Friday, February 19, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 122: Craig Wright
Q: Tell me about Blind, the show you have going up at Rattlestick.
A: It’s a play about Oedipus and Jocasta. It takes place in the period of time during which they’re both offstage in Sophocles’ play, and it assumes that the story Oedipus eventually tells the people of Thebes — that he found the queen dead and put out his eyes — isn’t the truth. It uses Oedipus’ relationship to Jocasta and the kingship as a metaphor for our culture’s relationship to economic privilege, and the economic and social crisis in ancient Thebes mirrors the crisis in our own land and time.
Q: What else are you working on right now?
A: I have a few pilots in process in the world of television and my new play THE GRAY SISTERS, which deals with four sisters handling the fallout from prolonged sexual abuse by their stepfather, premieres at Third Rail Rep in Portland, OR in April. They commissioned it.
Q: You have had success both in TV and theater. How do you find the time to continue to do both?
A: My son’s all grown up and in college. There isn’t much else to do besides work.
Q: You most recently worked with, among other people, my friend and theatrical darling Sheila Callaghan on the Showtime show the United States of Tara. What was that experience like and doesn't Sheila rock?
A: Sheila is an immensely talented writer and a lot of fun to work with. Alan Ball, when I started at SIX FEET UNDER, told me I could have a future in television if I wanted one. I told Sheila the same thing about herself. What she chooses to do next remains to be seen, but whatever it is, it’ll be funny, provocative, and amazing. That’s just what she does.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: There was a street the kids called Bloody Lane about three blocks from where I lived when I was five. It was called Bloody Lane because the man who owned the house at the end of the street — it was really just a very long driveway — poisoned the squirrels in the trees, so there were always dead, run-over squirrels laying around in the rocks. Some 7th-graders on my street decided one day to ride their bikes down to the end of Bloody Lane and see what was there. I asked if I could come along. A gun came into play over the course of the adventure and I ended up with a badly broken leg, a good story, and the kind of protracted convalescence that tends to turns people into writers.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: My taste runs to the avant-garde: the Wooster Group, ZT Hollandia, Teatr Zar — these are companies that make work that inspires me. At the same time, David Cromer’s perfect production of OUR TOWN was the best thing I’ve seen in a long while. I also just saw a show in Los Angeles called AN OAK TREE by Tim Crouch that was amazing. I like theater that doesn’t pretend to be simulating reality, theatre whose primary mechanism is what I would call “ceremonial” or “invocative.”
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Endeavor to be the most intrepid and honest person in the process when it comes to making the play itself better. Don’t settle for what other people will let you get away with. Don’t blame the actors. Make it better.