Thursday, June 03, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 186: Molly Smith Metzler



Molly Smith Metzler

Hometown: Kingston, NY (in the Hudson Valley by Woodstock)

Current Town: Brooklyn Heights, NY

Q:  Tell me about the play you're taking to Chautauqua and The O’Neill this summer.

A:  Sure, it’s a comedy called CLOSE UP SPACE and it’s a father/daughter play. It’s set in a publishing house, which was fun for me to write because by day I’m an editor, so I got to put all the typographical proofreading symbols in my head to good use. (“Close up space” is actually an editing term that means exactly what it sounds like: get rid of the space and bring the two letters together). The play is about a widower and book editor (Paul), who is amazing with language but not so good with his eccentric daughter (Harper), who he sent to a far away boarding school years ago. In the play, Harper shows up unannounced at his office—having been expelled from school because she refuses to stop speaking Russian—and Paul has to find a way to communicate with her. It’s a comedy about loss and love and language and Russia and maybe even how we close up our spaces. I’m incredibly excited to work on it this summer, especially with two directors I admire so much: Ethan McSweeny at Chautauqua Theater Company and Sheryl Kaller at the O’Neill (with my friend Annie MacRae as dramaturg.)

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I just finished a new comedy at Juilliard—called ELEMENO PEA—that I’m excited to hear at Williamstown this summer (Friday @3 reading). It’s about a social worker from blue-collar Buffalo (Devon) who goes to Martha’s Vineyard to visit her little sister (Simone), who’s been working as a live-in assistant to one of New York’s wealthiest trophy wives (Michaela). This female triangle is the center of the play, which is set in a ludicrous beach estate that I’ve actually been to in real life (as “the help,” no less). The play’s about class, family, and the choices we make. I’ll be working on it at WTF with the wonderful Amanda Charlton, who directed the student workshop at Juilliard this spring. Really looking forward to that.

I’m also working on two new plays: one is about modern technology and is called BUTTDIAL. It’s obviously a very serious drama. The other is a wee embryo and an actual drama, I think.

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 in one of those Royal Tenenbaum kind of houses, where everyone is creative and artistic and eccentric. We Metzler kids created our own theater troupe—the “Rainbow Riders”(get it? Because we rode the rainbow?)—and we wrote, produced, directed, designed and performed our plays for the neighborhood. There aren’t many parents who let their kids use the good silver for fight choreography, but ours did, and I’m still grateful. Also, I’m pretty sure I learned comic timing simply by listening to my brother and sister all these years. I am not funny. I repeat: I am not funny. But Blake Metzler and Kate Metzler are seriously the two most hilarious people on the planet. If you don’t believe me, come to my house for xmas. You’ll pee yourself laughing.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  How conservative it’s gotten! (See: Todd London’s book, Outrageous Fortune.)

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: 
Female: Marsha Norman.

Male: Chris Durang and Colin McKenna.

RIP: Chekhov.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Plays that tell a great story!!! Plays that make me forget that I’m hungry and tired and have a beeping blackberry in my bag and a dog to walk. Plays that make me sweat and listen. Plays that make time vanish.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Go big or go home. Get involved. Go to everything. Find other theater artists, make friends, support them. Write about important and personal questions. And grad school can be a great thing for some people. I went to Boston University, Tisch and Juilliard and recommend all three.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Become a member of TCG today and subscribe to AMERICAN THEATRE magazine! (www.tcg.org)

Some dates:

CLOSE UP SPACE at Chautauqua Theater Company (NPW), directed by Ethan McSweeny July 1- 4

CLOSE UP SPACE at the O’Neill Theater Center, directed by Sheryl Kaller Wed July 21 & Thurs July 22

ELEMENO PEA at Williamstown Theatre Festival—Friday @3 Reading, directed by Amanda Charlton July 30

And a must see:

Sam Hunter’s magnificent play JACK’S PRECIOUS MOMENT, produced by P73 @ 59E59 Theater and directed by Kip Fagan, is running right now through mid June. Get thee to the show!!!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Ms Metzler is familiar with the book by Mark Dunn entitled Ella Minnow Pea.

Anonymous said...

Just saw her play at South Coast Rep. Hilarious and moving. I figured she was much older than she is. Good interview, thank you.