Monday, May 23, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 840: Eric Reyes Loo



Eric Reyes Loo

Hometown: Downey, California

Current Town: Los Angeles, California

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I have a fully-staged reading of a play called After and Before – about a disillusioned man who leaves the priesthood – at The Blank’s Living Room Series tonight. I specify “fully-staged” because it scares the hell out of me. But I’m excited. It happens in reverse chronology and has a mystery at the center of it. Two things I haven’t done before. And I’ve been working on a new play about the year I took to take care of my dad as he was dying. It’s super dirty and sexual. Chalk Rep’s doing a workshop of that this summer. And they just asked me to join their Artistic Circle as a company member, so I’m excited about having a home base.

On the TV side, I’m doing that writer thing of writing a ton of spec pilots. I have two scripts in the queue that have full outlines that I’m ready to start writing as soon as there’s room in the schedule. And I’m writing the season finale episode of the show I’m writing on called Guidance for Awesomeness TV, which is due in four days. I got to write two episodes this season and it has been incredible. Another scary experience. But I’m five times the writer I was a few months ago.

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 seven or eight, I asked my parents if I could take jazz dance at the YMCA. They said no because they we were too poor. Then they signed up my younger brother for soccer the following year and bought him new shoes, a soccer ball, and paid for his registration fee. I understood that I was going to have to do this art thing on my own. Now my family gets it – kind of – but it taught me that if I was going to live a creative life it was all on me and it would take some sacrifice. Ultimately, I’m thankful for the way things turned out. I teach now. And when I see someone with a spark, I try to start a fire within them.

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

A:  The positive, proactive answer is that I wouldn’t change a thing. There are things about theatre that I don’t like and my work is sometimes a reaction to those things. So it fuels me. The institution exists so that one can rebel against it. It also makes me think about how I am a part of the machinery and how I distinguish myself from it. It pushes me to put things out there that I’m not seeing. Yet, it gives me comfort to know that my work absolutely exists in a theatrical tradition. Even the avant-garde is part of a tradition. Not that my work is avant-garde in any way.

But the other answer is that I wish theatre was more inclusive than exclusive. I have the same philosophy about religion. I wish it included more traditions, beliefs, methodologies and people than it left out. Theatre of all shapes, sizes, and shades. The truth is: theatre IS a bunch of different things. But the institutional theatre is often singular.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Erik Ehn was my very first playwriting professor. I sat in that class as a college sophomore – the youngest person in my class – and said to myself within the first ten minutes, “I’m a playwright.” He’s a sorcerer, that guy. And he speaks in tongues. For some oddball reason, I speak that language. It became instantly clear in that moment, that destiny had brought me to his classroom. I had decided not to go to UC Berkeley and to go to a small Jesuit liberal arts college – Santa Clara University – instead. I didn’t know until two years in that he was the reason I was supposed to be at Santa Clara. I had no idea who he was when I got there. And I had him all to myself – I did two independent studies with him after that.

As far as other theatre people I admire: Sarah Kane, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Twyla Tharp, Pina Bausch, Fosse, Sondheim.

And the people who are my peers, some of whom I know: Cory Hinkle, David Myers, Carrie Barrett, Jordan Harrison, Noah Haidle, Sigrid Gilmer, Jennie Webb, Annie Baker, and Qui Nguyen.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Bold, theatrical plays with an urgency and a reason for being. And plays that are actually funny. Like Annie Hall or Master of None or Bridesmaids funny. I want a diet of nothing but that. I aspire to both of those things.

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

A:  Advice I’ve been given: “Know Your Business” (Bethenny Frankel), “Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper” (Elizabeth Gregory Wilder) and “Everything is Writing” (Erik Ehn).

From me: Find a community. It’s not the same thing as networking – although that is also important.

I’ve been embraced by Jen Haley and the Playwrights Union. That has led to some of my closest friendships. For years I was living in LA and talking to other aspiring writers. Lovely people. But they’re not playwrights – geeky, needy, sensitive, funny, know-it-alls, intellectual, well-read, and sexy. And now I’ve been asked to join a company – all of whom have cute butts I’d willingly kiss in gratitude. I’ve long admired Chalk Rep and now I’m being brought into the fold. You need people who unconditionally support you and want you to do better and who will give you helpful, non-prescriptive notes. Because when and if you work in TV or film, you’ll be getting all sorts of pitches for things you should do from people who aren’t there to nurture your soul. It’s a different relationship.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Theatres in LA I’ve worked at and love: Rogue Machine, Moving Arts, The Blank and Chalk Rep. Ruth McKee’s production of In Case of Emergency, which runs in various locations around Los Angeles June 3rd-July 3rd (www.chalkrep.com).

The Playwrights Union: Get to know these writers if you don’t know them already (www.playwrightsunion.com).

Our show, Guidance, premieres this fall on the Verizon Go90 app. And I hear it’s running in its full ten 30-minute episode format internationally. Hopefully, it will get to run in the half-hour format in the States as well. Say a prayer.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 839: Jan Rosenberg



Jan Rosenberg

Hometown: Manhattan

Current Town: Manhattan

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming play reading with Barefoot.

A:  'What's Wrong With You' is a cautionary tale about growing up in a world that's getting less and less empathetic. I mean, I see babies in strollers using iPads and elementary school kids that know what Instagram is but can't make eye contact. I wonder what it's like to come out of the womb dependent on technology.

My play is the culmination of my recurring nightmares. Or daymares, really. I wrote the first scene after witnessing something incredibly disturbing on a subway car. A teenage girl was by herself and clearly either intoxicated or about to be sick. It was pretty obvious. Everyone (myself included) seemed to be playing this game where we were waiting for someone else to approach her. Because this is New York-no one wants to get involved in other people's shit. At some point she pitched forward and hit her head-she got off by herself at the next stop. No one said anything. I found myself questioning everyone, thinking: what's wrong with you all? But then, I didn't do anything either, so what's wrong with me?

My sweet spot is dark comedy. I love finding humor in tragedy. And call me sadistic, but I like to be scared. I think there are certain things in this play that will be uncomfortable to watch. That's the kind of theater that excites me. We have an incredible cast of young folks, many of whom I've been in awe of for years of watching their work. Working with Shira-Lee Shalit as my director has been fantastic. I first met her through LAByrinth Theater Company when I was 21 (I'm 27 now). I'm so excited to be developing this piece with her.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  'What's Wrong With You' is in talks for a film adaptation, which is really exciting. I also just completed a TV pilot called 'Treat Yourself'. It's a dark comedy in the vein of Orange Is The New Black and revolves around the lives of women in an Eating Disorder Treatment Facility. And so many plays in the works. I have writer's brain. It won't let me sleep.

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 Dad let my brother and I rent all the Stephen King Movies when I was 9.

When I was 11, I discovered the best book I had ever read (at that time). I was up 'til 3AM finishing it. I could hardly wait to tell my 6th-grade English teacher about it. I thought I'd discovered gold. She was so excited to see how enthusiastic I was. When I told her the title, she made a face and was like 'Oh...wow.' It was Flowers In The Attic.

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

A:  Ticket prices. Just kidding...sort of. My wish is for theater to continue to push the boundaries of what an audience might expect or feel comfortable with. As is life, theater/art is not a neat, contained thing. It's chaotic and messy. Sometimes it's unattractive. And uncomfortable. There are times where I feel like in order to see something that's really gritty and challenging, I need to climb down a sewer in order to find it. I only do that sometimes, though.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Deceased: Samuel Beckett.

Alive and kicking: Edward Albee, Adam Rapp, Jose Rivera, Rajiv Joseph, Martin McDonagh, Jenny Schwartz, Halley Feiffer, Lucas Hnath, Aaron Mark, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Jonathan Larson, Lin Manuel Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, Tyrone from Hand To God and the dog who played Sandy in the most recent Annie revival.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Anything that's unpredictable, uncomfortable, weird, hilarious, disturbing... I'm a horror buff. Horror movies don't scare me. I love when a play scares me. Last year Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins's Gloria, Aaron Mark's Empanada Loca and Mac Rogers's The Honeycomb Trilogy fulfilled everything I love about playwriting.

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

A:  Go outside the classroom. Read everything. See everything. Don't try to mimic other writers. No one really has any idea what they're doing, so don't worry too much.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 838: Matt Opatrny


photo by Alan Roche

Matt Opatrny

Hometown: I grew up in Shelton, CT.

Current Town: New York City is home now, and so is a tiny mountain village in Italy, Anversa degli Abruzzi.

Q:  Tell me about Body: Anatomies of Being.

A:  Blessed Unrest (blessedunrest.org) is the ensemble I co-founded in 1999 and we have built this play collaboratively over the last two years. The text is just one player in this piece and by no means has the text led the process. We started with bodies in a room under Jessica Burr’s brilliant guidance, those bodies started moving, stories emerged, and I wrote them down. It was wonderful and intense and terrifying and the resulting production is perhaps the play I am most proud of having been a part of.

One of the many through lines of the piece is based on the life and work of Francis Cunningham, a painter of nudes. I spent a lot of time with Francis, and my text is infused with his words and ideas, as well as those of the performers. It’s a wild and wonderful piece of physical theatre that people are going nuts for. We close May 21. All the info is at blessedunrest.org.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on releasing “Body” from my brain so I can focus on three other things I’ve got brewing. It’s not going well!

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

A:  American theatre needs a violent separation from capitalism. The capitalist model values doing more with less as quickly as possible and charging the highest price you can for it. This model leads to theatre done badly, with underpaid artists and overpriced tickets, and an audience base that is wealthy and bored. We also need to recognize that Broadway is its own animal, and when playwrights have Broadway and/or Hollywood as their goal, it is at the peril of art. That’s two things, sorry. I will refrain from adding a dozen more changes I’d like to see!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Arthur Miller, Complicite, Anne Bogart and SITI, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Suzan-Lori Parks, Bill T. Jones, Pina Bausch, Keith Cobb and “American Moor”, Marian Seldes, Idris Goodwin, Prince, Ivo Van Hove, Jessica Burr, Tom Stoppard, and mostly my daughter Evelyn.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The work of those in the previous question, and Body: Anatomies of Being. I mean it. The work the cast is doing every night is the boldest, most open, and most complicated thing I’ve seen in years, maybe ever.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A:  Find collaborators you trust, and that scare the crap out of you. Most importantly, a director who has vision and will challenge you. Then listen. Then make plays that you could never make on your own in front of a computer. Make plays that are much bigger than you are, and smarter, and more eloquent. And question the age, race, and gender of every single character you write, because you are the product of a flawed culture.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Body: Anatomies of Being! Closes May 21 in New York. blessedunrest.org

But don’t take my word for it, this is what one of the critics said:

“Once in a blue moon comes a piece of theatre so impactful you wonder if you won’t be talking about it for years to come. A piece of theatre so unique and bold, it makes you exclaim, ‘Wait. Theatre can do this?’ Blessed Unrest’s Body: Anatomies of Being is such a show. Daring in its intimacy, performed with mesmerizing vulnerability, Body is a truly exceptional piece of theatre.

“If you choose one play to see this year, go see this show.”

~ Rachel Kerry, New York Theatre Review

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 837: Andrew Rincón


Andrew Rincón

Hometown:  Fort Myers, FL.

Current Town:  New York City.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m juggling between three main projects right now. I’m in a new writer’s group called Wright Club with the Amoralists theatre company and a staged reading/workshop of a new one act of mine will go up with them at the end of May. It’s called I Wanna Fuck like Romeo and Juliet. Cupid and Saint Valentine make a wager on a newly minted relationship between two men. The play is dealing with monogamy, love, fetish and a bit of everything in between. I’m adapting another one act, Inheritance (Blood Memory) into a full length. And I’m finally making the long awaited dive into comic books, working with an incredible illustrator, Micah Milner, on creating a new web-comic series.

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 a conversation with my brother recently we were discussing some silly family drama, and he said to me “in this family, you have to speak to three different generations to get the full story”. I think that is a perfect statement that shows where I pull from as a writer. I grew up with some incredible stories from my entire family, stories that bleed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to dive into my Mother’s photo albums. Starting with the most recent albums filled with my brother and I, I would follow the memories down into the black and white of my mother’s childhood in Cali, Colombia when my grandmother was a young woman herself. I’d get lost in my head with all of that. When I look at what I write now, I feel like I see my whole family stomping their way through the words.

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

A:  Without a doubt, the deficit of opportunities for queer artists, people of color, women, and anyone that doesn’t fit that straight-white male majority.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tony Kushner, Lucy Thurber, Stephen Adly Guirgis. Taylor Mac. Luis Alfaro’s play Electricdad and Quiara Hudes’s play 26 Miles changed my outlook on theatre completely. They showed me that anyone can take their culture, their singular experience, and put it in their work. Those were also some of the first plays I read that talked about Latinidad is such a way that resonating with me for years after.

I also adore Stefanie Zadravec. Not only is her work brilliant, poetic, and theatrical (it’s like the woman is directly channeling Tennessee Williams’s), but she is and was, one of the most encouraging teachers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I recommend her workshops and classes to everyone I know.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Messy. The magical. The truly theatrical.

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

A:  I feel like I am still very much at the cusp of my career, so this one is a bit difficult. See all the shows you can (if someone ever offers you a free ticket, take it). Read books like Steal like an Artist. Read plays, plays, plays and see how your favorites do what they do.

Also, trust yourself. I know I constantly fall into a trap of writing 10 pages, then asking 10 people to read it and give me the most explicit feedback (and then invariably becoming overwhelmed by all the different opinions). Just write. Finish the draft. Take some time away. Get laid. Give it to a mentor, or one person you trust. Then tackle that draft again. Breathe. You can do this. You’re better than you think you are.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I Wanna Fuck like Romeo and Juliet goes up with another piece, LoveHack by the incredible Sander Gusinow on May 25th at The Medicine Show Theatre. It's the 5th Wright Night Event with the Amoralists Theatre Company.


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Sunday, May 08, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 836: Sander Gusinow


Sander Gusinow

Hometown:
I come from Eugene, Oregon. Which is more-or-less a hippie retirement community. We've also had some Bigfoot sightings, but I don't mean to brag.

Current Town:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMX1sc3eOTE

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Right now I'm rehearsing a play called 'Lovehack,' it's about a couple who discover they fell in love as part of a research experiment.

Q:  How did you get the idea for that?

A:  I took psychotropic drugs for most of my childhood, so I've always been really into the neurology of why we do the things we do. I read about a psychologist names Arthur Aron who showed that love can be created between two strangers if they talk about themselves why maintaining eye-contact. So many people of our generation have this mantra that 'Love is the Answer' and I'm always like, 'No, love is a chemical reaction that can be both manufactured and extinguished.' That's not to say love isn't real, wonderful, and extraordinarily powerful (easily the most powerful emotion of them all), but the idea that we're all going to just wake up one day and 'love' one another, from a chemical standpoint, is pretty ridiculous. The brain can't produce enough Oxytocin to love more than 6-12 people... Without the help of drugs, anyway.

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 little brother is one of the most badass people I know. He's a former cage-fighter and Krav Maga expert, but when he was younger he would sometimes play with Barbie and Ken dolls. There was this one set he really loved because they were wearing wet-suits and he was always fascinated with scuba-diving. (Did I mention he's also a scuba-diver?) Anyway, one day these girls started to tease him for it, saying Barbie was for girls. Being the stalwart older sibling that I was I came to his defense. I got into a physical fight with the girls (I was bigger, sure, but there were two of them!) and I got in major trouble and they didn't because apparently girls were allowed to hit boys but not the other way around. It was like, BAM. A crash-course in gender norms packed into an hour and a half. I'm a diehard feminist now, and it all started that rainy afternoon.

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

A:  Man... This is going to be unpopular, but I wish there wasn't such a stigma against writing plays that could be seen as 'cinematic.' We often conflate 'realism' with 'boring' but boring writing has nothing to do with the style of the play. My soon-to-be wife isn't in the theater industry, and when I take her to see new work, she usually leaves feeling like the play was either inaccessible or trying to make her feel stupid. I know everyone thinks they need to alienate their audience because they read Brecht in college, but we're so alienated when we walk into the theater already... I want to see emotion onstage. I want you to make me give a damn. It's hard to make people give a damn in 2016.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  That would certainly be a long list of Brits and Jews. Deborah Zoe Laufer, Terry Johnson, Wendy Wasserstein, Joe Orton, Richard Greenberg, Martin McDonaugh I could hero-vomit all over this question.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Any time I actually have to think about a play, I'm excited. I like theatre that tells the truth, regardless of how scary or upsetting (or uplifting!) that truth may be. Plays that seep into my brain, and affect my daily life, when I leave the theater an ever-so-slightly different person because of what I saw.... Those are the kind of plays I live for. If I can do that to just one person then my entire writing career has been worth it. Or at least that's what I tell myself when I get rejection letters.

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

A:  It's more important to be yourself than to be original. Lots of early-career writers (myself included) want so badly to be "fresh" that they totally entomb what makes their voices special. Also, don't write a play with Fairies. It shames us all.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Always! Come see our 'Wright Club showcase on May 25th! Medicine Show Theater! 7:30! you can see 'Lovehack' as well as a play by my esteemed colleague Andrew Rincón!

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Saturday, May 07, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 835: Emily Schmitt



Emily Schmitt

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

Current Town: New York, specifically Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Several things, but what I'm most excited about is a play called "Under Further Review," which is very loosely based on something that happened when I was in college. A young woman committed suicide after accusing a football player of sexual assault. This lead to an investigation into the university's sexual assault policy and a great deal of turmoil on campus. My play is about a former star athlete who must confront his alma mater after his daughter's rape on campus. In doing do, he faces some disturbing truths about himself and the institution he most loves. The play is currently being developed with the help of The CRY HAVOC Company.

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 in fifth grade, I had a gym teacher I really detested. Looking back, I'm not sure if I detested him, or if it was just the humiliation of gym class that made me feel a great injustice was being done in my life. Either way, I decided that he needed to be fired. I had some legitimate reasons, such as the way he talked down to the girls in the class and one uncomfortable moment when he shouted into the dressing room. My best (only) friend, Katie, and I decided to write a petition to get him fired. We walked around at recess asking the girls in our class to sign it. All but one put their signature on that piece of paper, which Katie then slid under the door to the principle's office one fateful Wednesday evening.

The next day was probably the most traumatic of my educational experience. Everyone who signed the petition was rounded up into a classroom, where this gym teacher was openly weeping on a stool facing the students. The parish priest, an even higher position than the principal, informed us that we had committed the Cardinal Sin of slander and, if we did not ask for forgiveness, were going to Hell. (I cannot make this stuff up.) We were then asked, one my one, to apologize to this weeping adult man and explain to him what had possessed us to do such a thing to him. Naturally, most of the fifth grade girls were terrified and pointed their fingers at Katie and I. We, apparently, had threatened to beat them up if they didn't sign. We had lied to them and said the form was about Girl Scouts. We had even forged signatures. One by one, my classmates were dismissed as their false claims of my misdeeds were accepted. Finally, the only ones left in the room were myself, the priest, this gym teacher, and Katie. I still remember the moment I looked down and realized we were holding hands.

That pretty much sums up my feelings about justice, faith, and friendship.

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

A:  I find the theatrical community to be pretty philosophically homogeneous, which is dangerous if we really want to connect with our audiences. I once had a director tell me to stop writing about Catholicism because its not relevant in modern society. I think he spent too much time around theater folk.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Arthur Miller is my guiding light. Death of a Salesman may very well be a perfect play. I have yet to find a flaw in it.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I actually just stood up and spent about ten minutes pacing my apartment trying to think of something to say other than "Hamilton is the greatest!" I wish I had some cool, edgy, thing that no one's heard of. But that would be dishonest. Hamilton is by far the most exciting thing I've seen in the past year, and here is why: it's a true epic. Plays stopped wanting to be epic for a little while and just got really small. We wanted to write very small plays about middle-class couples having difficult break-up conversations in their living rooms. I'm not sure why that happened. Shakespeare wrote about kings. I'm not saying every play needs to be about powerful people or great historical events, but the emotions should be that big. And the stakes should be that high. (See why I love Arthur Miller....)

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

A:  If you're writing a play to make a statement or to teach your audience something, take a step back. You are not morally or intellectually superior to your audience. Start with with a question and try to scare yourself a little.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My play "Whatchamacallit: A Play About Jesus" is running for one more weekend at the Secret Theater. People say it's pretty funny.
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I Interview Playwrights Part 834: Annette Storckman


Annette Storckman

Hometown: Woodbury, NY (You know, where the Woodbury Commons are)

Current Town: New York, NY

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm wrapping up rehearsals for my play BONESETTER with Spicy Witch Productions. I'm also doing research for two new plays, one of which is about a small ska revival that happened around 2007 in the Hudson Valley, and the mythology that surrounded the scene.

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 knew I wanted to be a writer at a pretty early age. Around four years old I wrote my first story, "Snow White and the Bears," which as a title, is a theme that has held pretty true to this day. 1) I still think bears are hilarious, 2) I like incorporating elements of horror into comedy.

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

A:  I would love for those of us who write straight plays to remember the entertainment value of theatre. I feel like we get so bogged down with sounding literary that we keep creating a collection of boring plays. I would love for people to bend genre more, and have joy beam out of their text-- no matter what the story is. I'm not saying you have to write something loud and spectacular to write something entertaining, just to treasure the story you are telling, and remember who you're giving it to.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I love Martin McDonagh and Tom Stoppard. Presently, however, I love people like Sarah Ruhl, Anne Washburn and Madeleine George.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  This sounds vague, but anything with a new perspective. I love the diversity of stories.

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

A:  Take all the jobs. Work the light board, hang out after the show, go to people's readings. Keep talking to people until you meet someone you really want to work with. Then make a play. And have a really good time.


Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Come see Spicy Witch Productions' Tragislasher season: BONESETTER: A TRAGISLASHER in rep with its source material THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY by Thomas Middleton. Bonesetter discusses the correlations between Jacobean tragedies and modern horror by adapting Middleton's satirical tragedy as a campy 80's slasher movie. It's also a comedy! It's also super feminist! And there's a lot of blood!
Tickets here: https://www.artful.ly/spicy-witch-productions

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Friday, May 06, 2016

A couple cool theater related websites (Interviews)

In case you're not already going to these places:

50 Playwrights Project
"The 50 Playwrights Project is a digital resource dedicated to contemporary Latin@ playwrights and other teatro allies created by Dr. Trevor Boffone."
https://50playwrights.org/about-2/
https://50playwrights.org/interviews/

People You Should Know
Zack Calhoun's interviews of New York theater makers.
http://zackcalhoon.blogspot.com/?view=classic

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I Interview Playwrights Part 833: Jessica Huang


Jessica Huang

Hometown/Current Town: Minneapolis, MN

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A couple commissions - a ghost story about a Chinese immigrant during the Exclusion era and an mixed-race epic about the eco-crisis, as well as curating/producing/weaving together an experimental adaptation of Lorca's Blood Wedding called the Palabras Project. I'm super excited about this, as it's the first piece of a new production company - Other Tiger Productions - that I co-founded with my husband Ricardo Vazquez. We've commissioned new work from six local Latino celebrities and will partner with a local theater - Park Square - to put this extravaganza up in July of this year.

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

A:  This is a tough one so I outsourced it to my younger brother; he reminded me of this story, which sort of (?) answers the question. When we were kids we had chores that we had to do every Sunday - clean our rooms, clean the bathroom, take out the trash, etc. To make it fun, I used to pretend that I was called away to a fairy kingdom and the fairies sent someone back who looked just like me to take my place and do the chores. I would tell my brother these elaborate stories every Sunday about what "Jessica" was doing in the fairy kingdom, as well as the life story of this fairy replacement, who of course was different every week - sometimes a servant, sometimes a pilot, sometimes a warrior. One Sunday, the fairy kingdom was under some kind of threat, so "Jessica," of course, had to run off and help, but the situation was so serious that they sent the daughter of the fairy king himself to take her place. At one point things got so bad that I had to report to my brother that "Jessica" had perished, and this fairy princess would be his sister now. And somehow - probably because he was 5 years old - he believed me and started hysterically crying. So... I try to reveal the beauty in the mundane, and make real life fun through the fantastic, but it still gets really serious sometimes...?

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

A:  I wish more people were able to have the powerful experience of recognizing themselves onstage - which of course means that I wish there were more authentic and virtuosic stories onstage about people of color, women, people with disabilities, people who identify outside gender binaries, immigrants, queer people, indigenous people, trans people, mixed-race people, etc. etc. etc. And I wish these stories were told in exciting, innovative, dangerous ways. This sounds like two answers, but I really think it's one - I'm pretty sure that in order to tell these stories authentically, we need to break open the form itself and let in other ways of telling, of thinking, of expressing.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Usually my collaborators - so right now Mei Ann Teo, Jeremy Tiang, Joel Sass, Wu Chen Khoo, Katherine Horowitz, Trever Bowen, Abbee Warmboe, Megan Kreidler, Song Kim, Audrey Park, Taous Khazem, Eric Sharp, and of course, always, Ricardo Vazquez.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theatrical experiences that harness imagination to provoke mass empathy and incite riots.

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

A:  Be rigorous and settle for nothing less than the truth of each moment. And listen, listen so carefully to your characters and to your community.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 832: Paz Pardo


Paz Pardo

Hometown:  Palo Alto, CA

Current Town: Austin, TX

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A Christmas comedy where everyone dies called Pioneers of the Future. We'll see how that goes...My partner and I are also starting a translation project called Grande/Bravo, which aims to put US plays into dialogue with plays from Latin America. We're translating Kirk Lynn's Fixing King John into Spanish and organizing a reading of it as part of the Brujula al sur international festival in Cali, Colombia in October. We're also translating Mosca by Fabio Rubiano and Otelo sobre la mesa by Jaime Chabaud into English and setting up readings of them here in Austin in the spring of 2017. All three plays are irreverent adaptations of Shakespeare, and we're working on getting a round table together with all three playwrights.

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

A:  For my 11th birthday, I decided to make a movie. So all my friends—all girls—came over for a slumber party, and everybody said what they wanted to be and we came up with a plot and set to work. The cast list featured a philandering wife, an assassin, a witch, and I think a cat? Nobody wanted to play the husband—the movie was called "Femme Fatale Forever." It had no problem passing the Bechdel test. We put my little sister in the oven for one of the scenes. My mother was not happy when she saw the video.

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

A:  I would get more funding more equitably distributed across the country. I'd also love to see American Theater be more in dialogue with theater from around the world–not just the theater that tours the international festival circuit—theater all over talking to theater from all over. That would be fun.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I'm eclectically excitable. A lot of what grabs me is in dance—Faye Driscoll comes to mind, as well as a dance-theater ensemble called Grupo Krapp from Argentina. The way that choreographers create structure without relying on narrative fascinates me. One of the most important things for me is seeing performers have fun on stage. There's something about the energy of someone loving what they're doing or cracking themselves up that I find endlessly exciting. I recently saw the Rude Mech's Field Guide out here in Austin, and the utter delight of the performers in certain moments made the experience transcendent for me. And then there are plays that can grab me even from the page (which is rare, I'm a terrible play-reader)—Steven Dietz's Lonely Planet and Enrique Lozano's Los difusos finales de las cosas come to mind.

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

A:  My mother is a playwright, and she met Tony Kushner in like 1990 and asked him what advice he had for budding playwrights. He said "Self produce." He seems like a good person to listen to. The way that your writing changes after having to listen to your words over and over and over again is great training. Also, my path into playwriting was to not know I was a playwright, and I think it's served me well. My early-career training was as a director and an actor—and boy, have those things influenced how I'm able to write. As an actor, there are things that get so embedded in you through performance that you're able to intuit the internal logic of a scene. That's deeply helpful when you're writing. And the practice of thinking beyond the text that comes with directing is very helpful if you want to move into realms of more expansive theatricality.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My play RubberMatch is running in NYC, May 5-21. More info at http://www.redcaravanco.com/ If you come, say hi!

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