Jul 29, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 224: Joshua Fardon
Current Town: Los Angeles, CA.
Q: Tell me about Shake. Is this your second play with Theater of Note?
A: It's my third if you include one-acts. The first full-length of mine they did was called This Contract Limits Our Liability – Read It!, and last year they produced a playlet called Tenant. Shake is about a group of people in Manhattan during the year after 9/11. And it happens backwards. It starts in August 2002, the next scene is in July 2002, the next in June and so on, ending on September 10, 2001. It's dramatic and funny and kind of a puzzle. And it has a kick-ass director and cast. And because I'm an even more shameless plugmeister than you might reasonably suspect, we're doing it at Theatre of NOTE through early September. Google it.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: I'm writing a new full-length and I'm directing a play called Bail Me Out which goes up in September. So I'm extremely busy.
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 actually failed handwriting in second grade. That's the truth. I got all A's and an F in handwritintg. So I have no idea why I decided to pursue it. And I rarely write anything directly autobiographical, but my mother keeps creeping around the seams of my plays and poking her head in and saying something off-color, infuriating and absurd.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I would have a device at the door that melts cellophane and temporarily zaps the receiver and texter component on mobile phones. Also, I find it fascinating that when you have something remotely terrible take place in a play, people often talk about how “dark” it is. To me, darkness is just drama. It's kind of weird that people would complain about a play like The Pillowman being too dark for them, then go see Hostel and not think anything of it. But I guess that speaks to the power of live performance. So, to answer your question, I guess I'd make it darker.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I read all the biographies and autobiographies of Laurence Olivier when I was in college. And, I guess, on a literary level, I've always loved the dark Jacobean playwrights who hung out with Shakespeare – but weren't afraid to be grungier, more violent and less polished. Let's see, I also love Harold Pinter, David Mamet, Euripides, Chekhov and Strindberg, who was just so fascinating, demented and sick.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love starkness and the simplicity of being in a partially lit space. I'm not a fan of pageants and props and sets. I think the most powerful thing in the world occurs when two people stand in contained light – they want opposite things and now they have to fight for it. Okay, yes, that's boxing – but you get my point. And I never get so jealous as when I go to a small theatre and watch some wild experimental play with a young sexy cast who look like they're having fun.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Don't be afraid of pretentiousness – it can even be your friend – but avoid being clever at the cost of story. Believe in yourself, but avoid falling in love with the sound of your own voice. Stand up up for your vision – there's a reason you have it, but realize that the play you've written is larger than yourself – and that once you've handed it over to a director and a cast, it's no longer completely yours. If you can't stand that kind of separation, write novels. Kill your darlings. And plug, plug, plug, plug plug.
Q: Plugs, please:
Shake at Theatre of NOTE.