Jul 31, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 226: Daniel McCoy
Hometown: Portland, OR.
Current town: Brooklyn, NY.
Q: Tell me about your upcoming Fringe show.
A: My play Group will be world-premiering in the Fringe Festival at the Kraine Theater. Nutshell: it’s a comedy about a therapy group in purgatory populated by those who have died suddenly, gruesomely, and unexpectedly, and are having a rough time making the transition into the great beyond. Guilt, fear and anger are just a few things holding them back and these dead people gots to work it out! Super cool, disgustingly talented cast, all working their booties off. Beautiful, sexy and intelligent!
I’ve been working on the play off and on for several years. It had a reading in the summer of 2008 with Crosstown Playwrights and since then I’ve been futzing with it, but that’s about all. I submitted it to Fringe ultra-last-minute just to see what would happen and what happened is we’re doing it. The play has been in rehearsals for the last couple weeks but I’ve been away most of that time so I’ve been doing revisions remotely, emailing them in, then waiting to hear back how it’s going from my director Heidi Handelsman and producer Jody Christopherson. It’s weird. I’m used to being in the room from the start.
This is my second Fringe show in as many years. My play Eli and Cheryl Jump was up last year at the Player’s Loft. This is very different for several reasons: larger cast (6 as opposed to 2); longer running time (80 minutes as opposed to 45); and newness (first time up as opposed to previously produced). Otherwise the challenges are the same: do a good show and get butts in seats with no money for anything and everyone involved working for practically free. But I’m a DIYer so that’s part of the fun.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: I’m working on a new full-length show called (un)afraid with my company, the New York Neo-Futurists, which is going up in October. I’m co-writing the show with fellow Neos Jill Beckman and Cara Francis and will be performing in it with them as well. The show is a deconstruction and exploration of the concept, causes and consequences of fear, both in our society and within ourselves. Using elements of video, puppetry, personal narrative, and audience participation (this is a Neo-Futurists show, after all), we plan to create an immersive environment for the audience to give voice to and confront their own fears while we exploit our own to maximum theatrical effect. Just in time for Halloween, y’all! Sounds kinda concepty, right? Not a lot of specifics, right? That’s because we’re still writing it so we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be. Stay tuned...
Q: What’s it like working with writing partners?
A: This is my first time writing collaboratively to this degree and it’s an adjustment for sure. It’s a slower process building a full-length show with fellow company members as opposed to just busting out a script, so the learning experience has been, and will continue to be, I hope, a worthwhile challenge. I’ve been a Neo-Futurists for about a year and a half now and my experience writing and performing with the company has been in the ultra-short of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (our weekly late-night show that features a rotating menu of the 30 short plays which we attempt to perform in an hour or less). This process, with (un)afraid, is very different because although we are still writing within the Neo-Futurist aesthetic – non-illusory, no fourth wall, real time/task based – the goal is to explore and embrace the long form and steer away from the episodic format we’re so used to performing and writing within.
Q: Tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or a person.
A: I’ve always been a writer. As a wee child I used to write and draw comic books, mostly rip-offs of the X-Men series, which I was obsessed with as a kid. I had a few short stories and poems published in children’s lit journals when I was in grade school as well. I got into acting in high school, a habit that continued until my early thirties, and didn’t I write much during that time. Playwriting is my most recent artistic venture. I’ve been at it seriously now for about five or six years. It’s like my childhood self is finally catching up with me. That wasn’t really a story, more like an overview.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I find I do a lot of theater stuff during the summer, which interferes with my going to the beach. I would advocate for more beach theater, so I can do both. Let’s try to get that started.
Q: Who are your theatrical heroes?
A: Gosh, I’m just in love with so much of the stuff I’ve seen from Sheila Callaghan and Young Jean Lee lately. I know those two are probably at or near the top of everybody’s lists nowadaaays, but come on. The dinner scene in That Pretty Pretty... The big set change in The Shipment... And nobody spoke during those scenes. I love watching people DO things on stage, really interesting, unusual things, and those two playwrights create worlds and environments where that shit happens. As icing, their language is bold and beautiful as well. I adore Edward Albee. He made me cry about a dead goat.
Q: What advice would you give to playwrights starting out?
A: I feel like I’m still starting out so it would be silly for me to give advice. Give me some advice, please.
Group at the Fringe fringenyc.org – tickets now on sale...
(un)afraid – New York Neo-Futurists nynf.org