May 26, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 179: Cory Hinkle
Hometown: Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Current Town: Minneapolis, MN
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m writing a solo piece for a Minneapolis actor, Terry Hempleman. Terry’s the kind of actor that can say almost anything onstage and the audience will still like him, which works perfectly for the character I’m creating. He’s a disgruntled American loosely inspired by the tea partiers and also a bit by Dostoyevsky’s Man from Underground.
I’ve been fascinated by the tea party movement if for no other reason than a lot of my family is very much involved. I’m interested in exploring the kind of paranoia that seems to have taken hold of so much of the “real America.” I’m also interested in writing a play from a more right-leaning perspective because I think this may actually be a play that provokes an American theater audience. I’ve read a stack of solo plays in preparation, so I feel I should know what I’m doing with the form but still it’s really challenging, but helps to have an actor in mind.
I’m also re-writing my play The Killing of Michael X, A New Film by Celia Wallace, which will be in this year’s Bay Area Playwrights Festival. It’s a play about grief and one young girl’s ability to deal with the loss of her brother only by seeing his death through the lense of the film she plans to make about him. The problem is she can’t start the film, so she can only imagine the film she might make, which the play becomes.
Q: How would you characterize the Minneapolis theater scene?
A: The exciting thing is there are some really talented people here and some good small theater companies – Ten Thousand Things, Walking Shadow Theater, Workhaus Collective, Red Eye, Bedlam, Open Eye Figure Theater, and a few others. There are also some good physical theater companies and devisors who are carrying on the work Jeune Lune was doing for 25 years like Jon Ferguson Theater and Live Action Set. Also, the Jeune Lune artists are still doing really exciting work.
And the presence of the Playwrights’ Center for so many years has created a community of actors that are very good with new plays. The one real negative about the Twin Cities is that even with so many playwrights here and so many new plays there are only a slim number of quality productions by the larger or mid-sized companies. You pretty much have to do it yourself, or very occasionally one of the larger theaters does a new play. That part is disappointing, but it might be changing. Smaller companies are doing a lot more quality new work now than when I first moved here so maybe the larger theaters will catch on, or maybe the smaller companies will take over.
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 dad grew up on a farm, but moved to the “big city,” (Bartlesville, OK, a town of 35,000) after my parents got married and when I was young (usually on a Sunday) he would say “you wanna drive up to Cow Town?” which was his name for Copan, OK (pop. 560) the little town where he grew up. And we would drive up there and go from farm to farm and talk to whoever happened to be around. I was a quiet kid and would watch these strange, grizzled farmers (the kind of farmers who probably don’t even exist anymore) talk about all sorts of things. My dad grew up there and was just as interested in how different they were from our regular lives just half and hour away. It’s a long road from Sunday drives with my dad to writing plays, but they’re connected – I learned early to watch for the idiosyncratic in other people.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: More artists on the payrolls. If an Artistic Director is going to get a salary of over 600,000 dollars (like one of our large theaters here in Minnesota) there should be artists on the payroll, all year round.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, Shepard, Fornes, Len Jenkin. Recently, I discovered Bernard Marie Koltes and was blown away (Battle of Blacks and Dogs is one of my new favorite plays).
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Workhaus collaborated on a play this year called Fissures (lost and found) and the entire play was delivered directly to the audience. For me, the most exciting thing was how immediate and theatrical it felt for the audiences who saw it. We got rid of any pretense of reality and created a purely theatrical reality. I don’t think every play should be direct address, but it’s a good way to cut the distance audiences seem to feel now between themselves and new plays. I’m excited by theater that engages the audience in the theatricality of the play and asks them to participate one way or another.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: As this interview series makes clear there’s a lot of competition out there. It also seems there are fewer and fewer opportunities. So you have to be unbelievably prolific. And you have to create your own opportunities.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Our resident company of playwrights here in Minneapolis: www.workhauscollective.org
In June, we’re doing a workshop of Deborah Stein’s collaboration with Suli Holum, Chimera.
And our entire next season is exciting: Carson Kreitzer’s Freakshow directed by Ben McGovern in the fall. My play, Little Eyes directed by an awesome director Jeremy Wilhelm (http://jeremywilhelm.com) in February. And Christina Ham’s Glyph directed by one of the best directors in the Twin Cities Marion Mcclinton in April.
My wife, Victoria Stewart has a production of Hardball at Seattle’s Live Girls Theater in October.
And fellow Workhaus-er Dominic Orlando has two productions of Danny Casalaro Died for You at Next Theater in Chicago and Well Fleet Harbor Actor’s Theater both happening in the fall.
And I would love to see Greg Moss’ new play opening at Soho Rep in the fall, or his House of Gold at Woolly Mammoth.