Saturday, October 10, 2009
I Interview Playwrights Part 71: Jay Bernzweig
Hometown: Freehold, NJ
Current Town: Los Angeles, New York
Q: Tell me about your play, Made in Heaven going up soon at the Soho Playhouse.
A: "Made in Heaven" is a comedy about conjoined twins who share a penis. On the night they are about to propose marriage to their girlfriend, one twin reveals that's he's gay. The twins and their girlfriend concoct a plan to make the arrangement satsfying for all of them. The plain involves a bisexual hustler, whose behavior wreaks havoc on the household and forces all four characters to rethink their notions of love, family and self-acceptance.
Q: How did you come to write this play?
A: For a few years I walked around with the one-line idea of conjoined twins, one gay and one straight, who share a penis. Anyone with whom I shared the idea laughed out loud. But I wasn't able to start writing until I discovered who the other two characters were and realized the play would be about the self-destructive and uncomfortable knots we'll all twist ourselves into for the sake of what looks or feels like romantic love. In 2004 I was one of the producers of an Off-Broadway musical, "Dr. Sex." There were long periods if idleness as we waited for the show to be rewritten, or waited for various creative talents to become available. I took advantage of the fact that I had a quiet, cozy office overlooking Broadway, and wrote the first draft of "Made in Heaven."
Q: What are you working on next?
A: A play tentatively titled "Madame Mesmer." It's a contemporary farce that deals with marriage, money and hypnosis.
Q: You used to be a film exec. What does it feel like to be on the other side of the desk? Is it vastly different?
A: It's way more fun ruining my own ideas that it was helping to ruin others.
Q: Do you have any advice for young writers trying to get their screenplays made?
A: Yes. View your career as a marathon, not a sprint. Hope for the best with every script, but understand the following: A lucky few achieve success with a single, brilliant screenplay. But many, many writers succeed as the result of eight or ten years of consistent, ever-improving work.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a person or as a writer.
A: I fell in love with Eugene O'Neill when I was twelve and read everything he wrote. Didn't understand at least half of what I was reading, but I was captivated by the language and the theatricality and decided I wanted to be a playwright.
Q: What theaters or shows in LA would you recommend?
A: The Actors' Gang, Theatre at Boston Court, "99-cent Only Show" at Bootleg Theatre, drag revue at the Plaza bar on LaBrea.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Anything fresh, original and astonishing.
Link for Jay's show: