Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 200: Delaney Britt Brewer
Delaney Britt Brewer
Hometown: I don’t really have one. I moved around a lot as a kid. But, now one set of folks lives in Fayetteville, NC and the other re-located to Birmingham, AL.
Current Town: New York City.
Q: Tell me about Wolves:
A: Wolves is a project I’ve been working on and adding to for the past three years. It started with a one act I wrote when I was at home for Christmas and tipsy off of some deadly mixture of Diet Coke and Godiva liquor – basically any old thing I could scrounge in the house. I wrote the whole short play in about two sittings. It’s the story of a couple that hits a mythically large wolf on the side of a highway with their car on New Years Eve. Time jumps back and forth between the accident and a New Years Eve party the couple attended earlier in the evening. The spring after I wrote it, it was staged for the Sam French One Act play festival and I really liked it but couldn’t figure out how to give it a life beyond the one act form. Then I had an idea to extend it by writing another complimentary piece that would be a kind of variation on a theme – different characters but the setting and time would be the same as in the act before. And, the character and image of the Wolf would be present in both. I worked on that piece during my fellowship with the Dramatist Guild. Recently I’ve added a third section that’s a monologue from the perspective of the Wolf that will be played by a kid. The whole piece is going to be up at 59e59 this August for three weeks and I’m really excited to have the chance to work on it and see it up on its feet in its entirety.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I just finished a draft of a play I started in a workshop I took with Jon Robin Baitz this past Spring. I gave myself the challenge of having a play with a lot of characters but only one setting. The play is about a group of friends from college whose re-union weekend upstate takes a dark turn due to a massive snow storm and an over population of deer. I’ve purposely given all of the characters the names of actors whom I’d want to play the parts so that I can keep their voices clear in my mind. But moreover, they’re actors that I would want to develop this play with over a period of time, who really understand my voice and tone and I love their work as well. Also, recently I got an awesome gig writing a short play for teenagers who are in the Stella Adler acting program this summer, which I’m doing with you Adam and a bunch of other really fantastic writers. We had a meet and greet with the actors a few weeks ago and they’re so impressive. They’re all way more keen and grown up and savvy than I was when I was a teenager. I think I was spending time kicking cans to other cans and singing Pearl Jam songs to my hand when I was 17. I have an ongoing project, as well, with my two friends and collaborators John Peery and Candace Thompson whom I’ve known since I was in college. It’s a video project that we all write, develop and perform in called OtherPeeps (otherpeeps.com). It’s a low-fi, home-spun story about three degenerate room mates who live in a haunted place. So, far there’s been a vortex in our shower, a yoga cult on the roof, Scientologists, a claymation hoagie, Imelda Marcos, a man that’s also a lamb named ManLamb, dinosaur intestines, a re-imagined scene from the movie Misery, and other adventures. And, I play a little boy named Cricket and there’s real hair glued to my face. We just got a grant from the Experimental TV Center, so we might take this show on the road. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 6 Flags.
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 think my parents really supported my weird fascinations and obsessions while I was growing up. They ranged from the musical Annie, to the British royal family, to Lamborghinis (I had a big book on them), and the biggest one was the Rocky movie series. I was fanatical about the movies, especially Rocky 4 wherein Rocky single handedly breaks through the iron curtain with his fists. For Halloween my mom went to painstaking lengths to humor my Rocky fetish and made me a costume in tact with gloves, shiny boxing shorts, and a sweat shirt that read “Lil’ Rocky”. Thanks Mom.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: You know, I always feel like theater works best, and this might sound really hokey, when it’s not a commodity. It’s really an ill fit for an art form that’s basically a captured moment. It’s hard to wrap a bow around that. I think that theater works when it’s a communal experience, like church or a rally or a meal. I went to a dinner at my friends’ house last night and I didn’t hesitate going over there because the meal didn’t have a sophisticated marketing strategy, or Julia Roberts wasn’t going to be at the table eating corn as promised, or one person at the New York Times didn’t like the fish or thought the charcoal was disappointing. I wish there was a lot more funding that freed up theaters from capitalist constraints and allowed plays to be a little messier and braver and not stuck in development purgatory. I really believe that the only way to see if a play works or doesn’t is to see it up on its feet.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Honestly, I love Angels in America. I think it’s epically emotional and made a statement that humans can survive a disease that no one thought you could survive at the time it was written and produced. Also, I love and try to read and see and learn from Caryl Churchill, Mac Wellman, Tennessee Williams, Young Jean Lee, David Adjmi, Chekov, Sarah Kane, and many, many more. Oh and I heart Amy Sedaris. I want to eat her cupcakes one day.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I like seeing different kinds of theater than what I tend to write and do. I saw one of the most amazing pieces of theater ever last summer at PS122 by this writer/performer named Marie Brassard called Jimmy. The story was simple and beautiful and spectacular and her performance was one of the most riveting I’ve ever seen – it stuck with me. I try to see and appreciate as many different forms of live performance as possible, from kitchen sink dramas to Radiohole. ‘Cus it’s all theater.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Work and Live. Seriously. In the end, what is most important is the work you do and finding people who want to work with you and believe in what you’re doing. And, live. Go to neighborhood slip n’ slide parties. Have a cocktail. Or, a mocktail. Eat ribs. Or, tempeh that looks like ribs and uses the same BBQ sauce. And, most certainly shake your booty. Don’t get too caught up in the schmooze factor. It’s necessary, but in the end not necessarily. Because, if all you’re focused on is who’s who and what got what review and who’s being produced – then your work sort of turns into a case of “The Emperor Has No Clothes”. Or, worse. He has no pants. He’s a weird pant-less dude talking at you at a party and he’s mildly aroused, but by something someone is saying four conversations down.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: -Go see Wolves this August, from the 4th to the 21st: http://kidswithguns.com/
-Watch OtherPeeps: otherpeeps.com
-Go see Gormanzee and Other Stories at the Flea July 7th- 25th. Anna Moench is an effin’ genius and can ride a bike better than Lance Armstrong.
-See Shells Returns! At the Joe’s Pub on July 13th. A cabaret act performed by Roslyn Hart and created by her and Nick Chase. It’s some savagely funny stuff. -Watch Michael Cyril Creighton’s online show Jack in the Box: http://www.youtube.com/user/MCCreighton . It’s hilarious.