Aug 27, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 247: Nick Starr
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Current Town: Brooklyn, New York
Q: Tell me about The Awesome Dance
A: It follows for souls through four lifetimes as they try to work out mutually inflicted traumas and find harmony. I guess what I was hoping to do with this play was examine the idea of good guys and bad guys and try to turn the whole notion of victimhood on its ear. David Mamet says that we watch television in order to see good people do bad things and bad people do good things. I think this is a very intriguing claim: that in some way we have a deep desire to see the good and the bad transposed. I believe this desire - perversity? - is driven by a deep and maybe unresolvable understanding that good and bad (people, actions, ideas) are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another, at least in real time.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I have this idea for a season of theater, the working title of which is "Off Off is On" where the best Off Off Broadway productions are staged in the biggest Broadway houses and the big Broadway musicals are crammed into tiny grungy fourth floor walk up black box theaters. What appeals to me about this idea is...well it's kind of perverse. But also, I think we're hiding a lot of the best things that happen in this city in very small, hard to find places as if we're ashamed of them. So, the world of theater is like the world of everything else: upside down. I would like to change that.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: I was just hired to write and perform a rap song for a viral video promoting a new e-reader. I'm also working on a movie about body switching and a play about cults.
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’m standing in the backyard with my little brother Jim. I’m seven, he’s five. And I have decided to invent my own martial art. So, I ask my brother to kick me. The plan is, he will try to kick me, but I will block the kick. Then I will respond with an inspired combination of punches, kicks and eventual chokeholds that will comprise the basis for a New Era in the world of self-defense.
So, I’m in the process of asking Jim to kick me when I’m interrupted by this strange ringing, noise. I cannot figure out where this noise coming from, but it’s very loud and very high pitched. And what I realize, after a moment, is that the ringing is actually coming from within my own head.
When I asked my brother to kick me, he responded with a lightning fast exquisite roundhouse to the left side of my jaw. At the same time I experience all this, I watch it all unfold from above. It’s a classic slapstick: the bully suddenly in the shoes of his intended victim.
It’s a transcendent moment and my first moment of theatre. Not only am I the older brother, I’m the younger brother, too. More strangely, I’m the backyard and the roundhouse kick. I relive this experience every time I work on a new play. I watch the characters, and I am the characters. I think that day in the backyard truly injured my brain.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I like plays written by Checkov, Caryl Churchill, Annie Baker, Conor McPherson; directed by Les Waters, Sam Gold; staged in gyms or churches or converted gyms. I prefer humor so dry it could burst into flame at any moment; drama that makes you laugh and you don't know if you should be laughing; plays like The Weir that are so much scarier than horror movies.