Saturday, January 30, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 113: Steve Yockey
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Current Town: San Francisco, CA
Q: Tell me about Large Animal Games.
A: It’s an irreverent little play that looks at the version of ourselves we present vs. the truths that our actions betray. And big game hunting. It opened last November in a co-world premiere between Dad’s Garage in Atlanta, GA and Impact Theatre in Berkeley, CA. Both companies enjoy taking risks and sometimes, maybe, let me get away with a bit of murder. It’s the closest thing to a true comedy that I’ve ever written. And people laughed, so that’s encouraging.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: A three-hander revenge play for Jasson Minadakis at Marin called The Thrush & The Woodpecker. Also, a commission for South Coast Rep that fuses a Japanese-American woman’s affair with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. They might not believe I’m working on it, but I really am. Cross my heart.
Q: Tell me about Out of Hand Theatre.
A: OOH is an amazing company of artists deeply committed to creating theatrical events and new works that provoke and involve an audience. Never passive. Always thoughtful. Very physical. I worked collaboratively with OOH on the touring self-help seminar send-up HELP! and a commedia-inspired look at the coalescing roles of corporations, government and the media, Cartoon. The worst part of being a roaming company member is missing the intensive collaborative work. The best part is missing the chunk of regular boot camp rehearsals called “physical hell.”
Q: You're also Playwright in Residence at Marin right now. What is it like to have a theatrical home or two?
A: I’m at Marin on a residency through the National New Play Network. It’s a fantastic program where playwrights are integrated into the artistic staff of a theatre for one season. Whoever invented the concept of the “residency” is tops in my book. It does feel like the Bay Area has become a new kind of artistic home, especially being so close to San Francisco’s Encore Theatre where producer Lisa Steindler loudly champions my work. Back in Atlanta, theatres like Dad’s Garage and Actor’s Express continue to be the places willing to take big chances on launching my new work.
Q: Tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: When I was in the sixth grade, I wrote this melodramatic poem where the main character felt so alone that he stole a bunch of fireworks, watched them burn and then shot himself. All very serious. The next day, I was summoned to the guidance counselor’s office to find my English teacher comforting my anxious Father and my Mother on the verge of tears. I refused to apologize.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Primarily, anything that’s ambitious in form, storytelling or theatricality. Anything that’s rough and raw on an audience because it knows that they can take it. Anything that’s written with a confident voice so I can trust, even if I disagree or dislike something, that I’m in good hands. Also, I’m a sucker for well-done chamber musicals.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write as many plays as you can. Write until your head is empty and then fill it up and write again. The more you exercise those muscles, the further you can push yourself and your ideas. This is purely my experience, but I’d also say stay true to the artistic relationships you find inspiring and exciting. A big piece of unlocking the kind of resources necessary in getting your plays up will be inevitably be fueled by these sustained artistic commitments.
Q; Plugs, please:
A: Artistic Director Kate Warner is directing a public reading of afterlife at New Rep in Boston on Feb 8. Heavier than... opens at Insurgo Theatre Movement in Las Vegas on March 19. And in early March, a group of NYU grad actors is tackling a twisted, over-the-top one act called Wolves as a part of their Free Play festival with Kerry Whigham at the helm. That one should be fun.