Oct 13, 2009
I Interview Playwrights Part 73: Mike Batistick
Hometown: Red Bank, NJ
Current Town: Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm currently working on the final cut with director Nick Sandow for the film version of my play PONIES (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1462765/), for which I wrote the screenplay. Greenbox Entertainment produced it, and we shot it in the Bronx (among other places) where we built an entire OTB out of a closed Washington Mutual bank. The place looked so authentic the Morris Park Community Board got upset because they thought a betting parlor was moving into their neighborhood.
In addition to that, I've also been working on a few TV projects--including a pilot I've got in development--and putting the final touches on my latest play RECURSION. Sometime next Spring, director Arin Arbus and I will be developing my latest play GAIL with the Working Theater.
Q: How many plays of yours were done by Studio Dante? What was it like working with them?
A: I have had two plays produced by Studio Dante, PONIES (http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3510) and CHICKEN (http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3888), both of which were directed by Nick Sandow, who also directed the film version of the PONIES. Dante basically helped me achieve everything I have in my career; my first (and second) NY TIMES review, published plays (including another play, PORT AUTHORITY THROW DOWN (http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3846), and television work. Working with Michael Imperioli and his wife Victoria was perhaps the greatest development I've had in my creative life so far. They introduced me to many of the people I work with now.
Q: How did you like Juilliard?
A: Marsha and Chris were crucial in my development as a writer. They taught me to write quickly and with quality, as well as continue to always work on narrative structure, which has always been one of my weaknesses.
Q: What do you like most about the MCC Playwrights Coalition?
A: I've been out of town a lot lately, so I haven't much time to work with Coalition as I did when I first joined, in 2002. But recently I did a playwriting intensive with Mark Schultz, Annie Baker, Blair Singer, and dramaturge Jamie Green. The intensives are by far my favorite part of the group.
Q: Tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: My dad was the landlord of a few buildings in Asbury Park, NJ when I was a teenager. I just remember always collecting rent, fixing those dilapidated buildings up, and trying to keep drug dealers and squatters away. I think those experiences inform a lot of the stuff I write.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Tom Bradshaw's PURITY at PS 122 was a really exciting piece, and I still think about it even though it was produced over two years ago. The play pushed the envelope and didn't try and put a nice button on its plot. I also really enjoyed Theater For a New Audience's production of OTHELLO, which Arin Arbus directed. What I was left with from that production was the claustrophobia and obsession that envelopes the main character, and how thoroughly contemporary his struggle felt to me. I really respond to shows that are dangerous and that play with style and structure, like the Elevator Repair Service's NO GREAT SOCIETY and WOMEN DREAMT HORSES by Daniel Veronese. I also like the work of the Debate Society.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Produce your play yourself, or submit to the Fringe or Midtown Theater Festival. Don't wait for producers and big theaters to come calling; if you put it up on your own dime, it's a perfect opportunity for them to come see your work. Also never be afraid to send that 10-page sample to the big Off-Broadway theaters if you don't have agent. Literary departments will respond.
Q: Any plugs?
A: Well my friend Jake Hirzel's musical DIAL 'N' FOR NEGRESS just finished its run at Theater Row, so no, but you can check out the awesome music at the website, dialnfornegress.com.