Hometown: Born in Long Beach, CA. Grew up in Marietta, GA. Came of age in Austin, TX. Austin's probably the place I really think of when I think of the word "hometown."
Current town: Tallahassee, FL. I'm teaching this year at Florida State.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Right now I'm working on a play called CLEMENTINE IN THE LOWER NINE. It's an adaptation of Aeschylus' AGAMEMNON, set in post-Katrina New Orleans. It's not a musical, but there's blues music and songs woven through the piece. I feel like the sheer size of the destruction that storm (and our response to it) wrought upon that town, not to mention the emotional upheaval, requires an equally big theatricality. Which is how the Greeks came into it for me. I had a fantastic reading of it at Geva Theatre earlier this summer, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next with it.
Q: You're a playwriting professor at Florida State right now. What's that like? What plays do you have your students read?
A: Being a playwriting professor at FSU has many fantastic things about it, foremost of which are the students. FSU Theatre majors are the most motivated, driven, and excited bunch I've ever encountered. There's no laziness, in their writing or in their relationship to their careers. The grad students are a slightly different kind of crowd, because it's a combination Screenwriting/Playwriting degree which is actually run through the Film School. Which means the grad students are more likely to have experience in screenwriting than playwriting. This can bring difficulties, but it's also great because they have so few preconceived notions of what theatre has to be. You're kind of working with a blank slate, and the impact that a powerful and fresh voice--Sarah Ruhl, Jordan Harrison--can have on them is immense.
Q: Isn't Travis York the bomb?
A: Travis York is a powerful and fresh bomb. Seriously, he's a fantastic actor and my best drinking buddy.
Q: You're one of those UT Austin folks. What are the theaters in Austin that you love?
A: Yep, and UT Austin is one of the things Travis and I have in common. I absolutely love Salvage Vanguard Theater (which I was a part of for ten great years) and the Rude Mechs (whose work is constantly pushing me to make my own better, more innovative, more exciting). The Blue Theater puts on an incredible festival every year called FuseBox that theatre artists from across the country would do well to fly in and see every spring (unless for some reason they don't need their minds blown). Plus the community there is such that phenomenal, exciting work is always popping up in the least expected places.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Anything that makes me care excites me. It can be straight up realism or something mindbendingly experimental, as long as it draws me in emotionally. I don't have a lot of patience for shallow commentary or mobius-strip, snake-eating-its-own-tail irony. More and more, I just want people to say something and mean it with every fiber. I think it's the bravest thing you can do.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: For playwrights just starting out, I'd say do everything you can to surround yourself with people as dedicated and determined as you are. Make that people who are even more dedicated and determined. And courageous. And talented. Find a community that wants to support your work, and support them in return with everything you've got. Don't be afraid to take a good hard look at your own work, even if your first instinct is that it sucks. And if after that good hard look you find even just one shining thing in the middle of a big mess, congratulate yourself--you've done well. Then get back to work.