Aug 5, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 232: Sam Marks
Hometown: Manhattan, NYC
Current Town: Brooklyn NYC
Q: Tell me about the Old Masters going up at Steppenwolf's First Look Repertory of New Work.
A: I’m really excited about Old Masters at Steppenwolf. I’m very lucky to be working with the director, Daniel Aukin. I’m really looking forward seeing the other plays in the series. And, most importantly I’m thrilled and honored that Steppenwolf—a theater that I have long admired and followed-- is producing the play as part of First Look.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I just finished a new play that I wrote as part of the p73 writers group. I’m developing two TV series and working on a short film and a feature length adaptation.
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 parents met as actors so I spent a lot of time backstage as a child both with them (no babysitters) and also because I appeared in some plays they did (I was on Broadway at age 5, BAM at age 8). Backstage is one of my favorite places in the world (the light, the jokes, the actors) and being there is probably one of the reasons I got (back) into the theater. My entry point to playwriting (like a lot of us) was acting. One of the reasons I started writing was that I remember being on stage in a new play and thinking “I could write something like this”. And so I did. But now I really, really miss backstage.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I’m not sure how I would change this, but the fact that so few people make their living (let alone get benefits) from writing plays is a huge problem.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I learned a tremendous amount from Paula Vogel, Erin Wilson, and the other writers I met at Brown’s Graduate program. I’m continually impressed by many of the incredibly talented and imaginative playwrights in NYC. I love Chekhov, Churchill and Pinter. But in terms of theatrical influence, I have—for better or worse-- a slightly Oedipal relationship with David Mamet. (Not that I want to sleep with Rebecca Pigeon but, rather, that I am a devotee of much of his writing and often, simultaneously, want to kill him.)
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Bert States says that “the theater is the place where the ear sees” so I think every time I go to theater and hear (see) something new, it’s actually very exciting. Even if the play isn’t “great” there is an undeniable pleasure in hearing a play hit your ear in a way that is actually unfamiliar and surprising and doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard before. It’s kind of like as a kid, the first time you hear Public Enemy, Led Zeppelin, Nas, The Pixies. It’s electric.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: It’s never easy. Don’t try to cheat.
Stick with the people who show you respect and with whom you share a sensibility.
No matter how small the job or task, treat it like it matters or else don’t do it.
There are many, many roads to Rome.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: I want to plug Babel Theater Company, P73 and Partial Comfort Productions. They are vital to American Theater and the careers of people like me. You should all go see everything they do.