Mar 23, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 133: Derek Ahonen
Current Town: New York City
Q: Tell me about your show Happy In The Poorhouse now playing.
A: It's a huge Coney Island love story with loose women, meek men, and a belly full of dreamers, optimists, gangsters, and MMA fighters. It's really a throw back play our company wanted to do out of love for works like, THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES and A HATFUL OF RAIN. It's a big love letter to another era but it's set in the current day. Both press and audience are responding very strongly to it in ways we never expected. I guess there's a lot of untapped need for more plays like this. It's been an amazing run so far!
Q: What else are you working on?
A: My play, AMERISSIAH, is opening in June at the same space with a lot of familiar faces. I'm also directing that baby. It's a beast of a play that after HAPPY IN THE POORHOUSE I feel like i need to physically get myself in way better shape to direct it. But it's also very fun and explores the boundaries of people with Messiah Complexes.
Q: Your theater company is called the Amoralists. Are you all amoral?
A: No! We all have a very strong moral infrastructure and we love people more than anybody else we know. That's why we're called the Amoralists, because we love humans too much to trivialize their complexities in our work. Hey man, the pedophile, abusive drunk, prostitute, police officer, and man-hating lesbian all have wants, needs, and childhoods full of unfulfilled dreams like anybody else. I leave the teaching of morality to the Priests. I'm for the teaching of humanity baby!
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: My mother was a Children's Theatre Director and she put me in all of her plays as a kid... God bless her. I loved being on stage, but what i really loved was being in a theatre with a bunch of people all working together for a unified goal. I loved just sitting backstage and seeing everyone get along and crack jokes. People need extended families. I write about families and the individual's primitive need to connect and feel appreciated. All my characters would be super happy if a theatre company took them in and told them they were special.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: First, it has to be funny. I don't like anything that goes more than a few minutes without a laugh. Second, it has to have emotional substance. I hate irony and too cool for school shit. Fucking feel something ya bitch! Third, it has to move. I can sit through a 5 hour play that moves like a racehorse ten times easier than a 20 minute one act that moves like a snail in the dirt. Outside of those three things, i'll go on any journey a team of artists wants to take me on. Oh yeah... and i love great acting. I like talented and skilled wounded people playing normal wounded people.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write stuff you want to see. That's it. This business if full of empty promises and useless smiles. Just write shit you can read on the subway that makes you feel like your life is worth a damn. Also, listen to actors during the rehearsal process. Always trust them when they want to dirty their character. Never trust them when they want to clean up their character.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: I don't have them yet. I'm the only one in my company not losing my hair.