Sep 8, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 256: Mark Harvey Levine
Mark Harvey Levine
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Current Town: Pasadena, CA
Q: Tell me about "Cabfare For The Common Man"
A: It's kind of like my first "album". I took a bunch of ten minute plays that I had written, and picked out the very best. The last play has the same title as the whole collection -- I really did want it to be like a record album. Er, CD. I mean a collection of mp3s. Anyway, it's an evening of romantic comedies. Some are naturalistic, some more stylized. Not every play is about romance actually -- but they're all about love. It's getting produced in New York this month, by Sweet & Tart Productions. The artistic director is Brad Caswell. He's directed a lot of my plays before. Every time he directs my plays I win awards. And "Cabfare" is also opening this month at Madlab Theatre in Columbus, OH. They're an excellent company. I've been honored to have plays in their "Theatre Roulette" evenings for years. And I'm so glad they're doing the whole evening now. Theatre Unleashed, in Los Angeles, will be producing another evening of slightly different plays, called "La Vie En Route".
Q: What else are you working on?
A: A bunch of different ten minute plays, two musicals and (gasp) maybe a full-length. I want to write a full-length, I really do. I just need to come up with an idea that I feel like I can sustain for an hour and a half. I feel like the cardinal sin of the playwright is to bore the audience.
Q: You are one of the modern masters of the short play. How many 10-15 min plays have you written and what is your current total number of productions?
A: Thanks! Not sure I'm quite at modern master yet, but I'm trying. I've got 40 ten minute plays, plus another dozen monologues and one-minute plays. I'm at 580 productions since the start of 1998!
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: In Junior High, we read a play adapted from a Mark Twain short story (The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg). This led me to reading all of Mark Twain's short stories, and then other great American short stories, like those of O. Henry and Ring Lardner. I think my love of short stories has led me to writing short plays.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: For short plays, definitely David Ives. For longer plays, I love Tom Stoppard and Alan Ayckbourn. And for musicals, Stephen Sondheim.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love when theater is...well, theatrical! When they don't try to mimic film or television but do things you can only do on stage. I love a clever low-budget device more than lots of overhead projections or expensive sets. Some of the best theater I've seen was done on a nearly bare stage. I like when theater can produce a magical image in your mind, or a lasting impression in your heart.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write. A lot. Try to write every day. (If you can get yourself to do this, let me know how). And read a lot of plays, and attend a lot of plays. Join a local theater company and help them out. Try to get your work read to you by actors. I've learned more by hearing my plays read out loud then by most playwriting classes.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Upcoming productions:
Sep 2010: "CABFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN: An Evening Of Mark Harvey Levine Plays",
Sweet & Tart Productions, New York, NY
Sep 2010: "Surprise" and "The Prodigal Cow", Three Roses Players, Los Angeles, CA
Sep 2010: "Surprise", Minnesota Shorts Play Festival, Mankato, MN
Sep 2010: "Opening Line", Changing Scene Theatre Northwest, Bremerton, WA
Sep 2010: "Whatever I Want" (World Premiere), Claire Donaldson 8 in 48 Festival, Sioux Falls, SD
Sep 2010: "The Loose Ends" (World Premiere), Theatre Out, Santa Ana, CA
Sep 2010: "The Rental" (staged reading), Actors Anonymous, Sydney, AUSTRALIA
Sep 2010: "Drive-Thru" (staged reading), Words & Wine, New York, NY
Sep-Oct 2010: "LA VIE EN ROUTE: An Evening Of Mark Harvey Levine Plays", Theatre Unleashed, Los Angeles, CA
Sep-Oct 2010: "CABFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN: An Evening Of Mark Harvey Levine Plays",
Madlab Theatre, Columbus, OH
Oh, and of course there's my own website: