Tuesday, December 06, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 896: Cat Crowley




Cat Crowley

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming reading with FGP.

A:  For the better part of 2016 I've been working on my new play Dump City as part of Fresh Ground Pepper's Playground Playgroup. On December 13th at 9pm I will finally get to share where I'm at in the process with friends and strangers over at Cloud City in Williamsburg! My little blurb for it is "A festering rumination on city-dwelling told with a whiff of whimsy". It's a really fun, absurd piece of theatre that has also been a real challenge to write because it's sort of a tenuous dance between a completely heightened reality and more poignant, sobering truths about our current reality. Also, when you title your play "Dump City" I honestly feel like it becomes harder to convince yourself it's not total garbage, haha. But I've been really grateful for the support from Fresh Ground Pepper, my fellow artists in the group, and my director Kareem Fahmy, who have all helped me get this far in the process. All dump jokes aside, I sincerely believe in this play and it's relevancy here and now in this particular moment. If, like me, you've been feeling lost after the election, or in need of a good laugh, or just want to witness an honest and rousing attempt at rendering humanity at music stands, I invite you to join us on the 13th of December at Cloud City, 9pm sharp!

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  After the reading I'm hoping to return to some "old" projects, namely a play about a family living in the future but the future as they predicted it would be back in the 50s and 60s (so think The Jetsons), and a certain queer doo-wop musical as well. BUT I've also been longing to dive into a new piece about the Sutherland sisters. They were a singing troupe of seven sisters who became unequivocal celebrities in the late 1800s, not really because of their singing but because of their ridiculously long hair that dictated a sort of long-hair craze during that time. Here is a picture of the sisters:




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 played make-believe during almost every recess in pre-school and elementary school. I suspect this activity marks a lot of theatre peoples' childhoods. While most of the other kids were out there playing basketball, or tether ball, or kick ball, or soccer... (ball), or tag, or jump-rope, or flower-crown making, my friends and I were utterly immersed in continuing story-lines about knights, or horses, or wolves, or Power Rangers, or the Brady Bunch (yeah, I dunno, I guess I had a thing for Marsha?). We got bullied sometimes for being "weird" but I don't remember that as well now. I just remember living for the various fantasies we created with our imaginations, and whenever I've questioned my decision to pursue writing as an adult I seriously think about what a weird little girl I was and how she is my inextricable truth deep down. Also, the more I think about it, the more I realize those strange, fantastical narratives I created as a kid were extremely formative, not only in shaping my writing-- both in style and substance-- as I know it today, but my sense of queerness and deep reliance on friendships as well.

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

A:  I recently happened upon this series of interviews in American Theatre Magazine where a bunch of playwrights and artistic directors around the country were asked what we, as theatre-makers, should do now in the wake of the election. I've been wondering a lot about this myself and it was greatly inspiring to read what some really smart, insightful people had to say. A lot of it was, of course, about hiring and making the work of minority artists more visible, which, as a queer female playwright I couldn't agree with more. But one thing that struck me, that several people mentioned in their responses, and that I now can't stop thinking about, is the accessibility of theatre from the audience's perspective. I've known for a while now that by living and making work in New York City I am relegating myself to a bubble of like-minded peers. And, in truth, I can't help but feel bolstered by the sense of community and open-mindedness here, which has made me feel so comfortable and enabled in sharing my work. But I've become simultaneously concerned about the breadth of people living in this country who consider theatre-making and theatre-going to be an elitist, inaccessible activity. I don't think they're necessarily wrong, I think there is a certain privilege involved in the making and attending of theatre that we cannot deny. I think it's unfortunate that capitalism has turned theatre into a product and because that product doesn't have the most immediate or practical effect on the market it can be easily cast aside as a frivolous luxury. And I think it's especially frustrating when I consider that a great many theatre-makers, myself included, don't want theatre to be this exclusive, artsy-fartsy commodity, and there are those out there who are already in the midst of trying to break down socioeconomic barriers and make new work in the unlikeliest of communities. I honestly don't know if theatre has the power to change people or the world, but I believe in it because its noble goal is to operate in service of the audience; it's an exchange that's meant to illuminate and complicate our humanity, not just for the artists involved, but for this whole diverse-thinking swath of people sitting opposite the stage. In the spirit of that, I think we have to insist on a change in audience now more than ever. In addition to a wider range of voices represented in this art form, we need a wider range of faces viewing this art form (which, let's be honest, these two things are at least partially interconnected). I don't have a suggestion for the best place to start with all of this. I'll be the first to admit that the last thing I want to do right now is leave my bubble and relocate somewhere new, and unknown, and in some cases potentially unsafe. But I also don't want to hide here, and hide my work from an audience that, though they may not whole-heartedly support it, might yet be informed by it, which might in turn better inform me. So, I dunno... If anyone wants to try to coordinate some kind of tour or something?... I'm all ears!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Alive (in no particular order):
Christopher Durang, Anne Washburn, Annie Tippe, Sarah Ruhl, T. Adamson, Young Jean Lee, Nate Weida, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Salty Brine, Jose Rivera, Caryl Churchill

Ghosts (in no particular order):

Shakespeare, Sarah Kane, Tennessee Williams, Federico Garcia Lorca

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  As you might guess from my previous answer about my childhood, I'm big into anything fantastical or unconcerned with maintaining 'realism'. I'm often really disappointed when I walk into a theatre, or the curtain opens, and the set is a very realistically crafted apartment or home interior. You can do anything with that space, your actors can be anyone in that space, why settle for the status quo? And sometimes I've been pleasantly surprised by plays that start out this way and then veer into weird, absurd, or simply unexpected territory. I just find that theatre is a medium unique from others mainly in its demand that the audience suspend their disbelief and let their imagination dictate what they're experiencing. Would you be satisfied with a movie or TV show where an actor sat in a chair, held their arms out in front of them and you were meant to understand they were in the midst of a high-speed car chase? But that can be achieved in theatre so brilliantly! So I love seeing work that embraces the level of abstraction that only something theatrical can delightfully render.

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

A:  Oh man, in many ways I feel like I'm still in my "just starting out" phase. Does my "emerging" badge come in the mail or...?

I guess if I had to say something, I would suggest creating a focal point or a little totem or something to endow with all your ambition and self-belief and hope. For example, the year I graduated from college and started freaking out about having a degree in theatre I made a somewhat impulsive decision to get a tattoo of a little star on the inside of my left wrist. The tattoo has a lot of nifty symbolism behind it but it's mainly there as a permanent reminder so that when the world is kind of spiraling around me and telling me to get a more secure job, or announcing that theatre is a dying art form, or showing me people in my life who are doing "better" than me, I can just look at this star on my arm and chill out a little bit, because it represents the only thing I'm really accountable to: myself. It's not about the journey my parents expect me to have, or society expects me to have, or really theatre as an industry expects me to have, it's about me doing my own thing in my own time and dismantling all the real or perceived pressures around me. That can be quite a task, and sometimes a tattoo isn't really enough. But I think, and I've found, it's important to have something to look to outside of yourself that helps you get back inside of yourself.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  Dump City will be read at Cloud City on December 13th at 9pm, see you there!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 895: Greg DePaul



Greg DePaul

Hometown:  Hyattsville, MD

Current Town:  Springfield, NJ.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  My full-length play, Death by Bunga Bunga, which was recently given a reading at The Collective. It's a dark comedy about screenwriters in L.A. who will do anything to get ahead. I lived in L.A. for years and wrote movies (Bride Wars, Saving Silverman), so I've been there.

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 18 I worked out in a sweaty, run-down boxing gym operated by a former middleweight contender named Adrian Davis. It's sort of a tradition in boxing that your first sparring partner is your coach. So one day Adrian got in the ring with me. I wasn't so bad, I cut his eye with the jab he taught me. He was amazing and peppered me with punches that all seemed to come outta nowhere. I felt like a mouse in cat's paws. When we were done my nose was a little crooked, the septum had been moved to one side. So he fixed it without even taking his gloves off. He just sorta held my head with one glove and performed sudden, minor surgery with the other, jerking my nose back into position. 

To me, that's emblematic of everything -- the people close to us, the ones who try to walk us through our trials and traumas, always do the most damage.

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

A:  Subject matter. There'd be fewer metaphors, more real people mightily struggling with problems. Also, we need more specificity of thought, more insight into how we really think and act. OK, that's more than one thing.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Rabe, Baitz, Ludlam, Gionfriddo. Oh, and my characters. Considering what I put them through, they're heroes to tolerate me. If they leave me I'm lost.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Non-visual. It's about words. If I close my eyes during the show and there's still a play in my head, I'm excited. If I can still hear the play in my head after I leave the theater, I call my friends and rave about it.

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

A:  Write a lot and for years. That's what I'm doing. Honor the time-tested rules of drama, even if you're writing a sex farce set on Jupiter. The rules will beat you down and the rules will fix you up again, kinda like my old boxing coach.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I just published a book on Focal Press called Bring the Funny: The Essential Guide for the Comedy Screenwriter. You can learn about me and my book at gregdepaul.com and bringthefunny.com. I co-manage a writers group in NYC called Stillwater (stillwaterwriters.com) and these are the best playwrights and screenwriters on the planet.

  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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)

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 894: Bryan Renaud



Bryan Renaud

Hometown: I''m from Sugar Grove, IL which is outside of Aurora.

Current Town: I've been based in Chicago since 2013.

Q: Tell me about Barney the Elf.

A: Barney the Elf is a big, gay Christmas show! It's a musical parody of the film Elf with a queer twist - instead of being kicked out of the North Pole for being a human, Barney is kicked out for falling in love with the sexy delivery elf. We kind of pitch it as a 'Weird Al' musical - lots of Broadway and pop songs you'll know, with new lyrics to fit our story. It's a fast, fun, over-the-top comedy with a social justice twist. We hope to show that fun theatre can still make you think. I co-wrote the musical with Emily Schmidt. Barney premiered last December and sold out almost completely, and is being remounted by The Other Theatre Co. now through the new year.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: Emily and I are also currently hard at work on our next project, Strangest Things! The Musical. Lovingly ripped-off from the hit Netflix series, we're only using 80's hits you'll know and love. Strangest Things! opens on March 3rd, 2017 at the Greenhouse Theater Center in Chicago for an open run. We are also working on a small sketch comedy show for Random Acts Chicago which will run on 12/12 & 12/13 as a fundraiser for the company, called Awkward Family Gatherings.

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 did a lot of childrens' theatre at a place called First Street Playhouse in the suburbs of Chicago. The owner, Julane Sullivan, presented incredibly imaginative productions for and by kids, and this was where I really blossomed as a performer and learned to check my painful shyness at the door. The theatre also presented fully-produced seasons of productions, and hosted a sketch group called Gag Reflex, and I fell in love with the idea of presenting live sketch comedy, like Saturday Night Live. I was blown away, and Julane gave myself and a few others the resources to start our own troupe. This lasted for seven years and was really where I began writing, and my writing for that company led to my first play commission, Twelfth Night of the Living Dead.

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

A: If I could change one thing about theatre, it would be the under representation of marginalized voices. Even progressive theatre companies produce seasons almost exclusively written by white men - and yes, I'm aware that I am one of those. More companies need to produce work by women, people of color, trans writers, and the like. Shortly after my first play, I had a second commission. I ended up departing the project when I realized I had been hired to tell the stories of women of color. That is not my story to tell. Female writers of color exist. Why aren't they being hired more often to tell their own stories?

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: Where do I begin? Tracy Letts showed me that theatre can make you extremely uncomfortable in the best way possible. I have also consumed the writings of Edward Albee and Sam Shepard over and over...I never stop learning from them. The entire Steppenwolf Theater Co. would also have to be on the list.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: The kind of theatre that excites me is anything that keeps me guessing. I'm totally willing to overlook flaws in a production if they are doing something wholly original. I tend to love site-specific theatre, and new adaptations that turn the classics on their heads. I love comedies that sneak up on you and suddenly pack a punch. I love plays that successfully tackle current events, and plays that force you to question things inside yourself.

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

A: My advice to playwrights: just write. Write. Write. Write. You'll never find your own distinct voice if you don't do so, and you'll be shocked by what you end up spitting out. I never saw myself writing a single full-length play...and now I've written six in three years. Also, don't be afraid to self-produce! There can be such a stigma about this - as if you're funding your own production it's somehow less legitimate. If no one else will take a chance on you - take a chance on yourself. Put on a reading in any space that you can afford. Make good friends in all aspects of theatre, and be a good person to work with. You never know who you're going to need to turn to for a favor. Just get your work out there, and eventually, the right person will see it.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: Barney the Elf is presented through The Other Theatre Co., where I am also the Associate Artistic Director! www.TheOtherTheatreCompany.com

Many of my works are published and licensed through Chicago Dramaworks! www.ChicagoDramaworks.com.

Strangest Things! will premiere in 2017 from Random Acts. www.RandomActsChicago.com

Personal site: www.BryanRenaud.com

Twitter/Instagram: @therealrenaud
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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, November 23, 2016

Next Up





PRODUCTIONS

KODACHROME

Workshop Production
National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts
Washington, DC
Opens Dec 2, 2016.


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

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.

Nerve

Production #19 of Nerve
Mpip Theatre. 
Athens, Greece.
November 7 to December 13, 2016.

Clown Bar

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

Production #21 of Clown Bar
The Duluth Playhouse
Duluth, MN
Opens March 30, 2017.

Production #22 of Clown Bar
Corn Productions
Chicago, IL
Opens May 12, 2017.



Hearts Like Fists

Production #31 of Hearts Like Fists
Texas A&M University
Corpus Christi, TX
Opens December 6, 2016.

Production #32 of Hearts Like Fists
Naugatuck Valley Community College
Waterbury, CT
Opens April 6, 2017

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

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

Production #7 of 7 Ways To Say I Love You
East Mecklenburg High School
Charlotte, NC
Opens December 1, 2016

Production #8 of 7 Ways To Say I Love You
Shoreham- Wading River High School
Shoreham, NY 
Opens January 1, 2017

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.

The Adventures of Super Margaret

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


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 893: Beth Hyland




Beth Hyland

Hometown:  Rochester, NY

Current Town:  Chicago, IL

Q:  Tell me about For Annie.

A:  For Annie is about female friendship, survivor's guilt, small colleges, and how we try to craft the stories we tell about the people we love. But it's really fun, too, and there's a ton of pop music! It came out of a feeling that even the most mundane aspects of a life can be profound, particularly in hindsight, and that the mundane parts of women's lives are just as worthy of examination as men's.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a play based loosely around the Lululemon Murder, and an adaptation of Three Sisters set in a Chicago theater company. What I'm working hardest on right now is how to write plays that will be both necessary and useful in the next four years and beyond.

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 I got really into figuring out how to play songs I liked on the bassoon, which I was learning to play essentially because I was tall. I was an obsessive Beatles fan, so I taught my best friend and fellow bassoonist how to play Twist and Shout. We proudly played it for our music teacher, who made us play it for everyone in the main office. I really didn't understand why everyone was doubled over with laughter, but I did love the attention. My best friend from childhood is now a professional bassoonist, though!

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

A:  Ticket prices. And I'd put a 10-year moratorium on any play that could accurately be titled "Screaming In The Living Room." And I would change the past several hundred years of history so that theatre could be a popular form of entertainment again instead of a marker of class status.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Annie Baker, Anne Washburn, Jeanine Tesori, Anton Chekov, Stephen Sondheim, Kneehigh, and my professors at Kenyon College and at the National Theatre Institute.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  In Chicago, I'm so excited and inspired by my friends and peers who are making cool, weird, exciting, deeply felt work all over the city. I also particularly love The Hypocrites, The Neo-Futurists, Theatre Oobleck, Jackalope, and Steep.

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

A:  Make someone schedule a reading and invite people to read your play before you've finished it (so that you actually finish it). Be gentle with yourself. Everyone works and writes differently and at a different pace. Channel feelings of jealousy or inadequacy into productivity.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  For Annie is going to be produced by The Hearth; it runs December 9th-January 15th; get tickets here: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/10629
My website is bethhyland.com.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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, November 19, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 892: Stephen Gregg




Stephen Gregg

Hometown:  Albuquerque, New Mexico

Current Town:  Venice, California

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  It's a play called Trap. Like most of the plays I write, it's designed to be performed by high school students. Trap is fake documentary theatre, and it's horror. I'm trying to write the theatre equivalent of The Blair Witch Project.

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 had essentially perfect parents who encouraged my writing from the earliest age I can remember. When I was twelve, I wrote something that they found amusing, and they actually took me to the main branch of the Albuquerque library so that we could research the best places to submit it.

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

A:  It's so earnest. So much of theatre is lacking any sense of fun or, as it were, play.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  A month after his death it's hard not to think about Edward Albee. He took the forms that other people were working with and stretched them and he did so in the face of vicious criticism that was often explicitly aimed at his being gay.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love immersive theatre. As long as we're going to use live actors, why not let the audience actually walk into the story?

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

A:  I'd say write two-character plays. They're good starters because they teach you basic dramatic structure. A character wants something, increasingly big obstacles get in their way.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Hmm. I've got three.

My new play, Crush, was on the cover of Dramatics magazine in May and on the main stage of the International Thespian Festival in June. It's just now available from Dramatic Publishing.

I tweet—exclusively about playwriting— @playwrigntnow. I try to use twitter to teach myself to write plays. Feel free to listen in or join in.
And, I'm part of LabTwenty6, a writing group that I love. It's playwrights, screenwriters, TV and fiction writers. It's surprising how often a perspective from another discipline is helpful to your own. If you're in Los Angeles, come check us out!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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)