Hometown: Wilmette, IL
Current Town: Chicago, IL
Q: You have two shows coming up in California. Can you tell me about the plays and about the productions?
A: The Butcher of Baraboo is a black comedy set in Baraboo, Wisconsin and it's about a women (the town butcher) whose husband is missing, presumed dead, and everybody suspects she chopped him up and dumped him in Devil's Lake.
Ten Cent Night is a dark family comedy/drama set in 1973 Texas about a woman who is a failed, alcoholic musician who returns home after stealing money from her mute, criminal boyfriend to pay for her little sister's heart surgery.
Q: Are you going to be able to go to the rehearsals and/or performances?
A; I went to a few days of rehearsal for Ten Cent Night, about two weeks into their rehearsal process. Crammed four weeks worth of my notes into a few days and made cuts and revisions. Don't know when I'll see the production. For The Butcher of Baraboo, I had a two hour phone conversation with the director a few weeks before she cast the show, and that was it for my direct involvement. I'm going to see it this weekend.
Q: I have heard that Chicago is an amazing theater town. If I dropped in there tomorrow, what shows would you recommend I go see or what theater companies should I check out?
A: Go see Graceland at Profiles Theatre, Oedipus produced by The Hypocrites, and Poseidon! An Upsidedown Musical produced by Hell in a Handbag . You can stay on my couch, Adam. When are you going to take me up on that offer?
Q: Do you think Chicago's theater has a certain aesthetic and if so what is that aesthetic?
A; I suppose when people think "Chicago theatre" they think about something with great acting, probably produced in a small, charmingly dumpy space, but there isn't a unifying aesthetic for all Chicago theater other than geography. There are a few different scenes. The storefront/fringe scene, a mid-level scene with a tiny subscriber base, an upper-level scene with a large subscriber base (Goodman/Steppenwolf/Chicago Shakespeare, etc), and the Broadway touring shows. Also there's the comedy scene (improv and sketch) which doesn't have much crossover with the theatre scene. It's rare to find people who are regularly active in both the comedy and theater scenes. It's like finding a unicorn.
Q: You've managed to base yourself out of Chicago while getting shows up in lots of other places. Do you have any tips on how you did that or recommendations for other playwrights?
A; Luck. Right place right time. I did a lot of playwriting in college and had a few full length plays in good shape by the time I graduated. I found my agent through one of my friends from college. My friend Erica Nagle was interning in the Literary Department at the McCarter Theatre, and she struck up a conversation with an agent who was transitioning agencies and looking to take on new writers. Erica pitched my writing to her so well that my now-Agent Morgan Jenness e-mailed me and asked to read my stuff, and she took me on, introduced me to some people in New York and elsewhere. I had a few teachers at Washington University in St Louis who recommended my work to theatre friends. One of those people was Ed Sobel the director of New Play Development at Steppenwolf, and he read a couple of my plays, gave me a table reading at the theatre to introduce me and my work to Artistic Director Martha Lavey. Steppenwolf commissioned me, and produced that commissioned play. Ed really supported Chicago writers at Steppenwolf. I've been fortunate to meet people who believe in me and my writing. They've recommended my work to others. Just do good work that makes people want to meet you. And when you meet, be yourself and be the person who plays well with others -- hopefully they're the same person.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A; I like serious stuff that's a little funny, and funny stuff that's a little serious.
Q: What advice would you give to a playwright just starting out?
A: Somebody told me during my first workshop experience: "Your play is your baby. Everybody thinks they know how to raise your baby. But only you know how to raise your baby." I'm not sure if that's helpful. I'm not really into babies. Especially crying babies. Especially crying babies in Starbucks. If your baby will not stop crying in Starbucks, you need to take your baby home, please.
A; The Butcher of Baraboo at MOXIE Theatre in San Diego, CA: http://www.moxietheatre.com/
Ten Cent Night at The Victory Theatre Center in Burbank, CA: http://www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org/
Hickorydickory at Chicago Dramatists (staged reading July 11): http://www.chicagodramatists.org/events/satseries.html