May 23, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 176: Jordan Seavey
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: Tell me about the play you're doing a reading of at Rattlestick.
A: My play THE TRUTH WILL OUT is having a reading this Sunday (tomorrow, as of this writing) at Rattlestick. It's a "100% non-fiction anti-fantasia" about a closeted celebrity cable news journalist and an out 15 year old who's the victim of a hate crime (inspired by the murder of Lawrence King in 2008), and how their stories intersect. I think it's sort of gotten this reputation, in a way, for being a bit "epic" and challenging due to it's subject matter, themes, and bulk. It also has a tricky tone to balance, I think, and there's one actor who plays eight roles, including a fifteen year old girl and Edward R. Murrow. If something isn't challenging, I'm not really into it frankly. And I do pack my plays with a lot -- a lot of thoughts and ideas, characters, times, scenes -- I tend toward episodic structures, and TTWO in particular jumps around a lot chronologically. I don't enjoy safe theatre so I attempt not to make safe theatre. It's our job to remind theatres that challenge is good! Anyway, it's received development at the Old Vic in London (which was fun and fascinating), the New York Theatre Workshop (awesome), the hotINK Festival (which I highly recommend all playwrights apply to -- great, great people there), and Orlando Shakespeare's new play festival, Playfest (which was incredible in that I watched a non-NYC-based audience respond unbelievably strongly to the piece). And was a finalist for the O'Neill's National Playwrights Conference this year. Soooo. I guess you could say it's been making the reading rounds. I'm hoping workshop and production will follow.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I am also co-artistic director of the theatre company CollaborationTown. We've been in rehearsals workshopping a new play called THE PLAY ABOUT MY DAD by another company member, fantastically gifted playwright/performer Boo Killebrew. And then we'll be developing and mounting (in NYC Fringe this August) a piece we began co-creating at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center in February. It's a comedic, collage-like look at The Momentum, a fictional self-help movement inspired by The Secret and also Abraham Hicks -- if you don't know them, look them up -- it's some pretty crazy shit.) Self-help is a nearly 10 billion dollar industry in America right now, so we're going to taking a look into the why's and wherefore's of that.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I grew up watching my mother perform. She was a professional clown, Ringling Brothers trained, and an actress/singer prior to that. And mime...she actually has a Fulbright in mime, which she used to study with Marcel Marceau's teacher in Paris. I think this sort of explains a lot. Everything? Hahaha. I also became obsessed with the movie JAWS when I was 4, and watched a lot of horror films and Stanley Kubrick growing up. Yeah.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Larger non-profit theatre companies' fear of risky plays. Semi-related note: Great article in this week's Village Voice about New York needing to cherish its artists. http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-05-18/theater/welcome-to-nyc-s-hidden-golden-age-of-theater/
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Caryl Churchill and Robert Wilson come immediately to mind -- she's just such a brilliant writer (I wrote her a love letter while studying abroad in London and as I write this am looking at the framed note she wrote back), and he's so unafraid of theatricality and insane choices and fucking with time and what time is in a theatrical space. But I also love Ludlam and Albee and Durang and Vogel...maybe I'm a little all over.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Dark and funny theatre about unfunny things. Preferably things that are pertinent to us as a society right NOW and/or things that are personally pertinent to the artist(s) creating the work.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Oh boy. Hm. If something makes you angry or scared, write about it.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: www.collaborationtown.org, and if you're in NYC and this gets published in time, come to THE TRUTH WILL OUT at Rattlestick tomorrow!