Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 242: Leslie Bramm



Leslie Bramm

Hometown: Mostly San Francisco.

Current Town: Washington Heights, New York City.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A children’s play for adults. “Molly Jones Steals Home”. I’ve been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell lately and wanted to write a hero’s journey. I do so in the context of this 9 year old girl, who’s terminally sick, and trying to, as the Irish say, “have a good death”. She must escape the clutches of the hospital bureaucracy, and her zealous parents and doctors, all bent on keeping her alive out of their own fear. I like the idea of a children’s play, because it will force me to keep the structure, dialog, and metaphors as simple and pure as possible. Plus I’ve never written one. So, the break from my “usual” is very stimulating. If it weren’t for the encouragement of one of my publishers I don’t know that I would have.

Q:  Tell me about Diz Dam.

A:  We were an Indie Rock Band in the 80s and 90s, made up of film star Kevin Corrigan, and our dear, late friend, Angelo Alvanos. We wanted to live out a rock n’ roll fantasy and boy did we. We played around the city, recorded some songs and even got a little radio play. We played CBGB’s which is a great memory. Standing on that stage, surrounded by all the graffiti, knowing who had been there, it was an honor to paint another layer of sound on those hallowed walls. In the middle of one number the drum kit fell apart. Angelo was able to keep the beat on just the high hat. He reassembled the kit with one hand while we covered him. He never missed a beat. The gallery next door, CBs 313, was a theatre and I had a play produced there. So I actually gigged CBs as a playwright and a musician. I’m very proud of that. I was walking down Bowery the other day and it looks like they turned it into a Citi Bank, or something. Very fucking sad.

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 Aunt gave me my very first Beatle Album. “Beatles ’65”. I placed the needle (yes it was vinyl) on a random track. “No Reply”. I was hooked ever after. My Lennon obsession has guided me through adolescence and adulthood. Every great piece of writing should strive to capture the details and emotions textures of a Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane combo.

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

A:  I’d make all tickets, for every show, anywhere in New York, 25 bucks. Make them accessible to everyone. I’d beg the audience to raise their standards and redefine what entertainment is. Once they demand better, deeper, more raw and real art, theatre makers will change the way they create.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Don’t have any. I don’t mean to sound smug, but the hero idea, in real life, makes me feel like an imitation of an imitation. Two plays drew me into wanting to be a writer. “House of Blue Leaves”, and the “Pirates of Penzance”. Other wise my muses come from the most unlikely, often no-theatrical places. I thank the Gods for them.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  That’s tough to put into proper prose. So let me throw some adjectives out there. Raw, bold, daring, human, emotional, messy, cheeky, abstract, real, hilarious, compelling, truthful, beautiful, provocative, political, imaginative, and almost anything that has a couple of comp tickets attached to it. Rock my world with your work. For the 90 minutes I’m in the world of your play, make me forget about my real world. Entertain me.

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

A:  Drop out of college. Forget Tisch. Forget Yale Rep. Leave Julliard in the dust. Those institutions are fine, but they teach you how to write safely. How to make correct theatre. I’ve seen an awful lot of safe, academic plays out there. They lack dare, emotional courage and a sense of gamble. If you want to write great plays sit down and write them. Write, and write and write. Write and fail, write and fail better. Have the guts to give them to actors, and then give them to the world. Let the theatre scene hammer them like there’s no tomorrow. Then go back and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Stack page on page. Eventually, if you have the chops, a certain kind of magic will start to happen. Elements and characters will start peeking through your blur of words. Your voice will begin to emerge. If you must read a book, then I suggest Aristotle, “The Poetics”. It’s a great guide for the practical mechanics on how to make a play.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  VENUS AND MONA is currently running in the New York International Fringe Festival. Fringenyc.org, venusandmona.com, and check out nytheatre.com for our great review. Here’s a teaser so you can get an idea of what the play’s about:

“Junky/drunk's dying, there's a demon in the heap, and the Tredwater twins are trapped on the roof of their mother's doublewide. They slug it out in this black comedy, about the battles fought to grow up and learn love.”

The play is directed by the amazing Melissa Attebery, with fight direction supplied by Carrie Brewer. Two heavy hitters in the Indie Theatre scene. We also have a stellar cast.

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