Sunday, September 24, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 997: John DeVore





John DeVore

Hometown: McLean, Virginia. That's where I grew up. It's a suburb of Washington D.C. My dad worked in politics for a Texas politician. So Texas was the Promised Land. Suburban D.C. is a transient place for people who work for elected officials and it was for my family. I like to think of myself as an ethnic Texan. I have a fear that I will die in Texas because that's what Texas wants. Anyway, I haven't been back to McLean in over 20 years. I hear it's full of very rich people now.

Current Town: Brooklyn, the Paris of Long Island. But Queens is the place I most identify as home inasmuch as it is the one place I have lived the longest in my adult life.

Q:  What are you working on now? 

A:  I'm noodling with an essay about how my parents met in 1960's El Paso. It's a fable that includes Zorro and giant scorpions. Other than that, I'm just writing essays. I call them "essays" but they're actually "monologues" but shhhhh don't tell anyone.

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

A:  You know, I had problems in school. I was often separated from my peers because there was a perception that I had learning disabilities. I was not "gifted and talented." You can't have "gifted and talented" students unless some of them are "not gifted nor talented." Then, in 5th grade, I met Mrs. Crawford who gave me as many opportunities to prove myself as I could and join the class. Here's how I became a writer: upon returning from a Christmas vacation trip to the Grand Canyon I wrote a "What I Did Over Winter Break" essay that flagrantly plagiarized the narration from a movie about the Grand Canyon that played at one of the tourist centers there. I distinctly remember writing "The Grand Canyon looks as if it were carved by the Hand of God." Mrs. Crawford had to have known I couldn't write such purple prose but praised me anyway and called me "a writer." And there you go. I announced this to my father, who had once been a freelance journalist, and he said something like "Oh really?" Then proceeded to edit my book reports with red pen so I had to rewrite 50 whole words over again.

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

A:   In the pink of my youth I use to love drunken conversations with friends about how to change the theater. I was lucky to fall into a crowd of talented and idiosyncratic experimental theater makers - many of them from somewhere called "Bard" which I think is an art cult upstate? I don't know. Lucky because I've always been a terrible hack. I want to make people laugh or cry and I like to think my decade plus laboring in downtown/Brooklyn theater really changed me for the best. Anyway, change. Theater doesn't need to change, it's built to mutate anyway. People need to change. Theater is the original social network. There are so many people out there who just need one experience - one sweaty, intense, entertaining, religious experience - and then they'd get why theater is so special and vital. It is not a 2 hour nap. It is intense human connection.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Get ready for something I call "stream of blabber." I had a very traditional theater education at VCU in Richmond. Lots of Greeks. Shakes. Lope de Vega. Jacobean gorefests. Ibsen. Strindberg. Brecht. The absurdists. Williams and Miller. Beckett, who I learned to love above all others. Albee. Charles Busch. Vogel and Fornes. Short funny story: I auditioned for the BFA program with one of Roy Cohn's monologues from Angels in America. Chubby 17 year old me. Ugh that play. Life changing. As a teenage boy I gravitated towards Mamet but I feel that's okay. I didn't know you could write "fuck" in a play. I think this is forgivable. I was a boy then and Mamet always will be. Sam Shepard! In NYC I learned to love, of course, Foreman. The Living Theater. Spalding Grey and Wooster. Later, Richard Maxwell, Young Jean Lee. Oh yeah Caryl Churchill! I will regret this list once I send it in because A) it jumps around and B) I could probably write a whole other different list.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  The weirder the better. Unless it's a wrenching tragedy or absurdist comedy. OR A MUSICAL.

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

A:  I had a writing teacher in High School who told me he didn't believe in good or bad writing. He said there is, simply, writing that should be read/shared and writing that should be kept to oneself and knowing the difference is everything. I'd add that there is writing for money and writing for love/craft and to know the difference. I have seen too many peers write for love for years and, eventually, fashion catches up to them. But I have never turned my nose up at any writing for money, even if I'm writing an article about date night at Red Lobster (sponsored by.... RED LOBSTER)

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing utensil? When on computer, what's your font?

A:  I like to write outlines and first drafts on pen and paper. I don't like pencils. I think early drafts should preserve as much of what you wrote - even if it's scratched out - as you can. We erase and delete too easily and lose so much as a result.

Sans Serif. I like a font that I don't see as a font.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  I have nothing to plug. You can follow my preening narcissism on Twitter though @johndevore. Thanks for letting me write this - I've always been a fan of the series. Longtime listener, first time caller, etc. 


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

Jack and Jill Plays - Part 39 - Box




About Jack and Jill Plays:

This is a new thing I'm doing.  Posting a short play every day as long as I can.  

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.


BOX
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK is pretending to be trapped in a box like he is a mime.  It is exaggerated and silent. JILL enters.)

JILL
Okay, but how did you get in the box?

(JACK tries to mime a long explanation.)

JILL
What?

(JACK mimes some more.)

JILL
What?

JACK
It's an elevator.

JILL
Oh.  Small elevator.

JACK
Yeah and I'm uncomfortable with small space.

JILL
Okay.

JACK
Also I'm thirsty.  Did you get I was thirsty.

JILL
No.  Do it again.

(JACK does it again, thirstier.)

JILL
Yeah.  I see.  Why are we doing this?

JACK
Got to do something.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 996: Lee Mueller






Lee Mueller

Hometown:  Affton, Missouri.

Current Town: Troy, Missouri

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A few things; a one-act tentatively called "With Special Mirrors" - which comes from the Bertolt Brecht quote, "If art reflects life, it does so with special mirrors." I wondered how far an audience member (or members) could go to disrupt or even invade a production. I've always played around with the "meta" concept of theatre, even in my comedy murder mystery scripts. I want not only to break the fourth wall, I want to burn it down in this play. I've been intrigued by the new stories where Broadway shows have come to a halt because a cell phone rang or the case where an audience member climbed on stage, looking around the set for an outlet to charge his phone. I think sometimes the "alienation or estrangement effect" can be created in the theatre without even trying to achieve it.
And for juxtaposition, I am also working on a comedy murder mystery about a dead body being found in a supermarket aisle display for paper towels.

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

A:  I was an only child so my imagination took the place of siblings, so to speak. I have several vivid memories of creating stories about inanimate objects or how certain household objects became broken for the pure entertainment of whoever would listen. I don't believe my mother or anyone ever told to stop making things up. So, I never stopped. I started writing things down instead.

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

A:  The cloud of self-importance that frequently arises in and around theatre groups and gives birth to cliques. There's nothing more off-putting than artists taking themselves way too seriously. Beside metal detectors, I believe "pretentious" alarms should be installed.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I always had an enormous amount of respect for Sam Shepard and his body of work. I got to play Lee in a production of "True West" and learned a lot about style and substance. Also, I have to the actor Earle Hyman special props. I sat in (snuck in) to one of his classes at HB Studio back in the 80's and I learned more about the craft of acting in one hour that I did in all years of college theatre classes. He would interrupt his student's scenes and say "Please! Stop Acting! (few beats) OK Continue." I knew exactly what Mr. Hyman was trying to convey. I think at times I
use his advice as I am writing. I will think, Stop Writing. You know, stop trying to sound like Oscar Wilde, Mamet or Miller. Just sound real.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that becomes so real and natural it transcends the threshold of disbelief. It could be the dialogue or it could be a performance. Example - I saw "Fifth Of July" on Broadway back in 1981 or 82 (the Richard Thompson version) There's a confrontational scene in Act Two powered by Lanford Wilson's words and the performance of Jonathon Hogan and made me very uncomfortable. I felt as if I were visiting someone's home and an intense argument erupted by the hosts. You know, that awkward feeling you get where you want to get up and quietly leave. I had that exact feeling there in my seat. I never realized theatre could do that and that excited me.

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

A:  Listen to how people really talk to each other. Watch how the people around you get what they want. Real life motivations. Cause and effect. Sure, you may learn valuable things from academics and dramaturgy but look out the window once in a while.

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing utensil? When on computer, what's your font?

A:  I always grab whatever spiral notebook I can find. It could have old notes in it from my freshman astronomy class. I don't care. I prefer black ballpoint pens. Blue will do in a pinch. My go-to font used to be Courier - because I read somewhere that was the proper playwright font. But lately, I've been using Garamond because it reminds of the font in the old books and plays I used to read. Minus the musty smell.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Well, my comedy murder mystery plays pop up at High Schools all over the country. On the international scene, I recently was contacted by a group over in India called Cineplay. They are interested in turning my "An Audition For A Murder" into a film. I should add, translating it into Hindi and then turning into a film. So, I have that going for me. Namaste.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 38 - Everyone





About Jack and Jill Plays:

This is a new thing I'm doing.  Posting a short play every day as long as I can.  

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.


Everyone
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JILL alone writing in a notebook.)

VOICE
Jill knows they are watching her.

(JILL looks around.)

VOICE
Jill knows they think she can't be trusted.

JILL
But I can.  But I can.

VOICE
Jill is up for review.

JILL
When?

VOICE
Soon.

JILL
I'm doing all the things.  Sometimes I stumble but I get up again.  Please.  Take in account all the work I've put in.

VOICE
Jill knows no one is watching.  Deep down she knows but still she behaves.

JILL
Mostly.

VOICE
Most of the time.

JILL
They don't know I exist.

VOICE
No one is paying attention to her at all.  But also.

JILL
Everyone is watching all the time.  Can you see me?  Do you see me?  See me.  See me!

VOICE
Everyone turns away.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 37 - Cookie




About Jack and Jill Plays:

This is a new thing I'm doing.  Posting a short play every day as long as I can.  

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.


Cookie
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK looks at a cookie in his hand.  JILL watches him.)

JACK
What if I don't like it?  It might be good or it might not be as good as I thought it would be.  And then it would all be wasted on a mediocre cookie.

JILL
I'll eat it if you don't want it.

JACK
You don't like cookies like this cookie.

JILL
I know but I want you to stop looking at it.

JACK
I should just eat it, right?  I should just eat it.

JILL
You should just eat it.

JACK
Do you think I eat too much?

JILL
Yes.

JACK
So maybe I shouldn't eat it.

JILL
Okay, then don't.  Put it away then.

JACK
I want something though.  Just a little special something and maybe this cookie could be that something.

JILL
Maybe.

JACK
I'll just eat it.

JILL
Okay.

JACK
But if I eat it, maybe no ice cream later.

JILL
Okay.

JACK
But what if the ice cream is a lot better than this cookie and I eat the cookie and then I'm fat and everything so no ice cream?

JILL
Yeah I don't know.  You know what I've been thinking about?

JACK
No.

JILL
Borders and boundaries and permeable membranes.  Like Our skin can soak things up--certain things.  Isn't that terrifying?

JACK
Is it?

JILL
Just eat the cookie and we can go on with our lives.

(JACK looks at the cookie for a long time.  JILL grabs it out of his hand throws it on the ground and stomps on it.)


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 36 - Eggs





About Jack and Jill Plays:

This is a new thing I'm doing.  Posting a short play every day as long as I can.  

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.


Eggs
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK and JILL in mid conversation)

JACK
But it's like I don't need all the eggs.

JILL
Right.

JACK
But it wouldn't hurt to have a few more.

JILL
Sure.

JACK
I wouldn't put them all in one basket.

JILL
You gotta spread em out.

JACK
Totally.  And also not break them.

JILL
Okay.

JACK
I got a job.

JILL
What?

JACK
Yeah.  It's in Cleveland.  Sort of like what I'm doing now but maybe less terrible.

JILL
Cleveland?

JACK
Yeah.

JILL
You should take it.  You should go.  More money?

JACK
More money.

JILL
You should go.

JACK
You won't go with me?

JILL
Well.  No.  No, I won't.

JACK
It would be good to get away.

JILL
Yeah.

JACK
From all this grief.

JILL
New city.  New life.  You could forget.

JACK
Maybe.  Maybe.  I don't know.  Maybe.

JILL
You aren't going to go, are you?  You never do things that are good for you.

JACK
I went running.  Last week.

JILL
What about this week?

JACK
I went to a job interview.

JILL
Just go.  I don't need you.  I don't need you here.  If you go, it will be quiet and I think I need that.

JACK
You want me to go?

JILL
I do.  I didn't know I did but I do.  Yeah I do.

JACK
Maybe.

JILL
Sometimes I hate you.

JACK
I know.

JILL
It's more eggs.

JACK
Yeah.

JILL
So . . .


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 995: John J. Caswell, Jr.



John J. Caswell, Jr.

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Current Town: New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  With the help of my current fellowship at Page 73, I'm revising a draft for workshop of my play called CREAM! which converts homophobic bakers to tolerant allies on national television. A talking wedding cake presides as ringmaster and all-seeing eye. I'm also working on a play called THE THREE BEARS which I wrote from start to finish under the guidance of Erik Ehn at LaMama Umbria this summer. It's set in my home state of Arizona in a tourist-driven "ghost town" called Jerome. And I'm going back to my roots with an untitled play about four Mexican-American women who gather together to save their dying friend.

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

A:  At the age of 17 (that's childhood), I had no idea that I wanted to write and direct theater. But I did know that I loved sneaking away in the middle of the night to abandoned warehouses and wide open desert spaces to dance all night at raves. I was so taken by the theatricality of these trippy, themed events that I put off going to college at NYU and dedicated the following four years of my life to organizing elaborate dance parties with world-class DJ's, massive set pieces, detailed props. It was a labor of love until it wasn't. After attending the school of hard knocks and taking some blows financially and physically, I put down the glow sticks and realized that what I really was after was a theater where I could make anything happen. My mother was relieved.

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

A:  Theater and the arts must become more affordable, but they won't in the United States. Obvious answer, and seemingly irrelevant at this particular point in our pickle. I went to Amsterdam and saw John Adams conduct an incredible symphony at the Royal Concertgebouw and it cost something absurdly cheap like 10 dollars and it included a drink and snacks, no sippy cups involved. We need to build representation that believes in subsidizing the arts and holding up cultural institutions as vital to our national health and wellbeing. With a cheaper ticket, people would be more daring in both the things they choose to produce and the things they choose to see.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tadeusz Kantor and Richard Foreman were two people I latched onto early, the latter of which I got to spend time with in production for six months which was pretty thrilling. Anne Bogart and the way she thinks about time and space, she has always moved me. The plays of Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane, Beckett, Lorca, Fornés — those have had the largest impact. And some contemporaries that I look up to and admire include Tina Satter/Half Straddle, Annie Baker, Young Jean Lee, Mac Wellman, Erik Ehn, Tarrel Alvin McCraney + so many more.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like seeing work that makes me feel slightly unsafe or unsettled, work that feels like there is some sort of risk involved in its very performance and my watching it. I like theater that almost seems compulsory in its presentation, like it just burst into being right now, at this moment. I love spectacle, or failed attempts at it.

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

A:  I've been making devised plays through my company Progressive Theatre Workshop since 2007. Only recently did I begin exploring text from a more writerly place, that place being alone in my office hoping that others might produce the plays eventually rather than myself. So in that sense, I'm just starting out. I try really hard to stay in my own lane, keep my eyes on my own paper. It's very easy to get caught in the rat race, especially in NYC, and to start comparing your progress to others. No path is the same. Figure out what you do well, practice doing it, share with people. Make your own opportunities. Be generous and open. Really understand why you write plays. Figure out how to be in love with doing it.

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing utensil? When on computer, what's your font?

A:  I almost exclusively write on screen in Times New Roman. If I do write on paper, it's in whatever notebook or post-it pad I can grab first and usually with these fine point Sharpie markers someone bought me for adult coloring books.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Page 73 is presenting a workshop of my play CREAM! at Theater for the New City on October 19and 20th. Their website: www.page73.org

Also, I'm beginning work on a new piece through my company soon. More info to be found eventually here: www.progressivetheatreworkshop.org.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Support The Blog
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Email:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)