Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Interview Playwrights Part 53: Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Hometown: Mill Valley, CA

Current Town: San Francisco CA.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about Boom? What's it about? Can you run me through the production history of where it was and where it will be next? And it will be published soon by DPS, right?

A: boom is a play about a craigslist casual encounter date between a gay biologist and a female journalism student in a suspiciously well-stocked subterranean apartment right before a comet hits the planet earth. It's a play about evolution, creation myths, difficulties with management and fate versus randomness. I also like to describe as my way of reconciling having been a Theater and Biology major when I was an undergrad. I first workshopped it at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep in the summer of 2007 and it went on to have its world premiere at Ars Nova in 2008, with subsequent productions at Woolly Mammoth, Seattle Rep, and Cleveland Public Theatre last season. There are a bunch of productions of the show this season which I'm very thrilled about and yes it's getting published soon by DPS with a domtar turquoise cover I believe.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: I just finished a draft of a play called Bob, a commission for South Coast Rep. It's spanning an entire life from birth to death of a guy named Bob and his pursuit of greatness and his version of the American Dream. It's got about 30something speaking roles played by a cast of five and takes place all over America. I think this is me rebelling against all my plays that have taken place in a single location. It also has no cussing in it, which is sort of a big deal for me. I'm also continuing to work on my show TIC which premiered in the Bay Area last January at Encore Theatre. And I'm going to be working with the A.C.T. 2nd year MFA class to develop a new play this year. A play for twelve actors, woohew!

Q: What theaters or shows in SF would you suggest a visitor to your city check out?

A: Oh boy. I suggest a number of options (looking at the whole Bay Area here). http://www.theatrebayarea.org/ lists them all. ACT and Berkeley Rep are our biggest spots and worth a look, with Berkeley Rep having a nice streak of cranking out some contemporary hits. There are literally hundreds of smaller and medium size companies around as well doing ambitious and great work. I suggest seeing stuff at the Z Space Studio (http://www.zspace.org/), Intersection for the Arts and Campo Santo (http://www.theintersection.org/), Encore Theatre (http://www.encoretheatrecompany.org/) , Marin Theatre Company (http://marintheatre.org), Aurora Theatre (http://www.auroratheatre.org/), Shotgun Players (http://www.shotgunplayers.org/), Crowded Fire (http://www.crowdedfire.org), Killing My Lobster (http://killingmylobster.com), Cutting Ball (http://www.cuttingball.com/), and many many many others. And while you're here, you have to eat lots of the amazing food.

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

A: In sixth grade I jokingly polled my friends in my class about which seventh grader they hated the most. It was all hilarious fun until some of the seventh graders caught wind and chased me across the campus until I had to hide in a classroom. Angry and upset when i got home, I found an old piece of plywood, got myself a hammer and drove in about a hundred nails into the plywood. After starting at the wood for a time, I thought of everyone's favorite Price is Right game, Plinko. I nailed some shards of wood on either side of the plywood, tipped it up, and created my own version of the game. Only mine was called "Kill The Seventh Grader." You would let go of a large marble at the top, it would head down, bouncing off the nails, and depending what "slot" it rolled through at the bottom you either missed, slapped, dismembered or killed the seventh grader. I played the game with my friends that summer at a birthday party. I think that says something about my humor and aesthetic, right?

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: Aesthetically, I think I have very very broad taste. I guess theatre that engages me viscerally and surprises me is also the theater that excites me. I'm not a big fan of pretension but I don't mind being challenged. I think I prefer work that feels open to an audience, and not too insular. I like plays with open hearts but also enjoy the mean ones too. I definitely enjoy seeing plays born from the time we are living in. I like a rock and roll sensibility and/or playfulness and/or humor and/or imagination and/or plays that do the sneak attack and get me crying. I like investing in characters and story. I like being structurally bedazzled. I like simple or complex, so long as it feels honest. I do like plays with well thought out endings. I don't mind intermissions.

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

A: Get things on their feet. Have friends read your drafts out loud in your living room. Self produce when you're starting, but get some friends to help. Take acting classes. Design/Directing classes may be helpful too. Watch a lot of plays. Find actors and directors you like and trust and then trust them but stay in the room. Don't be afraid of cutting things. Rewrite lots of things. As important as sending your plays out is meeting the people you are sending your plays to. Do not put your eggs in one basket either by waiting for one particular theater to do your play or waiting for that one play to get produced. Keep working on the next thing. Write a lot and take comfort in knowing that the despair you feel sometimes while writing is universally felt.

Q: Any other plugs?

A: Hi Mom!

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