/story telling heroes more than specifically theatrical ones: Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, Daniel Handler, and Eiichiro Oda immediately come to mind.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like plays that are bigger than the pages they're written on. Original adventures excite me, good jokes excite me. I also love shows with puppets. I am turned off by family dramas and becoming increasingly annoyed by intermissions.

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

A:  You have to write, and you have to workshop what you write. But at the very least you have to write. Just commit to ten minutes a day, at least. And take classes, even if you studied playwriting. And finally, don't hold on too tightly to your work because the warm fuzzy feelings come when you let it into the hands of directors, designers, and actors.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I got nothin' to plug, other than support Flying V--see their next show!

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